by Katie Kilroy
by Katie Kilroy
Despite the fact that I am a grown woman, not having my mother with me in Senegal gravely worried me. When I was told by the Peace Corps that every volunteer would have a family in their new villages, the place we were to live and work for two years, I waved the thought aside and hesitantly accepted my existence alone. After 2 months of training, the Peace Corps car drove me to my site of Kébémer, introduced me to my Senegalese family and left after 10 minutes. Frightened, all I could think of was how much I wanted my mom.
The moment when my mother met my Senegalese mother was more gratifying than I imagined.
Illiterate and financially dependent on her husband, my “yaay”** had the most sagacious and amiable core of any woman I knew in Senegal. Determined for her children to lead a better life than she, I was made an example for her daughters to follow. She encouraged them to study and tried to give them all that she did not have. Women are the backbone of Senegal, and my mother was a true testament to this.
The moment when my mother met my Senegalese mother was more gratifying than I imagined. My mother was pleased to meet the woman she had heard so many wonderful stories about. Tears were shed and gifts were exchanged. Most of all, the two were united by their grandiose duties as mothers. The sheer good fortune of landing another wonderful person to call my mother is the most incredible event of my life in Africa.
*In Senegal, meal time is comprised of eating around a common bowl(usually around 10 people) and sharing. Broken off pieces of fish and meat from the middle are taken and mixed with rice, but the woman of the house always throws meat into her children/guests sections to ensure they get a full meal.
**“Mother” in Wolof, a language spoken in Senegal.