Friday, August 26, 2011

When the word ends in 2012...

i do not want to be in a predominantly muslim country. i know what the apocalypse will sound like here and really, ive never wanted to stab babies or drown puppies as much before, but this was bad...

There are so many good things about Senegal. I can make lists about the vibrant culture, the people, the country, but that would be digressing. There are, however, not so great things about Senegal. One, being a predominantly muslim country. i have nothing against islam. as i said in my last blog, islam is an extremely impressive religion, and people's devotions are awe-inspiring. but yesterday, i wanted to slit my wrists.

the background (us):
i live in a village with no internet. so when i want internet, i have to come into a road town called linguere, where our 'regional office' (though not officially) is located. linguere is about 50 miles away and takes 4 hours to travel by public transportation. i usually come into linguere to check my email, write a blog post, work on anything peace corps related, peruse facebook, the usual stuff. nothing fancy because the internet is so slow. i came down yesterday to update myself on my medical school application process and to finalize this peace corps grant that ive been working on. i came down to buy gifts to bring back for the holiday at the end of the month of fasting called korite. but more so, i came down because my friend is sick and i had to help bring her down and bring her into linguere to rest because her host family was smothering her. they dont know how to take care of their sick. they believe sick people must be kept in stuffy rooms and must be fed the greasiest foods to get better. being sick in this country also sucks because having a high fever when the temperature outside is also over 100 degrees makes you want to die. but anyway, we brought her down to rest and recuperate. we also had a graduate student visiting as a guest, finishing up her research on moringa and nutrition.

the background (muslim culture here):
across the street from our regional office lives this one family who occasionally, like two or three times every month, blasts religious yelling for a couple of hours. they're not a mosque and i dont know if theyre affiliated with any religious leaders but they blast this noise a lot. my mosque sings at 5am every morning but that's tolerable because it's singing, not screaming. this, however, is screaming - screaming bloody mary, just loud noises. it sucks, and im sure ive complained to some of you back home, but we deal with it. it's part of the culture, this happens in village too, and elsewhere, so that is how things are. it's usually for only for a couple of hours only so we can handle it. put in headphones, watch a movie or two and you're good. and especially since this is the month of ramadan, it's extra understandable. go be religious, go fast, yay.

the timeline (you will need sound to view the videos for their full effect):
10am - arrive in linguere, get sick friend settled, start some work
11am - the wailing begins
12pm - we are miserable. put in a movie and headphones

2pm - barricade office with foam mattresses and closing all windows and shutters. it created a hot, stuffy office but it dampened the noise only just a little

6pm - our visiting graduate student used to be a peace corps volunteer in mauritania. mauritania!! a deeply muslim country. and she said it was never like this. she has never experienced anything quite like it. mauritania!!
7pm - we go over there and ask nicely for them to turn it down. not off, down. we explain as sympathetically as possible how there are people sick, there are people working, there really is no reason for it to be this loud and if they could just turn it down a little, it would do wonders. they laugh in our faces and say no. actually, they said if allah wills it, they will turn it even louder. we asked them when it would end and they said tomorrow morning around 6am. he smirks.

9pm - we head over to our local police station. the station is on the other side of town maybe half a kilometer away, and you can still hear the yelling, screaming, wailing. we explain to them our conundrum. by them, we were starting to go a little crazy. it's been 10 hours already, my nerves are a little shaky. i feel on the verge of breaking down in tears, pulling out my hair, strangling a living creature. the police folks are sympathetic. they dont really enjoy the screaming either. they notice our distress, our stress, our frantic plea. they make a few phone calls and head over there. he explains that if this religious 'learning session' is not authorized by the city's mayor, he can shut it down. we told him that we dont want him to shut it down. just tell them to lower the volume. he talks to the men folk for a long time. if an authorization actually existed, it would take 2 seconds. here's my authorization, now fuck off and leave us alone. but they talk for a good 5 minutes. he comes back and says they are authorized, says they will turn it down a little, and then leaves. we really believe he was paid off, but what can we even do... it's a lose-lose situation. they never turned it down at all. as i trudged back home, people came up to me and asked if the policeman told them to turn it down. i said no and he looked sad and went back to his inaudible tv set. people all had the same sentiments. a few hours and it's ok. but almost 12 hours now and even more to come? that's unacceptable. people need to rest. people need to sleep. it's the month of fasting. everyone's tired, mentally, emotionally, physically. but no one can do anything about it. because it's their religion. they would be infidels...
10pm - our prayers are answered!

11pm - they bought a generator!! those $#%#$^$@#$@$
12am-5am - my body was tired. my brain was tired. as much as my headphones can cancel noise, i try to pass out. the town of linguere is completely blacked out and noiseless... except for the inconsiderate folks across the street. the electricity comes back on at some point. the loud noises never stop until about 5 in the morning. groggy sleep. turning sleep. bad sleep.

8am (now) - tired. exhausted. hating life.

but that's life here. instead of spending money on building classrooms or health centers or even installing a water pump to make women's lives easier, they build grand mosques. instead of spending money to buy a fridge to keep foods fresh, or shoes for the children, they buy a generator and loudspeakers and bull horns to blast religious 'music'. priorities? i never want to hear people complain how they are poor. they just cant allocate money correctly.

i also miss america for it's noise ordinances.

literally. the. worst.

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