October 22, 2008
I don't know what to write to you all because I've written so much lately in journals and letters and emails and messages that I can't remember who I have told what but I'm going to tell you about the "bandits" at my house and if I have already told any of you this…too bad.
During my long and arduous search for a family and/or place to live I visited many a household (like 4), eventually settling on the one I love with now. When I went to drop off the lease we had Emily and her host sister Hawa with me and as we walked away Hawa told Kim and Emily all about how I should not live there and the neighborhood was full of bandits. We found this disconcerting and didn't return to sign the lease until we had taken the time to ask around to see if there was any merit to this claim. We found that my host family has been housing volunteers forever and ever (15 years-ish) and no one seemed to have any qualms with the neighborhood so I went for it and signed the lease. Ok, before you all freak out and think I'm totally crazy for moving into the bandit filled neighborhood you should also know that after proclaiming that my new neighborhood was full of bandits (my new neighborhood being college, the very same quartier Hawa lives in herself, and about a 5 minute walk from her house) she announced that I should rent a little house from them and move in there, so though I trust her, I had some doubts as to her motives.
So, lease signed, I moved in and got settled. The family consisted of my host mother, Leldo Ba, whom I adore, even though we don't really speak the same language at all, my host father, whom I refer to as father figure because I don't know his name and who also doesn't speak any language that I do but is very nice, 2 older guys, Ibrahim and Souleymane, whose places in the family I couldn't quite figure out until much later, (Souley being my oldest brother at 27 and Ibrahim's place in the family being the basis of this entire story), an older sister Amineta, another big brother, Adama, a younger brother Alieu, and a little sister, Hawa. I spent plenty of time trying to divine Ibro's place in the family, as I had plenty of time to spare, until one day he up and disappeared. Souley asked if I had seen him and I admitted that I had not, but he had only been missing since breakfast and he would turn up. So the following evening hw still has not turned up and a gentleman pulls up in a truck looking for him. Souley informs him that we have not seen Ibro in a few days and they talk in angry hushed tones for a few minutes and then the man leaves. Oh man, what was that all about, I think, but before I can ask Souley tells me.
Ibro (who is 42) is my brother Adama's (who is 24) friend from Senegal and he was staying with us against the wishes of my big brother, Souley, because my father refuses to turn a friend of the family away, even though Souley didn't trust him. Souley maintained his distrust and never left Ibro at the house by himself, slept in the same general area, and watched him like a hawk. Evidently just a few days ago Ibro left and never came back, with some money that belonged to the man who showed up in the truck and now the whole of Selibaby is looking for him. Mystery solved, bandit found, and suddenly I feel a whole bunch more appreciative of my big brother who made sure I locked my bedroom door every time I wasn't in there, or if I was in there but I was sleeping (at first I just found this annoying, but now I get it). Before you all freak out and think I'm living with dangerous people know this, my family watches out for me more than I know, they take turns walking me to work if they hear the kids yelling toubob at me, they make sure my room is locked and my windows closed and they help me keep even the termites out of my room, they make me sleep right smack dab in the middle of the compound so that I'm surrounded while I'm asleep, and when a sand storm or anything else picks up they make sure I'm safely relocated into my locked bedroom. People here don't steal from friends or family or people who are good to them and for the most part they only steal out of desperation, Ibro stole because he had nothing else. I believe that he would never have done it if he had any other options but he had only days before asked me to ask my Portuguese road worker friend to get him a job, so I believe he was desperate. Don't worry about me, the bandits are gone. I'm safe now, but I still keep everything locked up like fort knox just in case.
I gotta go now, but I'm happy and healthy and doin just fine, and I saw a monkey yesterday so my life is complete, love and miss you all,
shelbyps. i almost forgot to mention, i got so many wonderful responses to my last message i just wanted to say thank you to everyone who wrote to me....i'm so lucky to have the friends and family i do! love you guys!