1. Our last week in Mbour: A week of surprises.
Surprise emotions, surprise safari (what?! giraffes!), surprise  sabar. We spent a lot of the time presenting our ISP projects with the  noise of the beach behind us. I am so impressed with my  classmates—everyone did so much work last month!
A real gem of our time in Mbour was when we all headed out to visit  the Island of Seashells. Or rather, the aftermath. On the bus ride back,  our academic director whispered that we’d be making one more stop. We  stopped at a liquor tasting. It was awesome! All local, organic  liquor made from these Belgian fellows. Twenty minutes and six shots  later (of bissap, orange-grapefruit, mint, cashew apple, guava, and  chocolate coffee banana liquor—-ohmygod)… let’s just say that we were  a little bit tipsy. Our once sleepy, quiet bus was all abuzz on the way  back. Professors included.
I’m convinced it was a devious plot by SIT because directly after, we  went through a reentry session. Oh, but we were the weepiest group! I  look back on it and laugh, but everything that was said was incredibly  poignant. We reminisced, exchanged success story after success story,  and marveled at the strength and compassion we’ve discovered in  ourselves. It was a beautiful way to bring closure to what we’ve all  experienced for the past three and a half months.
So, since this is my last blog entry, and because I’d like to also  bring closure to it, here is my best attempt at expressing what I feel  and how I have grown:
The morning of my final day in Etchwar, just after sunrise, the sky  was still pink and blue. The air was hot, but felt cool compared to the  stifling heat that would arrive in two or three hours. I was already  thankful for the temperature in this pocket of the morning, but I was  even more thankful because I’d just fought off the most violent fever  I’d ever experienced in my life just the night before.
I was sitting alone on a row of sticks. My legs were restless, and  the sticks under me were shifting to their weight. I was staring at the  edge of the mountain, and under it, the brush that extended as far as I  could see. If there was ever a time of pure self-reflection in my life,  that was it. Everything I had experienced in the three days before was  rushing through my head: the half-naked children, the goat’s screams  before it was killed for food, the black lip goop that dripped down my  host grandmother’s chin, my host mother’s breasts and how her children  would grab at them as she bent down to stir the maffe. What was I  supposed to do with all of that? All of the little things about life in  Etchwar had affected me so deeply that I wasn’t sure how my life in the  United States wasn’t an illusion. In that moment, I was only a woman  sitting on a row of sticks on a mountain in West Africa with an empty  stomach.
I heard a noise from inside one of the huts. My host father brought  out an antenna radio the size of my head. It looked like it might have  looked cool to carry that thing around in 1992. In broken French, he  said, I think you will like this. I smiled at him. He said, “America  station” in English. He turned the radio on, and out from a muffled  background came “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. I gasped  and told him that I knew every word to that song. He waved his hand at  me, and I sang along.
I cannot begin to express how meaningful those three and a half  minutes were to me. When I was a little girl, I loved to sing along to  the Backstreet Boys. Back then, I was probably dancing around in my  leopard print-themed room or maybe riding in the car alongside my mom.  But here, I was twenty-one years old and negotiating life’s capacity for  both violence and beauty, trying to figure out my place in it. I  remembered that the world that loved the Backstreet Boys had not  disappeared. I was a woman in Etchwar, and a woman who grew up with boy  bands at the same time. And I had survived both.
I can’t, nor could I ever, come up with the words to summarize my  time in Senegal. Those moments in Etchwar feel like the most authentic  representation. This is such a huge, huge world, and we are such little  people. Like my friend Assan said, it’s so important to keep moving. To  experience another culture is to develop a little bit more compassion  and understanding, even if in the tiniest ways. At the end of  everything, I am just feeling very strong and at peace.
That said, I’m anxious to go home for many reasons. I’m anxious to  see my family and friends and to be reunited with the life I was so used  to, but I’m also terrified to walk into a huge grocery store or to see  the city at night. But here are the important parts of this entry: I’m  enormously thankful for this experience and for the relationships I’ve  cultivated here, I am enriched by this country forever, and I am looking  forward to a future in which we all help each other to keep moving  forward.
Jamm ak jamm.

    Our last week in Mbour: A week of surprises.

    Surprise emotions, surprise safari (what?! giraffes!), surprise sabar. We spent a lot of the time presenting our ISP projects with the noise of the beach behind us. I am so impressed with my classmates—everyone did so much work last month!

    A real gem of our time in Mbour was when we all headed out to visit the Island of Seashells. Or rather, the aftermath. On the bus ride back, our academic director whispered that we’d be making one more stop. We stopped at a liquor tasting. It was awesome! All local, organic liquor made from these Belgian fellows. Twenty minutes and six shots later (of bissap, orange-grapefruit, mint, cashew apple, guava, and chocolate coffee banana liquor—-ohmygod)… let’s just say that we were a little bit tipsy. Our once sleepy, quiet bus was all abuzz on the way back. Professors included.

    I’m convinced it was a devious plot by SIT because directly after, we went through a reentry session. Oh, but we were the weepiest group! I look back on it and laugh, but everything that was said was incredibly poignant. We reminisced, exchanged success story after success story, and marveled at the strength and compassion we’ve discovered in ourselves. It was a beautiful way to bring closure to what we’ve all experienced for the past three and a half months.

    So, since this is my last blog entry, and because I’d like to also bring closure to it, here is my best attempt at expressing what I feel and how I have grown:

    The morning of my final day in Etchwar, just after sunrise, the sky was still pink and blue. The air was hot, but felt cool compared to the stifling heat that would arrive in two or three hours. I was already thankful for the temperature in this pocket of the morning, but I was even more thankful because I’d just fought off the most violent fever I’d ever experienced in my life just the night before.

    I was sitting alone on a row of sticks. My legs were restless, and the sticks under me were shifting to their weight. I was staring at the edge of the mountain, and under it, the brush that extended as far as I could see. If there was ever a time of pure self-reflection in my life, that was it. Everything I had experienced in the three days before was rushing through my head: the half-naked children, the goat’s screams before it was killed for food, the black lip goop that dripped down my host grandmother’s chin, my host mother’s breasts and how her children would grab at them as she bent down to stir the maffe. What was I supposed to do with all of that? All of the little things about life in Etchwar had affected me so deeply that I wasn’t sure how my life in the United States wasn’t an illusion. In that moment, I was only a woman sitting on a row of sticks on a mountain in West Africa with an empty stomach.

    I heard a noise from inside one of the huts. My host father brought out an antenna radio the size of my head. It looked like it might have looked cool to carry that thing around in 1992. In broken French, he said, I think you will like this. I smiled at him. He said, “America station” in English. He turned the radio on, and out from a muffled background came “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. I gasped and told him that I knew every word to that song. He waved his hand at me, and I sang along.

    I cannot begin to express how meaningful those three and a half minutes were to me. When I was a little girl, I loved to sing along to the Backstreet Boys. Back then, I was probably dancing around in my leopard print-themed room or maybe riding in the car alongside my mom. But here, I was twenty-one years old and negotiating life’s capacity for both violence and beauty, trying to figure out my place in it. I remembered that the world that loved the Backstreet Boys had not disappeared. I was a woman in Etchwar, and a woman who grew up with boy bands at the same time. And I had survived both.

    I can’t, nor could I ever, come up with the words to summarize my time in Senegal. Those moments in Etchwar feel like the most authentic representation. This is such a huge, huge world, and we are such little people. Like my friend Assan said, it’s so important to keep moving. To experience another culture is to develop a little bit more compassion and understanding, even if in the tiniest ways. At the end of everything, I am just feeling very strong and at peace.

    That said, I’m anxious to go home for many reasons. I’m anxious to see my family and friends and to be reunited with the life I was so used to, but I’m also terrified to walk into a huge grocery store or to see the city at night. But here are the important parts of this entry: I’m enormously thankful for this experience and for the relationships I’ve cultivated here, I am enriched by this country forever, and I am looking forward to a future in which we all help each other to keep moving forward.

    Jamm ak jamm.

  2. Well, friends, I did it! I’m officially done with my ISP. Yesterday I turned in a 32-page paper, and it was the biggest relief in the WORLD. I spent the two days before basically writing all day and into the night, and after a full night’s sleep yesterday, I’m feeling like a part of the conscious world again.
Today we’re having a party for the families and students. Word around town is that there will be live musicians and really good food—but I’m pretty used to that in this country, let’s be real! It’s already starting to smell like cebujen in here.
Tomorrow we have a few ISP presentations in the morning, and then we’ll head to Mbour. It feels very surreal that today is my last day in Dakar. I know that I’m going to fall apart on the way out (or maybe when I say goodbye to my family today…), but I’m trying my hardest to avoid that for as long as possible.
It’s very bizarre to think that next week, I’m going to be back in the United States… I am a vrai melange of really excited and really sad. Wish I had more to say, but that’s truly all that’s on my mind. I’m looking forward to a beautiful week in Mbour! Looks like my blog is also coming to a close in the near future, which will be strange.
Ba ci kanam <3

    Well, friends, I did it! I’m officially done with my ISP. Yesterday I turned in a 32-page paper, and it was the biggest relief in the WORLD. I spent the two days before basically writing all day and into the night, and after a full night’s sleep yesterday, I’m feeling like a part of the conscious world again.

    Today we’re having a party for the families and students. Word around town is that there will be live musicians and really good food—but I’m pretty used to that in this country, let’s be real! It’s already starting to smell like cebujen in here.

    Tomorrow we have a few ISP presentations in the morning, and then we’ll head to Mbour. It feels very surreal that today is my last day in Dakar. I know that I’m going to fall apart on the way out (or maybe when I say goodbye to my family today…), but I’m trying my hardest to avoid that for as long as possible.

    It’s very bizarre to think that next week, I’m going to be back in the United States… I am a vrai melange of really excited and really sad. Wish I had more to say, but that’s truly all that’s on my mind. I’m looking forward to a beautiful week in Mbour! Looks like my blog is also coming to a close in the near future, which will be strange.

    Ba ci kanam <3

  3. You know, sometimes I forget I&#8217;m in West Africa. It&#8217;s amazing how your brain can organize your world into normalcy after a set amount of time. Every morning, I walk through sand and car exhaust from buses from the 1950&#8217;s, and I think to myself, well, I AM in the city, after all.
This Tuesday, I got my world rocked again.
My ISP is called &#8220;Soul Medicine: The Role of Traditional Senegalese Music in a Therapeutic Context.&#8221; So, I&#8217;ve been researching and learning quite a bit of traditional music and how it can be used for therapeutic purposes in Senegalese culture. I never expected to come up with such a wealth of information as I have: all unexpected and completely fascinating.
I mentioned in my last post that I was going to attend a traditional exorcism ceremony called ndep. To describe ndep could take as long as 200 pages (think: the literature I&#8217;ve buried my nose in for the past week and a half), but in essence, it is a ceremony to please one&#8217;s rab. Rab is a spirit that lives within all of us. Yes, you too! ;-) Everyone has a different rab. Sickness and particularly infertility are thought to be maladies that result from a displeased rab. Occasionally, a person can become possessed by his rab, and if so, the ndep ceremony is created to first, appease the rab and end its possession of the individual, and second, please the rab through offerings of dance, music, and animal sacrifice. There are many steps and it can take up to a week. There was supposed to be a ceremony in Rufisque, and I was going to try to catch a little bit of it.
Those ndep plans fell through, as plans in this country often do. And unfortunately, ndep ceremonies are very difficult to find, let alone have access to. Instead, I was going to interview a ndepkat, or the leader of the ceremony. My professor, Mamebineta Fall, knew of some in Rufisque, and we decided that it would be at least helpful if I could interview a ndepkat to get a better idea of the role that traditional music plays in ndep. We got in a taxi to head to Rufisque, about an hour away from Dakar, and en route, Mamebineta called the ndepkat only to find that she was no longer in Rufisque. We both tutted in disappointment, though this was not a grand surprise. &#8220;Les Senegalais, they don&#8217;t respect appointments,&#8221; Mamebineta sighed. But then&#8212;a miracle. Senabou Ndiaye, the ndepkat, explained that she was actually in Mbour because there was a ceremony happening that evening. We looked at each other, and I said, &#8220;Let&#8217;s go to Mbour.&#8221;
Mbour is about 3 hours away from Dakar. We headed to Colobane, where we took a 7-seat taxi into the brush. The taxi was practically falling apart. There were no seatbelts for the passengers, and the driver slung his over his shoulder without attaching it (there was no buckle) as if that would protect him somehow. My door didn&#8217;t quite shut all the way, and the handle was a shoestring that they&#8217;d attached to the lever, so to open it, the driver had to pull on both the shoestring and the handle outside. Mamebineta added dryly, &#8220;I think we picked the best taxi,&#8221; and I laughed, glad that she found it a little abnormal. I thought, wow. What a girl will do for a little adventure. We packed in with 5 others. I&#8217;d forgotten to wear leggings under my pagne and my bare thigh was against the man next to me, but I shot him the most violent of glares when he asked me if I was married with a sparkle in his eye, and then we didn&#8217;t have any more problems for the rest of the ride. Roops!
We arrived in Mbour and took another seven-seat taxi an hour into the brush. The air became increasingly dry and yellow, and the heat was absolutely stifling. We got to the village center, and we waited for a horse cart to take us the rest of the way. There, we met Mamebineta&#8217;s aunt, a woman whose voice and overall personality made her one of those infectious types&#8212;the ones who make your world seem lighter. She was elderly and skinny on top, but her belly protruded outward so much that she practically looked as if she was with child. Her osteoporosis has progressed so much that she curved into herself, and she wore a fluffy boubou with puffy sleeves and a ruffled, free-flowing skirt. The way she moved with that skirt and that belly, she reminded me of a cartoon mushroom fairy. Her eyes were glazed over with cataracts, but they were some of the more joyful eyes I&#8217;ve looked into in my life. What amazes me about these women is the amount of joy and power they possess at the same time.
She discussed the price with our horse driver with her chin lifted and her scratchy voice raised, demanding that he give me a good deal. &#8220;She&#8217;s not a tourist,&#8221; she huffed. &#8220;She&#8217;s not a toubab. She&#8217;s a student.&#8221; Next thing I knew, I was riding on the back of a wooden cart another hour into the brush. This land was completely barren for the most part. Tufts of life exist far into the distance: you can see a village surrounded by straw fencing, or perhaps an abandoned baobab tree every 100 meters. The world here is so flat and expansive that you can see the curve of the globe where the sky meets the earth. The pace of the ride seemed to mirror that of Senegalese life. All three of us, three women of different generations, with a slight grimace on our faces from the sun, held on tight to the sides of the cart as it rocked from side to side. We were mostly quiet, resigned to the bumps and stops, and we stared forward, peaceful and steadfast. I was never so unconcerned about time passing.
When we got to the village, I was met by several older women who took my hands and welcomed me inside. They served Mamebineta and I cebuyapp&#8212;or rice and beef. The leg of the cow I&#8217;m pretty sure I was eating was sitting in a tub of water near the front of the hut. Pieces of its snout were laid out to dry in the sun. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the ndepkat, Senabou Ndiaye, her younger sister, and the woman for whom the ceremony was being held. The interview was in Wolof with Mamebineta translating my French, so until the videotapes are translated into French transcripts, I won&#8217;t know the entirety of what was said. The only clear answer I received was when I asked the question, &#8220;Do you think that music has the capability to access the spiritual world?&#8221; Senabou looked me in the eyes and nodded yes, with such intensity that I felt almost uncomfortable. She had Mamebineta translate that she had adopted me as her granddaughter, and that I would always be a part of her family.
The ndep ceremony was absolutely mind-blowing. I cannot give all of the details because of its sacred nature; to do so would be disrespectful. But suffice it to say that I was absolutely in shock. There was a man who eventually became possessed by his own rab, a serpent spirit, according to one of the women who whispered in my ear as I watched, wide-eyed. This man, not more than 18, threw his lean body in the most impossible of poses, and eventually dived headfirst into the sand face down, his body following and pushing his head forward into a slither. He slithered toward me somewhat and I was about ready to sprint in the other direction, but the women sang to him and held him, and eventually he recovered, crumpled up on a prayer mat outside of the circle.
I thought, my God. The world is a mystery to all those who live in it. Somewhere, someone is drinking chai tea and watching Modern Family reruns&#8230;and meanwhile, this man is slithering face down in hot sand.
After the ceremony, we drank water and sat around in the dark on old mattresses until miraculously, there was a car going to Dakar. Mamebineta and I got home at around midnight, incredulous. Neither of us could have expected the day we shared together. I&#8217;m incredibly lucky to have had the chance to see ndep, let alone the music portion of it! So I have heard many times since returning, no other student has been lucky enough to catch an actual ceremony.
I&#8217;ve been realizing how much of Senegal is still new and beautiful to me, even after three months. It&#8217;s overwhelming to think about how much I&#8217;ve learned, grown, and experienced in that time just the same.
There&#8217;s a man named Assan next to SIT who owns a little restaurant where you can get an enormous plate of cebujen for around a dollar. Yesterday, I went to eat lunch there after a long day in Ouakam. I came late, so he gave me what was left of the rice and two fish. I sat there on that wooden bench talking to him for nearly an hour, picking off the fish with my fingers and making balls of rice with my palms. He said, you should always try to move. You should always try to know more about the world. I heard his words and thought of the guilt I&#8217;ve felt about my own privilege here, how I&#8217;ve wondered whether it&#8217;s more compassionate to stay put rather than unintentionally misunderstand another culture. I thought of the man in the blue robes who was so angry because he thought I was taking something from him.
I said, but doesn&#8217;t it make you feel guilty that others won&#8217;t have the same opportunities? He replied, &#8220;If you have the means, then you need to move. People here, they&#8217;re stuck in their world views. You came to Senegal, and you learned more about the world and about yourself, and you&#8217;ll be changed for it. And you&#8217;ll do good things with that knowledge. Me, I always try to move. I go back to the villages, I invite foreigners to stay in my home. You learn something every time, and you understand. You don&#8217;t get stuck. If you take nothing from me, remember, I told you to keep moving. Faut bouger.&#8221;
In less than three weeks, I&#8217;m going to go back to the United States, where I don&#8217;t have to confront my ethnicity, gender, privilege, and skin color every day. I think that my greatest fear about returning is that I will forget. After his words, I am feeling a little more at peace. There are a million ways to keep moving.

    You know, sometimes I forget I’m in West Africa. It’s amazing how your brain can organize your world into normalcy after a set amount of time. Every morning, I walk through sand and car exhaust from buses from the 1950’s, and I think to myself, well, I AM in the city, after all.

    This Tuesday, I got my world rocked again.

    My ISP is called “Soul Medicine: The Role of Traditional Senegalese Music in a Therapeutic Context.” So, I’ve been researching and learning quite a bit of traditional music and how it can be used for therapeutic purposes in Senegalese culture. I never expected to come up with such a wealth of information as I have: all unexpected and completely fascinating.

    I mentioned in my last post that I was going to attend a traditional exorcism ceremony called ndep. To describe ndep could take as long as 200 pages (think: the literature I’ve buried my nose in for the past week and a half), but in essence, it is a ceremony to please one’s rab. Rab is a spirit that lives within all of us. Yes, you too! ;-) Everyone has a different rab. Sickness and particularly infertility are thought to be maladies that result from a displeased rab. Occasionally, a person can become possessed by his rab, and if so, the ndep ceremony is created to first, appease the rab and end its possession of the individual, and second, please the rab through offerings of dance, music, and animal sacrifice. There are many steps and it can take up to a week. There was supposed to be a ceremony in Rufisque, and I was going to try to catch a little bit of it.

    Those ndep plans fell through, as plans in this country often do. And unfortunately, ndep ceremonies are very difficult to find, let alone have access to. Instead, I was going to interview a ndepkat, or the leader of the ceremony. My professor, Mamebineta Fall, knew of some in Rufisque, and we decided that it would be at least helpful if I could interview a ndepkat to get a better idea of the role that traditional music plays in ndep. We got in a taxi to head to Rufisque, about an hour away from Dakar, and en route, Mamebineta called the ndepkat only to find that she was no longer in Rufisque. We both tutted in disappointment, though this was not a grand surprise. “Les Senegalais, they don’t respect appointments,” Mamebineta sighed. But then—a miracle. Senabou Ndiaye, the ndepkat, explained that she was actually in Mbour because there was a ceremony happening that evening. We looked at each other, and I said, “Let’s go to Mbour.”

    Mbour is about 3 hours away from Dakar. We headed to Colobane, where we took a 7-seat taxi into the brush. The taxi was practically falling apart. There were no seatbelts for the passengers, and the driver slung his over his shoulder without attaching it (there was no buckle) as if that would protect him somehow. My door didn’t quite shut all the way, and the handle was a shoestring that they’d attached to the lever, so to open it, the driver had to pull on both the shoestring and the handle outside. Mamebineta added dryly, “I think we picked the best taxi,” and I laughed, glad that she found it a little abnormal. I thought, wow. What a girl will do for a little adventure. We packed in with 5 others. I’d forgotten to wear leggings under my pagne and my bare thigh was against the man next to me, but I shot him the most violent of glares when he asked me if I was married with a sparkle in his eye, and then we didn’t have any more problems for the rest of the ride. Roops!

    We arrived in Mbour and took another seven-seat taxi an hour into the brush. The air became increasingly dry and yellow, and the heat was absolutely stifling. We got to the village center, and we waited for a horse cart to take us the rest of the way. There, we met Mamebineta’s aunt, a woman whose voice and overall personality made her one of those infectious types—the ones who make your world seem lighter. She was elderly and skinny on top, but her belly protruded outward so much that she practically looked as if she was with child. Her osteoporosis has progressed so much that she curved into herself, and she wore a fluffy boubou with puffy sleeves and a ruffled, free-flowing skirt. The way she moved with that skirt and that belly, she reminded me of a cartoon mushroom fairy. Her eyes were glazed over with cataracts, but they were some of the more joyful eyes I’ve looked into in my life. What amazes me about these women is the amount of joy and power they possess at the same time.

    She discussed the price with our horse driver with her chin lifted and her scratchy voice raised, demanding that he give me a good deal. “She’s not a tourist,” she huffed. “She’s not a toubab. She’s a student.” Next thing I knew, I was riding on the back of a wooden cart another hour into the brush. This land was completely barren for the most part. Tufts of life exist far into the distance: you can see a village surrounded by straw fencing, or perhaps an abandoned baobab tree every 100 meters. The world here is so flat and expansive that you can see the curve of the globe where the sky meets the earth. The pace of the ride seemed to mirror that of Senegalese life. All three of us, three women of different generations, with a slight grimace on our faces from the sun, held on tight to the sides of the cart as it rocked from side to side. We were mostly quiet, resigned to the bumps and stops, and we stared forward, peaceful and steadfast. I was never so unconcerned about time passing.

    When we got to the village, I was met by several older women who took my hands and welcomed me inside. They served Mamebineta and I cebuyapp—or rice and beef. The leg of the cow I’m pretty sure I was eating was sitting in a tub of water near the front of the hut. Pieces of its snout were laid out to dry in the sun. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the ndepkat, Senabou Ndiaye, her younger sister, and the woman for whom the ceremony was being held. The interview was in Wolof with Mamebineta translating my French, so until the videotapes are translated into French transcripts, I won’t know the entirety of what was said. The only clear answer I received was when I asked the question, “Do you think that music has the capability to access the spiritual world?” Senabou looked me in the eyes and nodded yes, with such intensity that I felt almost uncomfortable. She had Mamebineta translate that she had adopted me as her granddaughter, and that I would always be a part of her family.

    The ndep ceremony was absolutely mind-blowing. I cannot give all of the details because of its sacred nature; to do so would be disrespectful. But suffice it to say that I was absolutely in shock. There was a man who eventually became possessed by his own rab, a serpent spirit, according to one of the women who whispered in my ear as I watched, wide-eyed. This man, not more than 18, threw his lean body in the most impossible of poses, and eventually dived headfirst into the sand face down, his body following and pushing his head forward into a slither. He slithered toward me somewhat and I was about ready to sprint in the other direction, but the women sang to him and held him, and eventually he recovered, crumpled up on a prayer mat outside of the circle.

    I thought, my God. The world is a mystery to all those who live in it. Somewhere, someone is drinking chai tea and watching Modern Family reruns…and meanwhile, this man is slithering face down in hot sand.

    After the ceremony, we drank water and sat around in the dark on old mattresses until miraculously, there was a car going to Dakar. Mamebineta and I got home at around midnight, incredulous. Neither of us could have expected the day we shared together. I’m incredibly lucky to have had the chance to see ndep, let alone the music portion of it! So I have heard many times since returning, no other student has been lucky enough to catch an actual ceremony.

    I’ve been realizing how much of Senegal is still new and beautiful to me, even after three months. It’s overwhelming to think about how much I’ve learned, grown, and experienced in that time just the same.

    There’s a man named Assan next to SIT who owns a little restaurant where you can get an enormous plate of cebujen for around a dollar. Yesterday, I went to eat lunch there after a long day in Ouakam. I came late, so he gave me what was left of the rice and two fish. I sat there on that wooden bench talking to him for nearly an hour, picking off the fish with my fingers and making balls of rice with my palms. He said, you should always try to move. You should always try to know more about the world. I heard his words and thought of the guilt I’ve felt about my own privilege here, how I’ve wondered whether it’s more compassionate to stay put rather than unintentionally misunderstand another culture. I thought of the man in the blue robes who was so angry because he thought I was taking something from him.

    I said, but doesn’t it make you feel guilty that others won’t have the same opportunities? He replied, “If you have the means, then you need to move. People here, they’re stuck in their world views. You came to Senegal, and you learned more about the world and about yourself, and you’ll be changed for it. And you’ll do good things with that knowledge. Me, I always try to move. I go back to the villages, I invite foreigners to stay in my home. You learn something every time, and you understand. You don’t get stuck. If you take nothing from me, remember, I told you to keep moving. Faut bouger.

    In less than three weeks, I’m going to go back to the United States, where I don’t have to confront my ethnicity, gender, privilege, and skin color every day. I think that my greatest fear about returning is that I will forget. After his words, I am feeling a little more at peace. There are a million ways to keep moving.

  4. So, remember how I was worried about having nothing to update about? I can&#8217;t imagine what I was thinking. How things have changed in the past week!
The apartment in Baobab is fantastic. I can&#8217;t say enough about how marvelous it&#8217;s been to have my own space to practice and relax in. We don&#8217;t have internet, but we do have electricity and hot water, and that&#8217;s been great. The hot water thing is funny. I thought I&#8217;d just die of happiness when I took my first shower with hot water, but my overwhelming feeling was, wow&#8230; this is only five minutes of my day. Why did I think this was so great again?
My independent study project is in full swing, and my schedule is very full. I have lessons with Gaby Ba every day, and when I&#8217;m not in lessons, I&#8217;m teaching and playing music at a private, bilingual (i.e., they speak French) preschool north of Ouakam. What an experience that has been! With the little kids (ages 2 and 3), we hand them two sticks and rock from side to side making rhythm and sound with our mouths, feet, and sticks. The goal is to develop memory and coordination. They are so adorable.
My class yesterday with the 6-year-olds was nothing short of overwhelming. It&#8217;s “English Day” at le lac rose this Friday, so I&#8217;m teaching them three songs in English to sing for the tourists. After singing our standard African tunes, Gaby left me alone with a class of 30 for 45 minutes to teach them the music. Now, I&#8217;ve never had any experience with that many elementary school kids, let alone by myself, let alone in French! Our first half hour was fine. We learned “If you&#8217;re happy and you know it clap your hands,” “If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops,” and then “Old MacDonald had a farm,” which went on for 25 minutes with just about every animal you could imagine. The kids were very enthusiastic and funny. But once we&#8217;d learned all of our songs and they were restless, I very much lost control of the class. They were throwing pagnes across the room, hiding under prayer mats, and grabbing the sticks from my bag and hitting each other with them. I just could not be big enough or loud enough. I was just about to burst into tears when I told another student to go get Gaby. Gaby came in, and everyone put themselves in order. I said, “How did you DO that?!” and he said that it just takes time and that I&#8217;ll get it. I sure hope so! I was borderline angry at him for leaving me alone with such a big class for such a long time, but that seems to be the teaching method here—no getting feet wet, just jumping into the cold water and letting yourself shiver for a second before things get easier.
I am excited for the concert, and I&#8217;m so thankful to Gaby for all the opportunities he&#8217;s set me up with. My project has gone from just wanting to learn a little bit on the kalimba to a full music therapy exploration and (basically) internship in Dakar. PLUS learning music on the kalimba and the calabas, which is also going well. I&#8217;ve learned 4 songs in Peul that have been used in traditionally therapeutic contexts. Next week I am going to travel to a traditional exorcism ceremony in which music is literally used to drive out demons—how&#8217;s that for music therapy? I&#8217;m still working out the details, but I can&#8217;t wait!
Another little tidbit of life here is that I have been in the studio in Dakar on weekends recording an African pop album in English (another connection through Gaby Ba). I am working for a filthy rich South African/Australian artist—a tiny woman with enormous teeth and frizzy hair who calls everyone “darling” and refuses to walk more than 10 feet without taking a taxi. The studio is in an impoverished area downtown, but I am toted around like a little princess in my taxis and with my bodyguard named Samba. I am singing background vocals for the most part: musical gems such as “spread your wings in the atmosphere, take fliiiight&#8230;” and “I&#8217;ve got passion, passion, passion in my blood!” It takes up most of my weekends, and afterward, I&#8217;m always exhausted vocally and physically. But this is the real deal! I&#8217;m even signing a copyright to my voice, and I&#8217;m getting paid. Who knew!
My last night in my homestay was bittersweet. We sat all together in the living room, took pictures, and  ate beignets. I got some very funny going away gifts including petroleum jelly and two fake diamond rings. But it wasn&#8217;t goodbye by any means. I came back to visit Sunday and Tuesday and had cebujen with them both days. I was so happy to see the familiar visitors: Maam, who makes fataya next door, Astou (Ngate&#8217;s best friend), Madina (Anna&#8217;s best friend), and Ousmane. I&#8217;ve been thinking a lot about how wonderful it is that everyone is welcome here all of the time. I didn&#8217;t warn the Falls that I was coming to visit&#8230;I was just in the neighborhood. And I had no reservations about just showing up. If someone showed up at your door in America without notice expecting a meal, we&#8217;d say that they had a few screws loose. And now, I&#8217;ve literally lost all comprehension of why that&#8217;s the case.
In the states, we spend so much energy preparing for guests. We&#8217;ve got to clean the house, potentially prepare food, and be in “hostess” mode. But here, when someone visits, there&#8217;s no hostess mode—it&#8217;s more of a constant way of life. Visitors walk in, you ask how their family is, and then they sit down and may even keep to themselves and watch TV. If it&#8217;s mealtime, they eat. If not, they don&#8217;t. My little house in Ouakam was easily full of 20 people at a time on any given day. I&#8217;m not insinuating that the US way is wrong, but I think that the constant sense of community and openness here is going to be sorely missed when I return to the states.
This country has opened me up to so many things: compassion, seeking justice, openness, acceptance, and above all, patience. Nothing in life is so promised here. There are no satisfaction guarantees. What is left is thankfulness and community. I have experienced this in so many forms: not knowing if I&#8217;d make it to a hospital, never being sure that I&#8217;d get my change back, being promised something I found important and then being told “but we don&#8217;t have it today.” Through the frustration and discovery, there have been tiny epiphanies every day that would take up a million blog entries. Despite all of the time that it took, I live here now with a sense of agency and romance—what I think might be better described as fulfillment. No, I&#8217;m not ready to pack up my life and move here for life. But Senegal, I sure will miss you when I have to go!
As for what&#8217;s in store this week and next week, I&#8217;m continuing lessons, recording, and teaching. Tomorrow is my first day of music therapy shadowing at the primary school for mentally disabled children. Currently, I&#8217;m googling recipes for honey millet bread since I finally found baker&#8217;s yeast after searching for weeks. Alxaamdulilaay! I hope I will be able to put some videos of balaphone playing on here at some point. We shall see.
T-minus four weeks. Here goes!

    So, remember how I was worried about having nothing to update about? I can’t imagine what I was thinking. How things have changed in the past week!

    The apartment in Baobab is fantastic. I can’t say enough about how marvelous it’s been to have my own space to practice and relax in. We don’t have internet, but we do have electricity and hot water, and that’s been great. The hot water thing is funny. I thought I’d just die of happiness when I took my first shower with hot water, but my overwhelming feeling was, wow… this is only five minutes of my day. Why did I think this was so great again?

    My independent study project is in full swing, and my schedule is very full. I have lessons with Gaby Ba every day, and when I’m not in lessons, I’m teaching and playing music at a private, bilingual (i.e., they speak French) preschool north of Ouakam. What an experience that has been! With the little kids (ages 2 and 3), we hand them two sticks and rock from side to side making rhythm and sound with our mouths, feet, and sticks. The goal is to develop memory and coordination. They are so adorable.

    My class yesterday with the 6-year-olds was nothing short of overwhelming. It’s “English Day” at le lac rose this Friday, so I’m teaching them three songs in English to sing for the tourists. After singing our standard African tunes, Gaby left me alone with a class of 30 for 45 minutes to teach them the music. Now, I’ve never had any experience with that many elementary school kids, let alone by myself, let alone in French! Our first half hour was fine. We learned “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands,” “If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops,” and then “Old MacDonald had a farm,” which went on for 25 minutes with just about every animal you could imagine. The kids were very enthusiastic and funny. But once we’d learned all of our songs and they were restless, I very much lost control of the class. They were throwing pagnes across the room, hiding under prayer mats, and grabbing the sticks from my bag and hitting each other with them. I just could not be big enough or loud enough. I was just about to burst into tears when I told another student to go get Gaby. Gaby came in, and everyone put themselves in order. I said, “How did you DO that?!” and he said that it just takes time and that I’ll get it. I sure hope so! I was borderline angry at him for leaving me alone with such a big class for such a long time, but that seems to be the teaching method here—no getting feet wet, just jumping into the cold water and letting yourself shiver for a second before things get easier.

    I am excited for the concert, and I’m so thankful to Gaby for all the opportunities he’s set me up with. My project has gone from just wanting to learn a little bit on the kalimba to a full music therapy exploration and (basically) internship in Dakar. PLUS learning music on the kalimba and the calabas, which is also going well. I’ve learned 4 songs in Peul that have been used in traditionally therapeutic contexts. Next week I am going to travel to a traditional exorcism ceremony in which music is literally used to drive out demons—how’s that for music therapy? I’m still working out the details, but I can’t wait!

    Another little tidbit of life here is that I have been in the studio in Dakar on weekends recording an African pop album in English (another connection through Gaby Ba). I am working for a filthy rich South African/Australian artist—a tiny woman with enormous teeth and frizzy hair who calls everyone “darling” and refuses to walk more than 10 feet without taking a taxi. The studio is in an impoverished area downtown, but I am toted around like a little princess in my taxis and with my bodyguard named Samba. I am singing background vocals for the most part: musical gems such as “spread your wings in the atmosphere, take fliiiight…” and “I’ve got passion, passion, passion in my blood!” It takes up most of my weekends, and afterward, I’m always exhausted vocally and physically. But this is the real deal! I’m even signing a copyright to my voice, and I’m getting paid. Who knew!

    My last night in my homestay was bittersweet. We sat all together in the living room, took pictures, and ate beignets. I got some very funny going away gifts including petroleum jelly and two fake diamond rings. But it wasn’t goodbye by any means. I came back to visit Sunday and Tuesday and had cebujen with them both days. I was so happy to see the familiar visitors: Maam, who makes fataya next door, Astou (Ngate’s best friend), Madina (Anna’s best friend), and Ousmane. I’ve been thinking a lot about how wonderful it is that everyone is welcome here all of the time. I didn’t warn the Falls that I was coming to visit…I was just in the neighborhood. And I had no reservations about just showing up. If someone showed up at your door in America without notice expecting a meal, we’d say that they had a few screws loose. And now, I’ve literally lost all comprehension of why that’s the case.

    In the states, we spend so much energy preparing for guests. We’ve got to clean the house, potentially prepare food, and be in “hostess” mode. But here, when someone visits, there’s no hostess mode—it’s more of a constant way of life. Visitors walk in, you ask how their family is, and then they sit down and may even keep to themselves and watch TV. If it’s mealtime, they eat. If not, they don’t. My little house in Ouakam was easily full of 20 people at a time on any given day. I’m not insinuating that the US way is wrong, but I think that the constant sense of community and openness here is going to be sorely missed when I return to the states.

    This country has opened me up to so many things: compassion, seeking justice, openness, acceptance, and above all, patience. Nothing in life is so promised here. There are no satisfaction guarantees. What is left is thankfulness and community. I have experienced this in so many forms: not knowing if I’d make it to a hospital, never being sure that I’d get my change back, being promised something I found important and then being told “but we don’t have it today.” Through the frustration and discovery, there have been tiny epiphanies every day that would take up a million blog entries. Despite all of the time that it took, I live here now with a sense of agency and romance—what I think might be better described as fulfillment. No, I’m not ready to pack up my life and move here for life. But Senegal, I sure will miss you when I have to go!

    As for what’s in store this week and next week, I’m continuing lessons, recording, and teaching. Tomorrow is my first day of music therapy shadowing at the primary school for mentally disabled children. Currently, I’m googling recipes for honey millet bread since I finally found baker’s yeast after searching for weeks. Alxaamdulilaay! I hope I will be able to put some videos of balaphone playing on here at some point. We shall see.

    T-minus four weeks. Here goes!

  5. Here&#8217;s my new hair!
I&#8217;m just the worst at posing for pictures by myself by pretty flowers. This is the only one where I didn&#8217;t end up cross-eyed. Ohhhh well!

    Here’s my new hair!

    I’m just the worst at posing for pictures by myself by pretty flowers. This is the only one where I didn’t end up cross-eyed. Ohhhh well!

  6. So I guess you could call this a weekly blog.
This is an odd time because we&#8217;re right in the middle of an enormous transition. Up until now we&#8217;ve been straddling a line between being shielded from real Senegal (i.e. taking classes at our comfortable little SIT) and living an &#8220;authentically&#8221; Senegalese lifestyle (host families), and now we&#8217;re going to go somewhere in between.
My apartment for the next month has officially been signed for. I&#8217;m living with 5 other SIT students. The neighborhood is called Baobab, the furniture is gorgeous, there&#8217;s hot water and electricity. Why do I feel like I&#8217;m cheating? You get what you pay for. But I still feel like I&#8217;m cheating. And I&#8217;d gotten so used to my short, cold showers.
However. I would not reject the opportunity for hot water. And Senegal is way more than the fact that most people don&#8217;t have access hot water. I think the point is that I now appreciate it so much more. So here I go! On Friday I&#8217;m moving in (&#8220;moving in&#8221; = moving my one hiking backpack) and starting the ISP (Independent Study Project) period.
I&#8217;ve made a decision about the project, though I&#8217;m sure the specifics will evolve throughout this month. I&#8217;m taking lessons with Gaby Ba, an ethnomusicologist here in Dakar, learning Senegalese songs that have been used traditionally in therapeutic contexts. He practices music therapy with children on Tuesdays, and I am shadowing him every Tuesday morning. I&#8217;ll be learning the kalimba, balaphone, and water drum along with my voice lessons. I had my first session on Friday the 1st, and I learned two songs. Maybe my next few posts will just have to be me playing and singing since I don&#8217;t know that I&#8217;ll have a million things to update about once I&#8217;m practicing all the time!
That part about having nothing to update about? I&#8217;m so curious as to why I feel this way. I was thinking about that the other night. There I was, sitting in my living room with at least 10 people braiding each other&#8217;s hair and hollering in Wolof, we were watching an Indian soap opera dubbed in French, and Fatou was crushing millet in a calabas to make laax, and you would have had to pinch me to get any big reaction out of me. This is life here! I rode to school the next day in the bus, bumping and flopping against the people next to me, crying &#8220;FI!&#8221; as I do occasionally when the bus driver decides he doesn&#8217;t feel like letting me off at the right stop.
The Fall family and I have been exchanging gifts for most of this week in preparation for me to leave. I&#8217;ve made all of them friendship bracelets out of string, Fatou sewed me a dress yesterday, and Anna spent last night giving me long red and blonde braids (pictures to come!). We&#8217;ve agreed that I will probably spend every Monday night with them since I need to be in Ouakam to shadow Gaby so early in the morning on Tuesdays. I&#8217;m glad that I&#8217;ll have time scheduled in to be with them. Anna keeps saying she&#8217;s scared that I&#8217;m going to go back to America and forget her, and I assure her, &#8220;tu seras toujours ma soeur, n&#8217;importe ou j&#8217;habite.&#8221;
In other news, diet coke is near impossible to find. You gotta really want it. Also, yogurt is in bags. Just in case you were wondering, it&#8217;s not the most attractive of activities, this bagged-yogurt-eating. But efficient? Definitely! I&#8217;ve done a fair share of bagged-water-drinking to the same result. Buying food for myself will certainly be interesting in my last several weeks here (WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?!). As much as I&#8217;ve enjoyed getting to know the local meals here&#8212;I&#8217;ve had enough vegetable oil and onions and baguette to last me a lifetime. This girl would give a lot for a slice of whole wheat bread!
I&#8217;ve noticed some changes in me, including how I say &#8220;huh?&#8221; which has turned into &#8220;AAH?&#8221; or an inquisitive grunt. I&#8217;m also far more vocal about what I want, usually in a high-pitched, assertive tone because that&#8217;s the way you control your world here. I&#8217;m sure some of these changes will be far more evident when I get back to the states. In the meantime, I&#8217;m enjoying this state of half-belonging.
We visited the Ile de Goree this past Friday, which was a bizarre experience for me. The island has an ugly history: thousands of Africans were taken to slave houses there, separated from their families, and shipped off to Europe and America, never to see their home countries again. The slave houses are still standing, and they&#8217;re now tourist attractions. Walk right in, and a huge man with a booming voice and purple blue robes will tell you a rehearsed history of the terrors of slavery and the murderous history of the island. You can walk around and find the rooms labeled &#8220;FEMMES,&#8221; &#8220;HOMMES,&#8221; and &#8220;ENFANTS.&#8221; If you&#8217;re like me, you&#8217;d walk in and practically get the wind knocked out of you trying to imagine hundreds of children packed in a tiny room with a little slit for a window. But the man&#8217;s voice would be in your ear, and there would be vendors outside asking you to buy elephant keychains. Because, you&#8217;re in Africa, so why wouldn&#8217;t you want an elephant keychain? Walk a little further, and in the back, there&#8217;s an open door that looks out onto a wide expanse of sky and ocean. America is on the other side. They call it the door of no return. Because when you walk out of that door, you leave your family and your home forever.
I was completely overwhelmed in there. Not because I don&#8217;t know about the horrors of slavery, but because when I walk into a place like that, I am never sure that all of the evil has been sucked out yet. It&#8217;s just concrete. And now it&#8217;s a tourist attraction with a museum upstairs. I know that it&#8217;s important to remember&#8212;but why have vendors outside selling elephant necklaces? Why have clean little plaques detailing how the women would commit suicide in groups to avoid being sold? Why have tour guides that show you the closet space where they would fatten up the men until they reached 60 kilos? It&#8217;s kind of like the Titanic museum, where you can buy little pieces of the ship or even buy some plates with &#8220;White Star Line&#8221; on the front. It just creeps me out that everyone seems to be okay with capitalizing on tragedy.
I looked around the island a little more with Shannon. It was beautiful, and we bought some cafe Touba and a batik pagne, but I was still a little disturbed. I left early with a couple other students because I&#8217;d seen enough to be satisfied by about 3 hours in.   That said, the view of the ocean was beautiful. Islands out here are so huge and rocky and magnificent. And the boat ride there was lovely. Not like the pirogues!   This week will be spent wrapping up Wolof, French, and Field Studies Seminar classes, and then *really* learning how to make cebujen at the end of the week. And then, ISP! I&#8217;m very excited for this new chapter of my life in Senegal. Ba ci kanam!

    So I guess you could call this a weekly blog.

    This is an odd time because we’re right in the middle of an enormous transition. Up until now we’ve been straddling a line between being shielded from real Senegal (i.e. taking classes at our comfortable little SIT) and living an “authentically” Senegalese lifestyle (host families), and now we’re going to go somewhere in between.

    My apartment for the next month has officially been signed for. I’m living with 5 other SIT students. The neighborhood is called Baobab, the furniture is gorgeous, there’s hot water and electricity. Why do I feel like I’m cheating? You get what you pay for. But I still feel like I’m cheating. And I’d gotten so used to my short, cold showers.

    However. I would not reject the opportunity for hot water. And Senegal is way more than the fact that most people don’t have access hot water. I think the point is that I now appreciate it so much more. So here I go! On Friday I’m moving in (“moving in” = moving my one hiking backpack) and starting the ISP (Independent Study Project) period.

    I’ve made a decision about the project, though I’m sure the specifics will evolve throughout this month. I’m taking lessons with Gaby Ba, an ethnomusicologist here in Dakar, learning Senegalese songs that have been used traditionally in therapeutic contexts. He practices music therapy with children on Tuesdays, and I am shadowing him every Tuesday morning. I’ll be learning the kalimba, balaphone, and water drum along with my voice lessons. I had my first session on Friday the 1st, and I learned two songs. Maybe my next few posts will just have to be me playing and singing since I don’t know that I’ll have a million things to update about once I’m practicing all the time!

    That part about having nothing to update about? I’m so curious as to why I feel this way. I was thinking about that the other night. There I was, sitting in my living room with at least 10 people braiding each other’s hair and hollering in Wolof, we were watching an Indian soap opera dubbed in French, and Fatou was crushing millet in a calabas to make laax, and you would have had to pinch me to get any big reaction out of me. This is life here! I rode to school the next day in the bus, bumping and flopping against the people next to me, crying “FI!” as I do occasionally when the bus driver decides he doesn’t feel like letting me off at the right stop.

    The Fall family and I have been exchanging gifts for most of this week in preparation for me to leave. I’ve made all of them friendship bracelets out of string, Fatou sewed me a dress yesterday, and Anna spent last night giving me long red and blonde braids (pictures to come!). We’ve agreed that I will probably spend every Monday night with them since I need to be in Ouakam to shadow Gaby so early in the morning on Tuesdays. I’m glad that I’ll have time scheduled in to be with them. Anna keeps saying she’s scared that I’m going to go back to America and forget her, and I assure her, “tu seras toujours ma soeur, n’importe ou j’habite.”

    In other news, diet coke is near impossible to find. You gotta really want it. Also, yogurt is in bags. Just in case you were wondering, it’s not the most attractive of activities, this bagged-yogurt-eating. But efficient? Definitely! I’ve done a fair share of bagged-water-drinking to the same result. Buying food for myself will certainly be interesting in my last several weeks here (WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?!). As much as I’ve enjoyed getting to know the local meals here—I’ve had enough vegetable oil and onions and baguette to last me a lifetime. This girl would give a lot for a slice of whole wheat bread!

    I’ve noticed some changes in me, including how I say “huh?” which has turned into “AAH?” or an inquisitive grunt. I’m also far more vocal about what I want, usually in a high-pitched, assertive tone because that’s the way you control your world here. I’m sure some of these changes will be far more evident when I get back to the states. In the meantime, I’m enjoying this state of half-belonging.

    We visited the Ile de Goree this past Friday, which was a bizarre experience for me. The island has an ugly history: thousands of Africans were taken to slave houses there, separated from their families, and shipped off to Europe and America, never to see their home countries again. The slave houses are still standing, and they’re now tourist attractions. Walk right in, and a huge man with a booming voice and purple blue robes will tell you a rehearsed history of the terrors of slavery and the murderous history of the island. You can walk around and find the rooms labeled “FEMMES,” “HOMMES,” and “ENFANTS.” If you’re like me, you’d walk in and practically get the wind knocked out of you trying to imagine hundreds of children packed in a tiny room with a little slit for a window. But the man’s voice would be in your ear, and there would be vendors outside asking you to buy elephant keychains. Because, you’re in Africa, so why wouldn’t you want an elephant keychain? Walk a little further, and in the back, there’s an open door that looks out onto a wide expanse of sky and ocean. America is on the other side. They call it the door of no return. Because when you walk out of that door, you leave your family and your home forever.

    I was completely overwhelmed in there. Not because I don’t know about the horrors of slavery, but because when I walk into a place like that, I am never sure that all of the evil has been sucked out yet. It’s just concrete. And now it’s a tourist attraction with a museum upstairs. I know that it’s important to remember—but why have vendors outside selling elephant necklaces? Why have clean little plaques detailing how the women would commit suicide in groups to avoid being sold? Why have tour guides that show you the closet space where they would fatten up the men until they reached 60 kilos? It’s kind of like the Titanic museum, where you can buy little pieces of the ship or even buy some plates with “White Star Line” on the front. It just creeps me out that everyone seems to be okay with capitalizing on tragedy.

    I looked around the island a little more with Shannon. It was beautiful, and we bought some cafe Touba and a batik pagne, but I was still a little disturbed. I left early with a couple other students because I’d seen enough to be satisfied by about 3 hours in. That said, the view of the ocean was beautiful. Islands out here are so huge and rocky and magnificent. And the boat ride there was lovely. Not like the pirogues! This week will be spent wrapping up Wolof, French, and Field Studies Seminar classes, and then *really* learning how to make cebujen at the end of the week. And then, ISP! I’m very excited for this new chapter of my life in Senegal. Ba ci kanam!

  7. Hello, all! The second village stay and my time in Saint-Louis was wonderful. I was very loyal to my journal, and I thought that this time, instead of writing a blog, I&#8217;d just post excerpts from my journal. My apologies if they&#8217;re not as floral as my usual writing&#8212;but I think they say a lot by themselves!
On y va:
My name is Lika Samb. I am worlds away from Nyano Keita. My family is  wealthy enough to be comfortable. The air is cool and wet. There are  goats, chickens, and power lines. My house is an open cement compound,  full of women and children.We sit down in my mother&#8217;s room. The  smell of incense is different here, and so lovely. My sister Aida takes  my hand in hers, feels my fingernails, runs her hands through mine and  across my palms. She cracks my knuckles one by one. She strokes my  thumb, and she puts my hair behind my ears and makes a tiny braid. She  whispers in my ear, “nous allons coucher ensemble ce soir.” I think to  myself, this series of events has a significantly different connotation  in American culture, but I&#8217;m thankful that she&#8217;s so sweet.I wake up in the dark. I hear the call to  prayer from the mosque, and I fall asleep again. My reality has changed  so dramatically that sometimes when I wake up in the dark, I can&#8217;t  remember where I am or even who I am. Just as I can&#8217;t remember which way  I fell asleep (where is the door again?), I can&#8217;t remember my purpose,  responsibilities, or place in the world. I&#8217;ve no gravity, no identity.  When I think about it, I interact with humanity in the exact same way,  no matter which language, no matter which country. But my identity is  dependent on location, friends, purpose, and comfort. I keep trying new  ones on (all temporary), and I wonder if they&#8217;re all adding to one huge  one, or if perhaps that kind of gravity doesn&#8217;t exist in the first  place.At 8 AM my Yaaye knocks on the door, Lika, Lika! I get  dressed in my pagne and a dirty white v-neck. Aida is still asleep next  to me, tightly wrapped in a clean white sheet, almost reminiscent of a  corpse if she wasn&#8217;t snoring so loudly. I pee in a hole in the ground  through the tiles in the next room, and I am so thankful for my own  hole.When we&#8217;ve finished the last bits of cebujen and sucked on  the remaining tamarind, I help Awa wash the dishes. We wash them in  dirty, red-brown water with a tiny bit of soap. I know how to wash  dishes the way she washes them, just like how I know how to crush the  garlic and the peppercorns, and I know the technique of making balls of  rice when I&#8217;m eating with my hands. It&#8217;s a little easier to belong. Then  I move to the family space. Yaaye hands me a slice of fresh papaya and  the younger girls braid each other&#8217;s hair.Aida calls me to start  making maffe. We wash and pull black and white hairs out of warm, raw  cow meat for half an hour. We&#8217;ve washed it three times and I still keep  finding more little black hairs in the connective tissue. I realize I&#8217;m  holding a cow tongue. Aida scrapes off the plaque from the top and has  me hold one side as she cuts it in half. For the first time, I am beyond  disgusted and holding back a gag. We transfer the warm meat to a pot of  cold water, and then we split a raw white sweet potato. (My hygiene  standards have seriously declined these days.) She throws the meat into  steaming peanut oil from a plastic wine bottle.
Demba calls me  to start making cebujen. I crush the tomatoes with my fingers, and I  watch her easily peel the vegetables with a dull knife. She asks if I  will gut the fish. She teaches me how to  de-scale them, cut off their fins, tails, and gills. I cut under the  neck and I pull out organs and intestines, but she tells me to leave the  stomach because it tastes good. We leave the brain in some of them. I  go through six fish and then a sharp piece of a smaller fish&#8217;s top fin  sends pain shooting up my thumb. A piece of needle-sharp fin has gone  all the way up my thumbnail. I pull it out, squeal in pain for a moment.  Demba washes my nail in the bloody fish water and says that it will  hurt, but I should be fine. She takes the sharp fish from me and hands  me one of the bigger, easier ones. When we&#8217;re finished with the fish, we  throw them into a pot of water which promptly turns pink. We wash our  hands in red-brown dishwater from the morning chores. Aida says  she&#8217;s going to braid my hair. I sit on a mat and she works for two  hours. I&#8217;m covered in flies. There&#8217;s fish blood on my skirt and feet,  and they&#8217;re congregating around the bigger splotches. They&#8217;re in my  nostrils too and I wonder if I must have splashed a little bit up my  nose.


Aida and I go home, she changes, and we hurry to a friend’s house where I’m stripped naked and then dressed in traditional wear. There are children in the room that say, “I always wanted to see what a toubab’s breasts look like!” No shame. Have I. Anymore. 

We go outside to a huge drum/sabar circle. At least 100 people are gathered around. The drummers are loud and energetic, and the atmosphere is wild and contagious. Newly bouboubed, the toubabs dance with our families and each other. My “jay fonde” lends me a spot in front of the drummers. My host mom shakes her hips against mine, and I realize that just because she’s in her 40’s doesn’t mean that she’s lost her sexuality. She was like my mentor. 
I do my best at Youza. I am now unafraid of dancing like this because there’s no real way of getting it wrong. I feel like my body is on fire. I am jerking back and forth, throwing my arms around like a madwoman, stomping my heels in the sand for no reason except that I want to. John and Charlie are playing sabar and tama with the men.
Papa in my arms, we head back to the house. I am exhausted by 21:38. My biological clock is incredibly consistent.

After breakfast, I take my swiss army knife and I go to work on my fingernail, which is even more swollen. I make a little progress. Adama sits next to me, watching. Then Awa shows my nail to Yaaye, wh says to leave it alone. Then she mixes henna and creates a design on my palm with tape she’s cut with a lone silver razor. She puts a thin plastic bag over my hand, and we head to town together. Elijah is on her back, curled up like a little kidney bean.
A man in blue robes asks what I’m studying in Senegal. He switches to French so Yaaye won’t understand. He asks why it is that he can’t go to America, but I can go to Senegal. He says that I am going to learn and take from his culture to better myself, but that no one in his country has the opportunity to do the same in America. Why is that? He challenges me. He’s got the same hungry stare as most of the men in this country, but it’s angry. I’ve not encountered this before. It’s not true that NO ONE in Senegal has that opportunity in America, first of all, but he has a point. He’s said what I hope no one is thinking when they meet me. But I find him cowardly. He’s caught me on a blunt day. “Money,” I reply. And then, “I didn’t create the problems in the world, but I am doing my best to understand the people in it. And I am kind to people I meet.” He scoffs, says “Bon courage, alors,” and turns away.
We arrive home, and I’m so glad for Awa’s face. We sit outside and talk for a while. Yaaye says I have to come back and stay with them when I get married because she’ll throw a grand party. Aida says she’s going to miss me when I’m gone. I say I’ll come back as soon as I have the means. We go inside and Aida and I lie on a mattress on the floor. Papa is in trouble, and we talk about what we did when we were little that got us punished. We’re watching a soap opera from Ghana. They’re speaking English, but I understand the French subtitles better than their accents. It is 13:58 and I only have two hours left here. I have mixed feelings. I love this family, but I also feel a little bit suspended in time. 
I am packing to go. A lizard on the floor surprises me and I squeal. We go into the salon and Lika starts making ataaya. Yaaye gives me beautiful red fabric. Then, Maam gives me an expensive floral-print fabric. They are too good to me. There is a soap on. The music is dramatic and romantic, almost the way I’m feeling. This room looks different every time I’m in it.
The leader of the village bids us good-bye. I am sitting in a plastic lawn chair. Elijah is on my lap in the greatest of moods. I am bouncing him and making funny noises, and he throws his head back and grins. Demba is next to me, looking a little somber. Awa says that she’s sad I’m leaving just when we were starting to feel like family. I’m tearing up as I kiss them all good-bye. Awa follows me onto the bus and sits on my lap until it’s time to start moving. 
Mouit was a dream. Someday I will go back, married or not.
(Ba ci kanam&#8212;until the next blog, much love.)

    Hello, all! The second village stay and my time in Saint-Louis was wonderful. I was very loyal to my journal, and I thought that this time, instead of writing a blog, I’d just post excerpts from my journal. My apologies if they’re not as floral as my usual writing—but I think they say a lot by themselves!

    On y va:

    My name is Lika Samb. I am worlds away from Nyano Keita. My family is wealthy enough to be comfortable. The air is cool and wet. There are goats, chickens, and power lines. My house is an open cement compound, full of women and children.

    We sit down in my mother’s room. The smell of incense is different here, and so lovely. My sister Aida takes my hand in hers, feels my fingernails, runs her hands through mine and across my palms. She cracks my knuckles one by one. She strokes my thumb, and she puts my hair behind my ears and makes a tiny braid. She whispers in my ear, “nous allons coucher ensemble ce soir.” I think to myself, this series of events has a significantly different connotation in American culture, but I’m thankful that she’s so sweet.

    I wake up in the dark. I hear the call to prayer from the mosque, and I fall asleep again. My reality has changed so dramatically that sometimes when I wake up in the dark, I can’t remember where I am or even who I am. Just as I can’t remember which way I fell asleep (where is the door again?), I can’t remember my purpose, responsibilities, or place in the world. I’ve no gravity, no identity. When I think about it, I interact with humanity in the exact same way, no matter which language, no matter which country. But my identity is dependent on location, friends, purpose, and comfort. I keep trying new ones on (all temporary), and I wonder if they’re all adding to one huge one, or if perhaps that kind of gravity doesn’t exist in the first place.

    At 8 AM my Yaaye knocks on the door, Lika, Lika! I get dressed in my pagne and a dirty white v-neck. Aida is still asleep next to me, tightly wrapped in a clean white sheet, almost reminiscent of a corpse if she wasn’t snoring so loudly. I pee in a hole in the ground through the tiles in the next room, and I am so thankful for my own hole.

    When we’ve finished the last bits of cebujen and sucked on the remaining tamarind, I help Awa wash the dishes. We wash them in dirty, red-brown water with a tiny bit of soap. I know how to wash dishes the way she washes them, just like how I know how to crush the garlic and the peppercorns, and I know the technique of making balls of rice when I’m eating with my hands. It’s a little easier to belong. Then I move to the family space. Yaaye hands me a slice of fresh papaya and the younger girls braid each other’s hair.

    Aida calls me to start making maffe. We wash and pull black and white hairs out of warm, raw cow meat for half an hour. We’ve washed it three times and I still keep finding more little black hairs in the connective tissue. I realize I’m holding a cow tongue. Aida scrapes off the plaque from the top and has me hold one side as she cuts it in half. For the first time, I am beyond disgusted and holding back a gag. We transfer the warm meat to a pot of cold water, and then we split a raw white sweet potato. (My hygiene standards have seriously declined these days.) She throws the meat into steaming peanut oil from a plastic wine bottle.



    Demba calls me to start making cebujen. I crush the tomatoes with my fingers, and I watch her easily peel the vegetables with a dull knife. She asks if I will gut the fish. She teaches me how to de-scale them, cut off their fins, tails, and gills. I cut under the neck and I pull out organs and intestines, but she tells me to leave the stomach because it tastes good. We leave the brain in some of them. I go through six fish and then a sharp piece of a smaller fish’s top fin sends pain shooting up my thumb. A piece of needle-sharp fin has gone all the way up my thumbnail. I pull it out, squeal in pain for a moment. Demba washes my nail in the bloody fish water and says that it will hurt, but I should be fine. She takes the sharp fish from me and hands me one of the bigger, easier ones. When we’re finished with the fish, we throw them into a pot of water which promptly turns pink. We wash our hands in red-brown dishwater from the morning chores.

    Aida says she’s going to braid my hair. I sit on a mat and she works for two hours. I’m covered in flies. There’s fish blood on my skirt and feet, and they’re congregating around the bigger splotches. They’re in my nostrils too and I wonder if I must have splashed a little bit up my nose.

    Aida and I go home, she changes, and we hurry to a friend’s house where I’m stripped naked and then dressed in traditional wear. There are children in the room that say, “I always wanted to see what a toubab’s breasts look like!” No shame. Have I. Anymore.

    We go outside to a huge drum/sabar circle. At least 100 people are gathered around. The drummers are loud and energetic, and the atmosphere is wild and contagious. Newly bouboubed, the toubabs dance with our families and each other. My “jay fonde” lends me a spot in front of the drummers. My host mom shakes her hips against mine, and I realize that just because she’s in her 40’s doesn’t mean that she’s lost her sexuality. She was like my mentor.

    I do my best at Youza. I am now unafraid of dancing like this because there’s no real way of getting it wrong. I feel like my body is on fire. I am jerking back and forth, throwing my arms around like a madwoman, stomping my heels in the sand for no reason except that I want to. John and Charlie are playing sabar and tama with the men.

    Papa in my arms, we head back to the house. I am exhausted by 21:38. My biological clock is incredibly consistent.


    After breakfast, I take my swiss army knife and I go to work on my fingernail, which is even more swollen. I make a little progress. Adama sits next to me, watching. Then Awa shows my nail to Yaaye, wh says to leave it alone. Then she mixes henna and creates a design on my palm with tape she’s cut with a lone silver razor. She puts a thin plastic bag over my hand, and we head to town together. Elijah is on her back, curled up like a little kidney bean.

    A man in blue robes asks what I’m studying in Senegal. He switches to French so Yaaye won’t understand. He asks why it is that he can’t go to America, but I can go to Senegal. He says that I am going to learn and take from his culture to better myself, but that no one in his country has the opportunity to do the same in America. Why is that? He challenges me. He’s got the same hungry stare as most of the men in this country, but it’s angry. I’ve not encountered this before. It’s not true that NO ONE in Senegal has that opportunity in America, first of all, but he has a point. He’s said what I hope no one is thinking when they meet me. But I find him cowardly. He’s caught me on a blunt day. “Money,” I reply. And then, “I didn’t create the problems in the world, but I am doing my best to understand the people in it. And I am kind to people I meet.” He scoffs, says “Bon courage, alors,” and turns away.

    We arrive home, and I’m so glad for Awa’s face. We sit outside and talk for a while. Yaaye says I have to come back and stay with them when I get married because she’ll throw a grand party. Aida says she’s going to miss me when I’m gone. I say I’ll come back as soon as I have the means. We go inside and Aida and I lie on a mattress on the floor. Papa is in trouble, and we talk about what we did when we were little that got us punished. We’re watching a soap opera from Ghana. They’re speaking English, but I understand the French subtitles better than their accents. It is 13:58 and I only have two hours left here. I have mixed feelings. I love this family, but I also feel a little bit suspended in time.

    I am packing to go. A lizard on the floor surprises me and I squeal. We go into the salon and Lika starts making ataaya. Yaaye gives me beautiful red fabric. Then, Maam gives me an expensive floral-print fabric. They are too good to me. There is a soap on. The music is dramatic and romantic, almost the way I’m feeling. This room looks different every time I’m in it.

    The leader of the village bids us good-bye. I am sitting in a plastic lawn chair. Elijah is on my lap in the greatest of moods. I am bouncing him and making funny noises, and he throws his head back and grins. Demba is next to me, looking a little somber. Awa says that she’s sad I’m leaving just when we were starting to feel like family. I’m tearing up as I kiss them all good-bye. Awa follows me onto the bus and sits on my lap until it’s time to start moving.

    Mouit was a dream. Someday I will go back, married or not.

    (Ba ci kanam—until the next blog, much love.)

  8. I didn’t pack anything green to wear today. But as it were, the amount of attention given to Saint Patrick’s Day in Senegal just happens to be…none. In fact, ask an employee in a resto/bar named “Le Celtic” if there are special festivities for le jour de Saint-Patrick, and you will probably be met with a) a quizzical brow or b) dismissive laughter. In any case, happy Saint Patrick’s Day if you happen to be of the appreciative population ;)

    The weeks seem to be moving faster and faster. Tomorrow morning I’m leaving for Saint Louis until next Saturday. We’ll be traveling a lot and staying in a village called Mouit for 3 nights. After that, we have two weeks left with our host families, and then we’ll be starting the ISP (independent study project) period. I am toggling back and forth between what I’d like to study, so I’ll blog about it when the details come together. I am going to be living in an apartment somewhere in Dakar—probably Ouakam or Point E. I am going to miss Anna, Ngate, Baba, Mounasse, and Fatou SO much, but I am also ready for more independence. And since Dakar functions a little bit like Indiana suburbs circa 1950 (visit whenever! bring foods cooked with hydrogenated oils!), I will have plenty of opportunities to go visit.

    Last Sunday, I spent the most amazing afternoon at l’Ile de la Madeleine, a once government-protected national park that has since been abandoned. Once created to protect the dwarf baobabs, the island is mostly composed of an enormous, dry field full of baobab trees and bouye. The other half is the most breathtaking display of clear water, electric green seaweed, and gigantic rock formations. Barely suitable for humans, its only inhabitants are the many birds that nest at the tops of the rocks and some very friendly, floppy sea creatures. The colors were vibrant, the temperature was perfect, and if heaven exists on Earth, we found it.

    The ride there was nothing short of risky. Ten of us crammed into a pirogue with our very buff captain, Moustafa. The sea water climbed to nearly the rim of the boat even in the calmer waters, occasionally sloshing freezing sea water onto our arms and legs. When waves picked up near the island, we ascended and descended so dramatically with the crests of the waves that we squealed and laughed out loud. Oddly enough, my jitters weren’t for my own swimming abilities, but those of my digital camera… but in the end, there was no reason to worry.

    About 15 minutes later, we were safely past the rough waters and entering paradise. We scrambled out of the pirogue and explored the island for hours. We climbed the cliffs, sat and watched the sea breathe into an enormous whirlpool, swam in the clear water with our little sea friends, and went exploring in the fields. I found that sitting under an enormous baobab tree, picking its fruit, and taking the time to appreciate the majesty of it was one of the more spiritual experiences of my life. (I keep having the _____-est experiences of my life here. I’m okay with it.) I am determined to get back there again at least once before coming back to the states.

    This week, I’ve been teaching Mounasse how to play the guitar (tutti tutti) every evening, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with Anna and Ngate. I am looking forward to next week in Saint Louis, but I’m also a little bit sad that my time here is going by so quickly. Who knew I could get so comfortable in Dakar… neex na!

    Until next week,

    Bisoux!

  9. Happy Saturday afternoon! I have a paper to write, and here I am in &#8220;MyShop,&#8221; an internet cafe that promises a generator when the power goes out, though I&#8217;ve found that&#8217;s only true about 50 percent of the time. Nevertheless&#8212;I thought I&#8217;d take this opportunity to write a blog too.
I slept about twelve hours last night, as per usual on the weekends. When I woke up, Fatou had prepared cafe touba and my host cousins (ages 3 and 5) were dancing Youza in the living room. I sat down to drink my cafe full of powdered milk (and the chunky parts of it that don&#8217;t dissolve), and I realized how lucky I am to have a family half way across the world.
Last night, I got back early from a free afternoon after a couple of lectures at SIT. Anna, sassy and bubbly as usual, ordered me to go outside with her. We sat down next to the woman who makes fataya next to my house, and we helped her make sandwiches for the people passing by. The power was out, so as the air got darker, we lit the small table with our cell phone lights and a dull flashlight. One moment we would be pressing dough with our fingertips, the next, dancing Youza or telling stories. A woman who lives nearby came by for a sandwich and handed me her baby, who was wide-eyed and grinning when I stomped my feet to the Wolof music Anna was playing on her phone. It&#8217;s moments like these that make me marvel at Senegal. Could you imagine going to a sandwich stand in America, handing one of the employees your baby, and sitting down behind the counter chatting for a half an hour?
The poverty, the odd public transportation system, and the power cuts were all disheartening at first glance. But to live inside of this world is to see how the family structure lightens all of the minute details. No food is wasted because it is given to the talibes or other families in need. Even after dinner in my home, Anna takes the leftovers to the children outside. There is a sort of cultural agreement that food is never to be thrown away. The public transportation system, especially the car rapides, is the community&#8217;s response to an ineffective government. The car rapides are separate from the state, and by taking them, you support the community&#8212;and as an added bonus, you get places faster. During the power cuts, there is just as much togetherness as without.
There is something about the social mentality here that just works. Polygamy isn&#8217;t even that bizarre to me anymore because it fits with the idea that family is a loose term. Finding a means of supporting yourself and those around you is the most important lesson you&#8217;ll learn. The more I take a step back and analyze my world, the more I realize how my definitions of good, bad, and normal have morphed without my knowledge or permission. Every morning I wake up at 5 from the call to prayer, I think about how calming it is, and I drift off back to sleep, comforted by a religion that I don&#8217;t even fundamentally agree with.
In class the other day, we were encouraged to make a list of things that &#8220;go without saying&#8221; now&#8212;things that are so normal in this culture that we don&#8217;t notice them anymore. When I started thinking about it, I was astounded by all of the small things I don&#8217;t notice anymore, all of the ideas I have internalized.
After another week of music lessons, I also have to mention what learning music is like here. Forget what you knew about counting! Everything is based on what you feel and hear. I am so much more comfortable in this setting. It&#8217;s not about being the best at your instrument. Rather, it&#8217;s about being present in the music. Ever heard of the tama? It&#8217;s also known as the &#8220;talking drum.&#8221; The tama professor here has a severe speech impediment and barely speaks, but he is one of the best tama players in Dakar. The drum is his language, his vocabulary. His brothers (a family of griots) communicate with him through the tama, different patterns indicating different words like morse code. It was one of the most inspirational things I have ever seen.
I suppose this is a little love letter to Senegal. We&#8217;ve had our moments. These days, I love her despite her faults. And more and more I&#8217;m not sure they&#8217;re faults in the first place.

    Happy Saturday afternoon! I have a paper to write, and here I am in “MyShop,” an internet cafe that promises a generator when the power goes out, though I’ve found that’s only true about 50 percent of the time. Nevertheless—I thought I’d take this opportunity to write a blog too.

    I slept about twelve hours last night, as per usual on the weekends. When I woke up, Fatou had prepared cafe touba and my host cousins (ages 3 and 5) were dancing Youza in the living room. I sat down to drink my cafe full of powdered milk (and the chunky parts of it that don’t dissolve), and I realized how lucky I am to have a family half way across the world.

    Last night, I got back early from a free afternoon after a couple of lectures at SIT. Anna, sassy and bubbly as usual, ordered me to go outside with her. We sat down next to the woman who makes fataya next to my house, and we helped her make sandwiches for the people passing by. The power was out, so as the air got darker, we lit the small table with our cell phone lights and a dull flashlight. One moment we would be pressing dough with our fingertips, the next, dancing Youza or telling stories. A woman who lives nearby came by for a sandwich and handed me her baby, who was wide-eyed and grinning when I stomped my feet to the Wolof music Anna was playing on her phone. It’s moments like these that make me marvel at Senegal. Could you imagine going to a sandwich stand in America, handing one of the employees your baby, and sitting down behind the counter chatting for a half an hour?

    The poverty, the odd public transportation system, and the power cuts were all disheartening at first glance. But to live inside of this world is to see how the family structure lightens all of the minute details. No food is wasted because it is given to the talibes or other families in need. Even after dinner in my home, Anna takes the leftovers to the children outside. There is a sort of cultural agreement that food is never to be thrown away. The public transportation system, especially the car rapides, is the community’s response to an ineffective government. The car rapides are separate from the state, and by taking them, you support the community—and as an added bonus, you get places faster. During the power cuts, there is just as much togetherness as without.

    There is something about the social mentality here that just works. Polygamy isn’t even that bizarre to me anymore because it fits with the idea that family is a loose term. Finding a means of supporting yourself and those around you is the most important lesson you’ll learn. The more I take a step back and analyze my world, the more I realize how my definitions of good, bad, and normal have morphed without my knowledge or permission. Every morning I wake up at 5 from the call to prayer, I think about how calming it is, and I drift off back to sleep, comforted by a religion that I don’t even fundamentally agree with.

    In class the other day, we were encouraged to make a list of things that “go without saying” now—things that are so normal in this culture that we don’t notice them anymore. When I started thinking about it, I was astounded by all of the small things I don’t notice anymore, all of the ideas I have internalized.

    After another week of music lessons, I also have to mention what learning music is like here. Forget what you knew about counting! Everything is based on what you feel and hear. I am so much more comfortable in this setting. It’s not about being the best at your instrument. Rather, it’s about being present in the music. Ever heard of the tama? It’s also known as the “talking drum.” The tama professor here has a severe speech impediment and barely speaks, but he is one of the best tama players in Dakar. The drum is his language, his vocabulary. His brothers (a family of griots) communicate with him through the tama, different patterns indicating different words like morse code. It was one of the most inspirational things I have ever seen.

    I suppose this is a little love letter to Senegal. We’ve had our moments. These days, I love her despite her faults. And more and more I’m not sure they’re faults in the first place.

  10. I know that it&#8217;s time for a blog entry, but I don&#8217;t feel like it&#8217;s time for one. I can only conclude that this means I&#8217;m feeling more at home here, more set into my routine.
Last week I was thrilled to see my host family after I got back from Kedougou. It took me until Thursday to eat normally again, which was a source of confusion for Fatou, who practically bullies me into eating half a baguette every night. At this point, I am back in form and enjoying Dakar with fresh perspective. I decided that I love my cracked walls, my tamarind toothbrush, the way the sea breeze nearly knocks me over on the way to the bus stop. And I have also fallen madly in love with Fataya, which could be the end of my figure.
Last week was wonderful because we spent the afternoons at the Village des Arts, an artists&#8217; commune just outside of West Foire. I signed up for sous-verre, a type of glass painting in which you work in reverse: details first, background last. I finished two plates and an ashtray. The process is fairly simple, and I could see continuing it in the states on a rainy weekend.
I had a minor panic about Dakar at the beginning of last week. I was so bothered by the idea that men and women couldn&#8217;t be friends without romantic involvement, I was sick of homophobia, and I thought, if one more person calls me &#8220;toubab&#8221; I am going to plop right down in the sand and have a temper tantrum. We&#8217;ll call it overstimulation. I took a day to reorganize my brain, and I decided to stop being scared of being taken advantage of. Since then, I have felt great! I took a day to really explore Ouakam, bought some amazing millet beignets from a woman cooking them on a street corner, took the car rapide home (http://www.rockhurst.edu/academic/foriegn/africa_gallery/pages/Senegal%20Dakar%20car%20rapide.html), and didn&#8217;t cower past the group of men standing by my door.
I had taken to cowering past groups of men because they are generally associated with cat calling and marriage proposals in my brain these days. There is a general attitude here of &#8220;boys will be boys,&#8221; as if they cannot help their infidelity (and polygamy, as it were). Having a toubab girlfriend is a huge status symbol, even if she&#8217;s 65 and the man is 22. Not kidding. My initial reaction was to look upon the many propositions with humor. But it started to wear on me. I started feeling very vulnerable, like my nationality was some awful invitation for hungry stares and scamming and artificial interaction. But then I realized how much I was generalizing, and I decided that despite how many unpleasant moments I may encounter, I cannot shut out half of the population of this culture. And sure enough, I had a uniquely marvelous breakthrough. My sister Ngate&#8217;s friend Oussman is over at the house very often. Last night, as we watched Senegalese wrestling, he asked if I was looking for a boyfriend. I replied by whining that even if I WERE looking, it was impossible to know who to trust. He laughed and said I was smart for knowing that. Then he added, &#8220;You know, I don&#8217;t find you attractive at all.&#8221; I grinned ear to ear and replied, &#8220;et moi, je ne tomberai jamais amoureuse de toi.&#8221; We laughed and, in my mind, became real friends.
On Saturday, I decided to embrace nightlife in Dakar. Before I had been hesitant because I didn&#8217;t want to offend my host family. But Fatou encouraged me to go out and explore the city and return home whenever I wanted, so with her blessing, I had one of the most insane nights of my life. At 6 p.m. five friends and I took a car rapide downtown and found a swanky-looking French bakery. We walked in and had a very expensive cup of tea (by our standards. it was $2 as opposed to 30 cents), and before we could leave, the owner of the restaurant ordered us a plate of tuna pate, bread, and olives and talked to us for an hour. It was dark by the time we caught the car rapide home, which was quite the spectacle: us running after the car in the dark, jumping on the back bumper, yelling &#8220;OUAKAM! OUAKAM!&#8221; and cramming in to capacity. My friend Shannon&#8217;s host brother and his friend offered to escort us around the city for the night. Fast forward to 5 AM, and Shannon and I were absolutely exhausted from all of the dancing. Her brother took us to such a hole in the wall in the slummy part of downtown Dakar that I got nervous, but inside there were nearly 30 men sitting around a fire cooking beef on skewers, covering them with an orange seasoning. Maybe it was because it was 5 in the morning and I was delirious, but it was probably the best thing I have ever tasted. Ever. At 6 AM, Shannon and I arrived safely home, incredulous. We&#8217;d been ALL OVER Dakar in one night, seen so much culture, and had an amazing time.
On Sunday, I went to a wedding with my host family, which was actually not that exciting, apart from getting very dressed up and eating so much cebujen that I nearly burst. Most of it was spent sitting on a mattress on the floor with all of my host cousins reapplying each other&#8217;s makeup.
This week, I am starting Kora lessons and continuing to make an effort to embrace this culture&#8212;to live in it rather than continue on like a visitor. I think I&#8217;ll go home now and eat dinner with my hands.

    I know that it’s time for a blog entry, but I don’t feel like it’s time for one. I can only conclude that this means I’m feeling more at home here, more set into my routine.

    Last week I was thrilled to see my host family after I got back from Kedougou. It took me until Thursday to eat normally again, which was a source of confusion for Fatou, who practically bullies me into eating half a baguette every night. At this point, I am back in form and enjoying Dakar with fresh perspective. I decided that I love my cracked walls, my tamarind toothbrush, the way the sea breeze nearly knocks me over on the way to the bus stop. And I have also fallen madly in love with Fataya, which could be the end of my figure.

    Last week was wonderful because we spent the afternoons at the Village des Arts, an artists’ commune just outside of West Foire. I signed up for sous-verre, a type of glass painting in which you work in reverse: details first, background last. I finished two plates and an ashtray. The process is fairly simple, and I could see continuing it in the states on a rainy weekend.

    I had a minor panic about Dakar at the beginning of last week. I was so bothered by the idea that men and women couldn’t be friends without romantic involvement, I was sick of homophobia, and I thought, if one more person calls me “toubab” I am going to plop right down in the sand and have a temper tantrum. We’ll call it overstimulation. I took a day to reorganize my brain, and I decided to stop being scared of being taken advantage of. Since then, I have felt great! I took a day to really explore Ouakam, bought some amazing millet beignets from a woman cooking them on a street corner, took the car rapide home (http://www.rockhurst.edu/academic/foriegn/africa_gallery/pages/Senegal%20Dakar%20car%20rapide.html), and didn’t cower past the group of men standing by my door.

    I had taken to cowering past groups of men because they are generally associated with cat calling and marriage proposals in my brain these days. There is a general attitude here of “boys will be boys,” as if they cannot help their infidelity (and polygamy, as it were). Having a toubab girlfriend is a huge status symbol, even if she’s 65 and the man is 22. Not kidding. My initial reaction was to look upon the many propositions with humor. But it started to wear on me. I started feeling very vulnerable, like my nationality was some awful invitation for hungry stares and scamming and artificial interaction. But then I realized how much I was generalizing, and I decided that despite how many unpleasant moments I may encounter, I cannot shut out half of the population of this culture. And sure enough, I had a uniquely marvelous breakthrough. My sister Ngate’s friend Oussman is over at the house very often. Last night, as we watched Senegalese wrestling, he asked if I was looking for a boyfriend. I replied by whining that even if I WERE looking, it was impossible to know who to trust. He laughed and said I was smart for knowing that. Then he added, “You know, I don’t find you attractive at all.” I grinned ear to ear and replied, “et moi, je ne tomberai jamais amoureuse de toi.” We laughed and, in my mind, became real friends.

    On Saturday, I decided to embrace nightlife in Dakar. Before I had been hesitant because I didn’t want to offend my host family. But Fatou encouraged me to go out and explore the city and return home whenever I wanted, so with her blessing, I had one of the most insane nights of my life. At 6 p.m. five friends and I took a car rapide downtown and found a swanky-looking French bakery. We walked in and had a very expensive cup of tea (by our standards. it was $2 as opposed to 30 cents), and before we could leave, the owner of the restaurant ordered us a plate of tuna pate, bread, and olives and talked to us for an hour. It was dark by the time we caught the car rapide home, which was quite the spectacle: us running after the car in the dark, jumping on the back bumper, yelling “OUAKAM! OUAKAM!” and cramming in to capacity. My friend Shannon’s host brother and his friend offered to escort us around the city for the night. Fast forward to 5 AM, and Shannon and I were absolutely exhausted from all of the dancing. Her brother took us to such a hole in the wall in the slummy part of downtown Dakar that I got nervous, but inside there were nearly 30 men sitting around a fire cooking beef on skewers, covering them with an orange seasoning. Maybe it was because it was 5 in the morning and I was delirious, but it was probably the best thing I have ever tasted. Ever. At 6 AM, Shannon and I arrived safely home, incredulous. We’d been ALL OVER Dakar in one night, seen so much culture, and had an amazing time.

    On Sunday, I went to a wedding with my host family, which was actually not that exciting, apart from getting very dressed up and eating so much cebujen that I nearly burst. Most of it was spent sitting on a mattress on the floor with all of my host cousins reapplying each other’s makeup.

    This week, I am starting Kora lessons and continuing to make an effort to embrace this culture—to live in it rather than continue on like a visitor. I think I’ll go home now and eat dinner with my hands.