Tuesday, January 27, 2009

ndànk ndànk moy jap golo ci ñay

This Wolof proverb, translated literally, means “little by little one catches the monkey in the bush”. Translated less literally, the essence of the proverb remains and reminds one that things take time.

Last night, since we didn’t have any classes this morning, my housemate decided that he was going to stay out late and explore the city with a girl in the MSID program and her Senegalese brother. As I got ready for bed rather than heading out (it was after 11), I asked myself if I was getting to most out of my experience here in Dakar. I haven’t really seen much of the city yet, I’ve gone out at night only once to a jazz club called Just4U (the musicians were extremely talented, especially the guitarist), and most of the time I’m at home, either talking to Khadim and Diama and their friends or helping Daba with her English homework (she is also helping me learn Wolof). Even the program staff seems to assume that the students go out a lot; they warned that going out unannounced could create tensions with our host families.

Anyway, I came across two different questions: (1) what Senegal did I actually come here to experience, and (2) am I just getting ahead of myself? I suppose I’m not really a big fan of any night life, I don’t party at William and Mary either, and I like to sleep at night to enjoy the day. With that in mind, I feel that, though I haven’t even gone out to explore the markets yet, I am experiencing the Dakar I wanted to all along. I’m meeting real people, and living as close to a real Senegalese life as an American college student can get. I take showers with a bucket so that the water isn’t frigid, I can wash my clothes by hand, and I am slowly working my way into the kitchen. As for the second question, there exists another Wolof proverb which states “lu nit di donn daf ca séntu njeriñ”, which, roughly translated, means that if you exert yourself for something then you expect to gain from it. One does not undertake tasks or activities without a good reason. Additionally, the Wolof response during greetings is “maangi fi” or “maangi fi rekk”, which means “I am here only.” My brother Khadim has told me that I shouldn’t even try to buy clothes at the HLM market until a couple weeks from now, when my Wolof is sufficient for bartering.

Life may be slow at the moment, but I am extremely happy and trying to suppress my fidgety side. I have many adventures ahead of me, including HLM, the pilgrimage to Touba with Diama, and a possible trip to St. Louis, and the whole internship living with a marabout thing. For now I’m just going to keep relaxing and enjoying being here only.

Ba beneen yoon,

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lu bees?

According to popular demand, I should add photos. So here are some!

Here we find our omnipresent program assistant Wali in front of the Millennium Door just northwest of downtown Dakar.

This is a photo of the MSID group making a guard's day at the gates of the presidential palace!

Here we see Josh and Vanessa chillin' at the cape.

The stairs were really treacherous. Many planks were missing and the wooden structure gave a little and creaked with every step.

Finally, we notice Josephine and me standing in front of the Mosque of the Divinity, a few minutes north of Fann Residence and WARC.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More First Impressions

Every day I have woken up surprised once again to be in Senegal. It is at once stressful and invigorating, saddening and uplifting. I know at once that this day will bring new challenges and force me to relive many of the stresses of yesterday, whether the smog, the hawkers, the indescribably complex and unruly traffic patterns or the dirty sand covering my shoes and infringing upon the sacred cleanliness of my socks.

But these troubles are not specifically African; life is stressful in the city. A constant sprint of exhaustion even at a snail’s pace of leisure. What I love about Dakar so far is that even at the pace of urban modern life, people take the time to pay attention to the well-being of one another.

Today, after orientation concluded at WARC, I went walking around the quarter of Fann Residence with Josh, Seth and Ellie. As went traveled south along Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop toward the university, I almost collided with a Senegalese student not unlike myself, tall and bit a scrawny, with glasses and a nervous twitch. As he and I approached one another we performed a well known global urban street dance. I moved to the right to let him pass, and he moved to his left; I shifted to my left, and he jumped right. Facing this impasse, rather than become frustrated or ignore me, he stopped switching from side to side, smiled, and proclaimed, “Salaam Maaleekum”, or “Peace be with you.”

Additionally, the Senegalese brother of Henry and Seth, two other students of MSID, has already taken Josh and me into his family, walking with us three times now between our family’s house and WARC. When we left from WARC today, rather than interrupting and telling us that it was time to leave, he was kind enough to sit back and wait until we finished our relatively pointless conversation.

The trip so far has had its minor setbacks: I believe that someone from the hotel staff stole my iPod shuffle (but, they don’t have the charger!), my mosquito net has been too small, I nearly crushed my foot underneath the Gorée ferry’s boarding plank, and I took part in a minor taxi accident. However, the warmth and welcome I have received has kept me calm, I now have a new mosquito net, I have learned how to take a bucket bath successfully, and I my internship seems like it will be a very positive experience. As the Wolof saying goes, “Bu ko Yàlla dogalee, dina am”.

Mon introduction au Sénégal

Finally I can say "hello from Senegal!" I would like to apologize ahead of time for the brevity of this blog post, but I don't have much time before my computer's battery dies. So, I have already lived with la famille Rokhaya-Niang. They are extremely welcoming,if not a bit awkward (I'm probably the awkward one). Anyways, yesterday, my MSID group visited l'Ile de Gorée, and I took many, many photos.

This is a view through The Door of No Return (La porte du voyage sans retour)

This is a photo of me on Gorée with downtown Dakar in the background.

This is a photo of the island's slave monument.

Friday, January 16, 2009

One night left at home...

So, mired in the murk of endless clothing, papers, and toiletries packed and still to pack, I don't have the time or the energy to write about much tonight. However, since it is my last night at home before going off to DC, NYC, and then Senegal, I felt that I should share a song with you, my avid readers.

GOKH-BI SYSTEM "Mission Of Music"

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bonne année!

So, two weeks from today I will be heading out of Dulles on my way to Dakar, Senegal. As the days pass, figuring out what to pack and finding climate-friendly clothes is becoming increasingly daunting. One day I think I want to bring my laptop and the next, I convince myself that it's a bad idea. I recently found three lightweight long sleeve shirts at a good price, but I still need a pair of lightweight pants, since mostly I just own dark jeans. On top of it all, I still haven't decided what I should bring as a gift for my host family. The orientation aid suggested a photo frame, but I need to see what Josh Davenport, my Dakar housemate, is going to bring.

In the meantime, my brother just pointed out this article on lead poisoning in Thiaroye Sur Mer. Please read it and leave your thoughts and comments. It reminds me a bit of a chapter I read for my Violence in Francophone Literature course on the experience of globalization and development from Le viol de l'imaginaire by Aminata Traoré. The article can be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28484477/.

Since I'm on the topic of globalization, here's the clip from the Senegalese film Hyènes that was on my previous blog.