“One white, one black.” It is what Justine and I both said this morning while taking our coffee on the bolong of the Saloum, watching, happily, the two egrets that passed by in front of us. As for letting the dawn leave to welcome this new day. One black and one white, following one antoher…
The visit of the Furets Futés d’Eiffage
One white, one black… Weird echo from the moments we have been living for 2 days now with the furets from the group Eiffage, who came to participate to the first marathon of Dakar, organised by Eiffage; and also to do some humanitarian work here in Sine Saloum. A group of 55 “toubabs” (how they call white people here) who arrived on a big bus in the small village of Djilor, reserving not rooms but entire hotels, for two days having:
- Pirogue rides (4 pirogues!) and then free time on a paradise island of the Saloum,
- donation of notebooks / pen / games and other gifts collected in France for local schools,
- works in those same schools to support in the construction of a fence, the painting of the classrooms, to install a switchborad or the creation of a vegetable garden for the canteen (seeds provided),
- inauguration of a building, the Nubian vault, dedicated to women of the village to allow them to stock and to transform their productions.
The culture of doubt
Well, usually, those kind of operation, cleverly combining external/internal communication in a remarkably effective way, and massive arrival of “Toubabs-cadeaux” (white people-gifts) in more or less retired areas of Africa, don’t really seduce us. But as we are endowed with consciousness and have a strong culture of doubt, rich parental heritage, we are (re)thinking aboutit. And we take this opportunity to observe.
And well the answer is more complex that we first thought. The positive effects of those “massive” actions of “North-South” solidarity are real. Notebook and pencils, it is useful. Works done? Studied and decided with the school; so also useful. The labor power of 55 people, full of good will? An undeniable efficiency that bring a huge progess to the school (progess in the simplest sense – to progess, not the sens “progress of humanity”!). As it happens, Eiffage seams to do a lot in term of social responsability with the senegalese populations, and is renowned to do it well (here anyway). We also note that eveything is done according to the real needs of the populations, unlike many international cooperation projects…
Let’s not forget either the benefits for the Furets, who see their desire of being useful to the poorest, satisfied.
Unfortunatly, negative effects also exist. After a welcoming organized as emphatically and with such a ceremony, with that many gifts, in frond of the youngest, how to avoid the “toubabs, cadeaux?” (white people, gift?) the days after, in the street? (we like to answer “hey Serere (the ethnic group here), do you also have a gift for us?”). We obviously think to the feeling of dependence that those actions can feed.
Fortunatly, Marthe, the amazing director of the school, who has been doing this as a volunteer for 22 years, specify that they are not beggers. Heureusement, Marthe, la formidable directrice d’école bénévole depuis 22 ans, précise dans son allocution d’accueil qu’ils ne sont pas des mendiants.
Well, let’s end here those endless but interesting philosophical thoughts to remember that we are feeling quite incapable to have a definite opinion on the subject. The sure thing is that the Furets are super nice people; that those actions remain beautiful and intense occasions of dialogue, sharing and mutual awareness.
Senghor preffered “symbiosis” than the term of “synthesis”…
One white, one black… Echo also to the general atmosphere here in Senegal. Not only refering to the color of the skin, the welcoming and hospitality that the senegalese we met offered us, which certainly denote other sub-Saharan atmospheres we had the opportunity to visit in the past. But also to the way that catholics and muslims live together here, in peace, sometimes even share the same cemetry (as here in Djilor), often member of the same family (mixed weddings, or even two brother and sister, taking different religious direction).
As the president-poet Senghor said: “90% of the population is muslim, 10% is catholic, but a 100% is animist“.
Is this strong common value that encourages understanding? Is is this strong common value that is missing to some populations to enourage uderstanding beyond religions or cultural origins? Anyway, we (“we” as French people – for exqmple) have a lot to learn from the country of the Teranga, on this subject or others (that we will sure have the occasion to talk about in here in a near future.
Life flows here in Sine Saloum. One day after an other, each one with its discoveries, encounters, its questions, but mostly its pieces of answers, and mostly its joy. One foot before the other, as usual, here or elsewhere. Un pied devant l’autre, comme à l’accoutumée, ici ou ailleurs. We embrace every day a little bit more (sometimes a bit less, but rarely) this life philosophy we chose 2 years ago (or 28? or 35? ;-), Nous embrassons chaque jour un peu plus (parfois un peu moins, mais rarement) cette philosophie de vie que nous avons choisie il y a maintenant 2 ans (ou 28 ? ou 35 ? ;-), full of freedom, encounter with oneself as much as with Others, open and receptive, serving us as much as others. One foot before the other.
Halfway through this first HopTrip at La Source Aux Lamantins, we are feeling more than alive, delighted from the welcoming and the tasks we have been asked for. Delighted by how everything goes.
>> If you havent seen the videos made, you can watch them on the Hopineo Youtube channel, playlist HopTour WestAfrica.