Last week there was a pretty major homecoming in my neighborhood; Taffa, the husband of the young woman who lives next door, Astou Diop, came back from Sudan. Taffa is in the Senegalese military and was serving in Darfur as part of the African Union peace-keeping efforts, he was there for 9 months. Astou and Taffa have two young sons, Ndieye Seck; who was born only a month before Taffa left and Momar who is 3. I haven’t actually taken part in military homecomings in the US but from what I’ve seen on tv they are quite emotional; embracing, tears, sometimes screaming, as I would expect after a long absence of someone you love. Taffa was in one of the more war-torn, presumably dangerous places in the world, he was gone for nine months and the reaction he got from the family when he showed up was nearly indistinguishable from the greeting I get when I get back from a 4 day trip to Dakar. There was no embracing, no tears only smiles and little chanting from the kids, ‘Taffa Sene came back! Taffa Sene came back!’ And that excitement really could’ve been mostly in anticipation of the gifts he had brought back.
It is Senegalese custom to bring a gift for the family when you come back from any trip. This gift could be as little as a piece of fruit or candy for each member of the family. Taffa apparently had lots of fun using the large sum of money the Senegalese government handed him as he got off the plane. As soon as he set foot out of the car he was showering his family (the poorest one in the neighborhood) with gifts. A bike for Momar, baby toys for Ndieye Seck, loads of brand new clothes for the boys, gold jewelry and expensive woven fabric for Astou Diop, a big, thick blanket for his mother-in-law, Umi Dia, and a bunch of new toys for himself. I’ve been helping Taffa’s nephew, Sylla, for the past few months to save his money, CFA by CFA, to teach him how to save up for things he wants and needs to buy. Sylla is doing a great job and has managed to buy some shorts that he had wanted. I sincerely hope that Sylla doesn’t get any ideas from Taffa, at the rate he’s going Taffa will be out of money relatively soon and the family will be struggling to get by once again. There really isn’t much I could do or say to Taffa to help either, being younger than him and female, advice wouldn’t do much coming from me.