There is a second part to this respecting elders tradition that is definitely much different from the family I grew up in. The hierarchy of the nuclear family and the behavior that results is something that might be found unusual to most outsiders.
I have two younger sisters, and here in Senegal, that would give me quite a bit of influence over them in that if I told them to do something, answer the phone, get me a drink of water, run to the store to get me something, they would have to do it, ideally without complaint. What actually happens with my sisters? If they are feeling kind, they’ll do it upon request, if they’re feeling somewhat kind they’ll begrudgingly do it, complaining a little, and if its an average day, they’ll tell me to get it myself.
My youngest host-sister, Maguette, is always fetching things for people, she has 4 older siblings, 2 parents and 1 grandparent that are always requesting stuff. She’s getting into her teenage years so her fetching is not always unaccompanied by bickering. So the higher up on the food chain you are, the less you have to do for yourself. Its still a little confusing with the gender differences because the oldest in the family is my host-sister Fatim and she does quite a bit of house work when she’s visiting from University in Dakar.
If anything is certain, it is that my host-dad is king of his castle, though he technically has to obey his mother. When he is home, he doesn’t lift a finger. My host-brothers open the gate for his car, set out his chair and the tv for him to watch the news and the thing that surprises me every time is that he will walk right past the phone when its ringing so that someone lower on the food chain will answer it. My host-mom serves him his dinner first out of everyone and if there is anything lacking in his service he will proceed to berate whoever is at fault. This berating, people tell me, is the Senegalese way of encouraging but that doesn’t stop me from feeling uncomfortable when he asks be if there is a medication to cure stupidity in the U.S.
Also, I managed to find a picture of my host grandma so you can see her, it's a little fuzzy but you get the idea. This is Mariemme Welle, and this is actually what she does for much of the day. More recently she's been taking walks, very slowly to go visit her friends.