Recently I went to the Education Inspector’s office to invite him to an event we were putting on in Linguere (Thanks to your generous donations! You guys are the best.) in support of girls’ education. He wasn’t there, so I started chatting with some teachers who were sitting around drinking tea. Here is a sample of our dialogue:
Me: Where is the inspector?
Teacher #1: He’s on the way. (Mungiy ci yoon wi)
Me: Oh yeah? Where is he?
Teacher #2: He’s on the way, do you not know what that means? Duh.
Me: I know what it means, but I don’t know if you are saying he is eating breakfast, or walking here, or if he hasn’t woken up yet.
Teacher #1: He’s in a car on the way here.
Teacher #2: Haha toubab you sure do understand Wolof. You should just sit here and wait for him.
Me: So he’s almost here?
Teacher #1: No, he’s coming from Dakar. They just left.
Me: I’ll come back tomorrow.
I guess I’m learning, never take things like that at face value. If someone says they’re coming now, that could mean any time in the next several hours. You have to clarify, now now (leegi leegi!) means that they could hypothetically be arriving in the next half hour. It’s funny to see people who have spent a lot of time working with Americans, they tend to get hyper-aware of our different perceptions of punctuality. They know we get flustered if we expect someone to show up at noon and we wait for them until 4:30 and they arrive with no explanation. Lesson learned from over a year and a half in Senegal: Always have a book in your purse.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank