Yaye Coumba, Cheikh's Senegalese mom

For just over a year, Cheikh lived with the Dieye family in the Hydrobase neighborhood on the Langue de Barbarie peninsula of St Louis. His room, 12×12 foot cement brick, was next door to his Senegalese brother Pape Dieye and across the courtyard from the village chief, Baye Ndiawar, and his second wife, Yaye Coumba.

Pape, Cheikh's Senegalese brother, and his baby Ndiawar

Five years is a long time and a lot has changed on Hydrobase. Baye Ndiawar died last year – leaving Pape with more responsibility for the family – as well as Yaye Coumba’s mother, Mame Marie.

Pape Dieye married Oumy, a beautiful woman who is a very devout Muslim. They have two children… a baby boy named Ndiawar and a little girl named Mame Marie. In other news, Pape also started leading the call to prayer in the local mosque. (I was dying to ask if we could watch him do it – but I restrained myself, knowing he’d feel obligated to say yes even if it wasn’t appropriate to bring a camera-totting toubab woman into the mosque.)

Khady, one of the Dieye wives

Senegalese hopsitality is… incredible. There’s even a name for it: teranga. We were there for about 24 hours and were fed ceebu jen (rice and fish), yogurt with fruit and Sprite for lunch, then peanuts and sliced bananas for a snack – with attaya (tea) of course. For dinner Oumy served this amazing chicken with yassa onion sauce over fried potatoes with lettuce, tomato and cucumber slices that we ate with a loaf of baguette bread – oh, and more Sprite.

Ceebu jen with Pape

Breakfast the next morning was a loaf of baguette bread with four huge pats of real butter and jelly, and Senegalese coffee: instant Nescafé with about two tablespoons of powdered milk and LOTS of sugar. So good.

And then we had attaya and peanuts again before leaving at noon.

Yaye Coumba laughing...probably at our Wolof 😉

This was my first time in Hydrobase as Cheikh’s wife, which was a little like meeting the in-laws for the first time. (Which, for the record went well in Iowa back in 2004, so I wasn’t too nervous.)

The morning we left, we went to visit with Yaye Coumba in her room and she gave me a beautiful Senegalese outfit as a wedding gift. Seriously – gorgeous. It’s baby pink with embroidery all over, almost like lace. There’s a floor-length wrap skirt which is worn under the top, which is like a knee-length dress and… a head wrap. I’ve never worn one before, so she taught me how. (Oh, and also a scarf/shawl wrap.)

I’ve been given instructions to call her Yaye, which means mother, and to take care of her son. Will do, Yaye. Will do.

Showing off the bracelet his sisters gave me and the scarf from Yaye Coumba
Ahmed in his sweater - it was in the chilly mid-70s!
Ahmed and Cheikh
Khady praying
Gaals (fishing boats) on the river
Yaye Coumba's hands
Yaye Coumba and her toubab son
Hydrobase beach