Fatou is sitting, flanked by her two daughters, on the front steps of the house where I am staying. She is from the neighboring compound and has befriended me, helping me to be more comfortable in my odd new surroundings. Fatou's littlest daughter is precocious while Awa is a little, but just a bit, more reserved. Awa is a twin and her brother's name is Adama, Adam and Eve. Fatou explained that it is common to name twins Awa and Adama and there was another set just a few doors down.
Fatou holds rank in the neighborhood, and everyone knows her well. She used to sell juice in the market, but will not be now that it is the rainy season and Ramadan. A few days before Ramadan, she came over and made me benechin, a traditional West African rice dish. I got the spicy red benechin with fish, a barracuda. all three of these ladies showed me how it was made, I hope I can replicate it at home. Fatou will often stop in and have a chat with me in the mornings, now that it is Ramadan, she stops in at the end of the day with a pot of food leaving it on the kitchen counter. No one expects me to fast, but I make a point of not eating in front of anyone. Also, you need to limit your intake during the day because the meals at night are large.
Fatou likes to talk about family. Some people familiar with West African culture will tell singletons like myself to just lie and say you are married and that you hope for children soon. I realize now that that might have been a good strategy, but not because people look down on you. Gambians know that general social pressures are lower for Americans to marry, but they sincerely worry about you. It seems everyone here is married by 30, and most much earlier. Children follow soon. Fatou is divorced, which is more common that I would have thought, but she is content that she has been married and has children. Fatou's concern for me is not about my lack of marital and familial bliss rather the paramount need here to have children.
Fatou is a little precocious herself, and everyone in the neighborhood seems to know that. I was surprised how much goes on when the men go to the mosque to pray on Fridays. Fatou has been great at getting access io neighbors homes to do photography. She is the “boss lady,” as one man who showed us his place said.