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Published: October 29th 2009
A Flat World
I'm reading the book A Flat World which argues that technology and cultural developments have flattened the earth so there are no distances or differences in 21st century globalization. One family I have met exemplifies that. The woman is an English teacher who works for the ministry of education's regional office, training those teaching without formal teacher education. She has a teenage son who is a techy in a small town. He helped me with computer issues quickly and easily because I did not have Wee Fee (Wi-Fi in Americanese). The 11 year old daughter won a national spelling bee in Senegal and defended her title in Quebec. She wears skinny jeans with flashy teeshirts, is a voracious reader, plans to be a doctor.
Yes, it is here too. People love to talk about him. I've seen Barack watches, bookbags, pictures, signs….
Most people here are Muslim. It is not a Middle-East Islam. The signs of Muslim tradition are some women who wear veiled head coverings (with few just leaving their faces out), in addition to African wraps. In the Sudan women are not allowed to wear pants and some were recently sentenced to flogging for it. Here there are jeans, capris, tank tops, halters, and cleavage.
Many (most?) people follow a marabout, a religious leader who has disciples. Homes and businesses have the picture of him and people attend mosques according to the leader. There are a lot mosques. No store-fronts, they are the largest, most dominant buildings around. At prayer time (about 5AM, sunrise, noon, 5, and 8) loudspeakers prayers are audible. Friday is a semi-regular workday. Everyone is wearing nicer clothing. Every day breaks up for lunch a couple of hours. Many do not return. On Friday plenty go pray then. The streets are as quiet as late night for a couple of hours. A vestige of colonialism is that there is less work & activity on Sunday, even though Friday is the holy day.
In the education office one of the science supervisors is a religious cleric. He is obviously treated with deference. I automatically extended my hand to him, since it happens constantly with people who come in. He shook it hesitatingly, but quietly told me that this is not right for him (since I am a woman). I did not feel slighted since this is his conviction and I respect that. With men he extends his hand, they take it and lean over to touch their forehead to his hand. He is warm and friendly, very professional in his work, but one is somehow always aware of a religious aura about him.
Family style meal
Another fascinating meal. I am not really food-obsessed. I actually think I may lose weight (yeah!) with main meal midday, very light otherwise, and lots of walking.
We were invited to the home of a teacher. There was a large dining room table, but food was placed on a plastic tablecloth on a rug. There were stools but the floor was comfortable to me. One large platter of rice with onions in thick gravy and a whole grilled chicken. The lady of the family used her hand (right only) but the rest of the family & I used spoons. She used her fingers and palm to sort of form a ball and put food in her mouth. She also one-handedly took apart the chicken and set pieces in front of each one until there were just bones.
When the host finished he left while others were still eating. Eventually the area was cleared, sodas were poured for each. Later a banana and orange served as dessert. The last part was very strong, very sweet tea. It was prayer time, so the hostess excused herself for a few minutes to pray. A little more conversation and we were on our way.
More and more I notice how well-dressed and dignified the women are. Early in the morning those who are going to market, to work, or elsewhere are matching and walking with graceful posture. One person I was with commented how one lady even managed to look elegant while riding a donkey cart.
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