over the past week I’ve reevaluated adjusted my expectations and ideas of what live in Dakar would be like. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is not a french speaking area, although everyone knows french. Living with a host family isn’t quite what I’ thought either. I’m not as isolated from classmates as I had expected (thank goodness). Anyhow. it’s been a time of cultural aclimation and I feel ready and prepared to continue on in my remaining 10 weeks in Senegal. In a way its like a new start on a new program now that I’ve adjusted to the reality of it.
I found out about my placement for the last 6 weeks of the term while on ‘service.’ I’ll be living in St Louis, a northern coastal city of Senegal. I’ll be working, along with Brad Graber, at a Veterinary/Horticulture school. We’ll live with separate families. I’m excited to have a city worth of entertainment at our disposal, let alone one known for their music. Maybe then at the school I can hone in on my french speaking skills as I round up and care for animals like I did while growing up on a farm (thanks Mom and Dad). I’m pretty sure I’ll help break some American stereotypes as I get dirty and actually have knowledge of animal care.
The group here is great. We enjoy our small numbers and have been a great support for each other… mainly by playing hackey-sack.
Last night our group went to a ‘swanky’ (i like that word) night club called ‘just 4 u’ (not the best name in my opinion, but it works. Daara J was performing, a premiere Senegalese HipHop group from Dakar. Some in our group were familiar with the music act before coming to senegal and recognized the group on our AirFrance flight from Paris to Dakar. We talked with them some on the plane and they told us about their upcoming performance in two weeks.
The atmosphere was great and relaxing with many little tables scattered in an indoor/outdoor/courtyard facility. (remember that the weather is always nice here) There sound was quality as they rapped some songs in French, Wolof, and maybe one or two in English. They had regae roots in there music and for one song they abandonned the mixer as the lead singer donned an electic guitar for a cover of ‘no woman, no cry.’ It was 3 for 3 for me and late nights as we returned to our house afterwards at 3am… again. Luckily, Wolof class was canceled this morning.
weekends have their ups and downs. one one hand, there is an abundant night life and culture to experience. on the other hand, the days seem to be some of the longest.
last night we went to a huge dance party… numbering in the hundreds. I never thought that I’d enjoy rap music or even dance to it. I was wrong. They played a mix of american rap and senegalese rap/pop. The nice thing about the senegalese dance scene is that anything goes. there is no structure, you just do your own thing. you improv the entire time, usually in a little circle of people, occasionally mirroring each others new moves or stepping into the center for a brief ‘solo.’ tips? keep your knees and heels moving.
my siblings (ages 10 and 14) don’t have school and they are content to spent every minute with us… and i mean every minute. this is where it gets tricky. I soon run out of ways to entertain them and want desperately to read or journal. if you start to read or write, they’ll be over your shoulder. if you’re relaxing in your room they’ll be there going through your stuff. its been difficult to accept their different understanding of possesions. they are very communal and will pick up anything and check it out without asking. personal time and space are also treated in the same way.
all is well in Dakar. We’re getting much more comfortable with the city and go out alot on our own for entertainment. Last night I went out with the guys in search of “Just 4 U.” It turned out to be a little more swanky and expensive for our tastes so after be friending the bouncers they pointed us to a nearby jazz club. It was much better, with no cover charge, and a great senegalese “jazz” band consisting of a hand drummer on a jembe, a bass player, a singer on an acoustic guitar, and the backup vocalist playing a large traditional stringed instrument. pretty swell…
This morning I went jogging while the weather of the day is still relatively ‘cool.’ Its been a good day with my host family, simply spending time with each other on the weekend.
I’m feeling more and more comfortable now. I’m no longer frustrated with the presence of sand everywhere (I wonder what they would think about our childhood sandboxes) or the inevitable stares from everyone that you pass since I am a ‘tubob.’ (wolof for white person) but yeah… I have more cultural commentary but I’ll save it for when I return to the states.
There is no need for a weather forecast here. Every day and night has been the same: dry, clear sky and sun, with a refreshing ocean wind. A t-shirt will get you anywhere, anytime. Also, pants aren’t all that bad (the muslim culture ‘requires’ them.
well… I’m at a nice cyber cafe. This means that I was able to upload my random selection of pictures from my camera. Enjoy.
the other night at dinner (usually served after 9pm, pas de problem) it was late and we each had a few eggs to fry. eric and I welcomed this opportunity to do some cooking for once. in the kitchen there proved to be some awkward humor, laughter, and long pauses as we soon realized that we cook eggs differently then the senegalese. my Gambian brother Mawdu (who speaks english, not french) said “here let me help you” as he made the frying pan a pool of oil after I added the usual few drops just so it wouldn’t stick. we knew little french words when it comes to cooking and both parties were equally confused as to the other’s egg techniques. we finally mustered up a “ehhhh… Je pense que notre methods a… differente” only then did we gain mutual understanding to each cook our eggs our own way. ours were fried, theres were cooked in an oil bath. to each his own, eh?
today was the first day of class and surprisingly, it was a great feeling to get back into the classroom and learn. we had 2 hours of wolof this morning and 2 hours of Senegambian history in the afternoon. We go home from noon to 3pm to eat lunch with our families. Its the ‘main meal’ of the day. (the quotes are in honor of jon c)
So much happens each day that I could never come close to writing, especially on this keyboard. I’m getting used to it though. Tomorrow I hope to use the really nice cyber cafe.