Hosanna’s African name is Maimouna and it also happens to be the name of her best friend who lives beside us. To differentiate between the two “Maimounas” the family of her friend calls Hosanna “Maimouna Toubab” (Toubab means “white person” in the local language) and her friend “Maimouna Noire” (Noire means “black” in French). While we have all adapted well to our life in
Being Maimouna means being free. Free to run. Free to dance. Free to get dirty. It means being free to eat fruit right off the tree and to even climb up the tree to pick it yourself. It means being free to smile, free to laugh, and free to explore.
Being Maimouna means that when you play with your friends you seamlessly transition between three languages, none of which are the language of your home country. It also means that sometimes you struggle in school because your head is filled with words and phrases and concepts that you don’t use in your English home school.
Being Maimouna means eating rice nearly every day is normal and you’re not even scared to eat off of the fish head in the bowl. It means you’ll try rat and that you want to try monkey. It means that eating five mangos a day during the rainy season doesn’t seem like too many.
Being Maimouna means that shoes are always optional, however you can’t leave home without wearing a long skirt. It means that you are the only blond haired, blue eyed girl for miles and miles around and that getting a lot of attention goes with the territory.
Being Maimouna means that playing with your friends at their house means helping them work and laughing while you do it. It sometimes means that you wash your friend’s hair and help them take out their braids. It means that when your friends play at your house the few toys that you have get shared among everyone. Being Maimouna means that you have to invent a toy “rental” system, where a borrowed toy can be exchanged for a new one the next day as long as it is brought back in semi-working condition. Being Maimouna means that you likely have fewer possessions than every friend you know in the States, but far more than any other child in the village where you live.
Being Maimouna means that you play with animals like chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, pigs, and the occasional parrot and monkey. It means that when your Daddy catches a live mouse in the house that you beg him to let you keep it as a pet. It means that sometimes when you pour the leftover rice from lunch out back, when your parents aren’t watching, that you purposefully pour it out on top of your bare feet so that the chickens and the free-range pigs will eat it off of your feet because it “kinda tickles” and the pigs are your “friends.”
Being Maimouna means that you can wear a pretty “princess” dress and still play in the dirt and get filthy with your friends.
Being Maimouna means that you live between two worlds: the world that is the inside of your home where everyone shares the same language, religion, and skin color and the outside world all around you where no matter how well you adapt you are still different. And it means that sometimes you don’t exactly know where you fit in the best.
Being Maimouna means that you have to be patient. It means that going to the market in the village is a mile plus walk one way. It means that “going to the store” in Ziguinchor is two hours in the truck one way. It means that as your family tries to love those around you it sometimes looks like sitting outside and talking for hours on end.
Being Maimouna means that you occasionally ask about what things are like back where the grandparents live. And you don’t always understand it when it is explained to you.
Being Maimouna means that your parents pray for the day, in the not too distant future, when you will once again make another transition into another culture to go to college; the culture of your passport, but not the culture of your life. But being Maimouna means that the God of all grace goes with you and helps you to make sense of the things that don’t seem to fit at times. And because of that, being Maimouna Toubab is not a bad place to be.