Life moves a little slower out in the Senegalese village of Ethiolo. The general pace lulls some visitors into thinking that not a lot goes on in these parts, aside from tea drinking and long conversations. But I’m learning that although life here moves slower, it moves constantly.

All day people work out in their fields, prepare meals, carry water, repair huts, walk to the market, visit sick neighbors and more. ‘Work time’ and ‘personal time’ flow seamlessly together in days full of activity, from sunup to sundown. But these activities aren’t exactly optional—many Bassari families in Ethiolo depend on the food they farm to survive, and their community structure is built on relationships that are nurtured by lingering visits between neighbors.

The village chief and one of his grandsons

I’m not sure if I’d cut it as a Bassari. But luckily, my friend Tatiana and her host family are helping me learn the ropes.

Have a look at some of the day-to-day happenings of village life.

Listen to Peace Corps volunteer, Tatiana Nieuwenhuys, introduce the country of Senegal and the Bassari village of Ethiolo.

Learn about a typical Bassari compound from Juliet—everything from livestock to hut construction.

Follow Rosa out into the family’s peanut fields.

Learn about what it takes to get food on the table from Tatiana’s host sister, Sewo.

Meet the chief of Ethiolo! He explains the responsibilities that come with being a village chief in this short interview.

What do you do without running water? Tatiana and Rosa will show you how to fetch water from a well—and how to carry it home.

After rice stalks are cut from the field, the grains must be separated from the stalks…by beating them with wooden clubs.

Meet Joseph, a local artisan, who creates replicas of the unique initiation masks used in Bassari customs.

This is the first part of a two-part culture guide. To read Part II, click here.

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About the Author: Laura is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson with a degree in Animal Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She is constantly learning, making friends, dancing, and trying to understand her role in alleviating the suffering of others. Laura also attracts a lot of awkward situations.

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  1. Phil Grizzard said... 


    January 16th, 2012 at 10:05 pm  

    Wow, what an experience. Thanks for sharing. Tatiana’s attempt at carrying a bucket on her head cracks me up! :)

    • Laura Stump said... 


      January 25th, 2012 at 12:12 pm  

      Me too. I actually had to edit an expletive out of that one…

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