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”.