Senegal Revealed: And now I know…

Like most places in the world, cultural dress varies for many reason as do the changing seasons. This is also true in Senegal. In the hot and rainy season, it is not uncommon to take many showers a day (4ish) each with a change of clothes depending upon how much you had sweat through the former.

Also with various holidays, celebrations and simply just on Friday people will get more dressed up. During my first ‘chet’ or large wedding at my village, I sat behind a female drummer while other women danced feverishly and flashed there legs (that are very rarely seen any part above the calf). I thought I had caught a glance of a “slip” or something similar.

You can see on the women on the right and center something worn under her skirt, but not a fabric slip

I’m going to let you know right now….this post is not umm…maybe politically correct. But I was a clothing design major and so I find this interesting, relevant and have found others who have wrote about  topics in hand.

What the women are wearing is lingerie! Senegalese style of course. I have noticed these crocheted and knitted things made from bukly yarn in the markets but never knew exactly what they were and since I had no need to ask, I never pondered it. Until I read this post from an expat fashion blog (none-the-less) who is based out of Dakar that I started reading before I left the states.

I love that these women write about these things so I don’t have to make the mistake of asking a vendor what they are then being asked about them forever after in the market.  But honestly, once I knew what these were I noticed them when women would adjust their wrap skirts or panè.

And then the other day….I was at my friend Ibrah’s house. He has a large family with many younger and teenage kids. His sister-in-law, Kiwi, is about my age and has 4 younger kids. I was on the phone at the moment when all the kids were in a commotion over something. The next thing I noticed was Kiwi was trying to pull something away from the boys who had there hand wrapped around this thing. Never in a million years would I have guessed what they were fighting over….

A wooden dildo. Yup.

I was shocked and thankfully on the phone with another volunteer so I didn’t have to truly deal with acknowledging it. Sometimes they will ask questions like “do you know what that is”? and no answer by me will then assume I do and ask “why would you know what that is”?  Many conversations with groups of kids turn into questions about of course boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives/sex. Which I am comfortable about but they very quickly lead to questions about me and my life rather than general questions about the subject. And I do live in a less conservative Muslim society in my part of Senegal, having the entire village talk about my (non-existent) “sex life” doesn’t need to happen more than it already does. The rumors I have heard about myself are hilarious. Simply my talking to an age appropriate man more than a few times will begin something along the lines that he is my boyfriend.

The health volunteers typically will do sex-ed training and one of which has written about her experience going to the market to find a vegetable to use to discuss how to properly use a condom.

Unlike many places in the world Senegal is a practicing, conservative, Muslim country. Does it surprise me that I have seen these things and it seems to be open conversation? No. Life is life anyway and anywhere you live it. Somethings are not talked about in everyday conversation, but if I wanted to know I could ask someone one-on-one, they would answer my questions and laugh at the nature of it all.

Such is our life in Peace Corps. Never a dull moment.

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