Back from Toubab Diawlo, off to Kedougou

Hello again! Last post I shared some pictures of my trip to Touba at the end of November. It was really incredible walking around the huge mosque, the largest in West Africa. In order to enter, everyone has to take off our shoes and women must cover their heads. We had to leave before the afternoon prayer, and afterwards we visited a Quranic school. We got to see the kids in the process of memorizing and reciting different parts of the Quran. Memorization is something used way more in schools here than in the states, especially in Quranic schools. At the primary school level, kids learn the Arabic alphabet and then begin memorizing the Quran, without even knowing the significance of the words or passages they are memorizing. The comprehension comes later.

After a week full of work on my final papers, I was able to relax this weekend. Friday night I went out with a group of American and Senegalese friends, which was fun. We may or may not have still been awake when Ellen’s host dad left in the morning to go to pray at the mosque… Saturday morning Grace, Ellen, and I headed to our Wolof professor’s house for some Wolof conversation while learning how to prepare ceebu jenn, a dish of rice, fish and veggies that is a lunch staple. It took from 10 am until 2 pm to go through the whole ceebu jenn process, but it was delicious. Right from Oumoul’s house we went with another professor, Professor Diallo, to a traditional medicine hospital located right outside of Dakar. It was really neat to see, the grounds were covered with gardens and all sorts of different trees with fruit, leaves, and roots used for medicine of all sorts. Traditional medicine has a strong following in Senegal, and often times even if people can afford to use modern medicine, they’ll also use the herbal remedies. I guess it goes along with their superstitions.

From the traditional medicine hospital, Professor Diallo dropped Ellen, Grace and me off at a “garage” in Rufisque for the night we had planned on the Petit Côte of Senegal, the area south of Dakar along the coast. A garage is a place where cars called sept-places stop to collect passengers and from there head to various locations. Sept-places are appropriately named… they are station wagons that have seats for 7 passengers. From Rufisque, we paid the driver 500 cfa each ($1) and got taken right to the little hotel win Toubab Diawlo, a little town on the Petit Côte. In the car we got to practice our Wolof with the other passengers, which was fun.

Toubab Diawlo was gorgeous. The town itself is pretty simple, but we found a cool little hotel in my guidebook which has a range of rooms, from ocean front houses you can rent out for a night, to a hostel-type room for about $8 a night. We opted for the cheapest option, and it worked out great. Saturday night we went to bed pretty early, and got up early to make the most of our day along the coast. We sipped our coffee while looking out over the rocky shore and Ellen and I went down and sat on rocks in the water for a little while. Crazy that I was enjoying the waves and sunshine in December!

After breakfast we decided to take a batik class, which is like tie dye, but using wax. We each made a batik, and the 3 turned out looking very different, which was cool. It was a lot of fun and it was neat to see how the batiks are made, because I often see them sold in markets and shops. We spent some more time at the beach and headed home after lunch. Friendly people in the village helped us find our way to the garage in Toubab Dialow, which turned out to be one store parked outside a little shop. A man told us he wasn’t sure if any cars would be going to Rufisque since it was Sunday, but he told us to wait 5 minutes to see. Sure enough, a few minutes later, a car pulled up and he quickly ushered the three of us into the car, along with 8 other people. Sept-place turned into an onze-place… it was a liiiiittle crowded. I felt bad because my hip was digging into the man next to me, but I was already half sitting on Ellen’s lap and there wasn’t much else I could do. After the car, a friendly lady helped us find the bus that goes from Rufisque to Dakar. Our total cost of transportation per person was less than $2 to get all the way from our hotel back to Dakar. Not too shabby. But the bus was even more crowded than the sept-place had been…everyone stands pressed against each other and the ride was more than an hour. We got home a little before dinner and I spent the evening hanging out with my host family.

Monday morning I went to the fabric market, HLM by myself to get some fabrics I want to try to use to make a quilt when I get back to the U.S. I was a little nervous to see how I would do with the market chaos on my own, but it turned out to be fine. The vendors in the outdoor part of the market were much less aggressive with me than they are when I’m with a group of toubabs, even when it’s just Ellen, Grace, and me. They must figure if a toubab is alone they know what they’re doing on some level and aren’t just a random tourist. I explored the parts of the market I had been to before, but somehow got lost inside the interior of the enclosed market space, and ended up in this little area of thin hallways filled with tailor shops. I don’t think they see many toubabs… I got more marriage proposals in those hallways than I have in my whole time here. Buying fabric I used some of my Wolof to talk to and bargain with the vendors, which turned out to be pretty successful. I got some pretty fabric for good prices.

Tuesday was a holiday called Tamharit. It represents the start of the new year of the Muslim calendar. To celebrate, families eat a traditional couscous dish for dinner. After that, similar to Halloween, kids dress up and go out in the streets. Boys dress up like girls, and boys dress up like girls. It’s mostly little kids that dress up, but it was strange to see some cross-dressed teens walking around at night. Grace invited a few of us over to her house, and we ate more couscous, made attaaya, and hung out there for the evening. I have a picture of Mage dressed up in a little tuxedo… it is too cute.

Tonight (Wednesday), I’m getting on a bus to head to Kedougou, which is in the southeast corner of Senegal, right near the border of Mali and Guinea Bissau. It’s the most mountainous and lush region of Senegal. There’s a huge waterfall in a park nearby that I’m hoping to hike to. This trip came together kind of last minute when I asked if it was possible to go to Kedougou for my rural home stay arranged by ACI instead of one of the villages on their list. I don’t want to leave Senegal without having seen much of the south or the east of the county, and this will accomplish both of those goals. The bus ride should take about 13 hours, but I will be there until Sunday night, so it should definitely be worth the long trip.

I doubt I’ll have internet while I’m there, but I’ll be sure to put up lots of pictures when I get back! Talk to you again Monday, inchallah (God willing, a phrase that everyone here uses all the time. Ex: “I’m going to school, see you at lunchtime.” “Inchallah.”)


Sokone, Thanksgiving and Touba

Yesterday I finished my 3 final papers and classes are wrapping up, but I still have a packed schedule for my final month (or a little less) in Senegal. I’ll be heading to the Petite Côte, Kedougou, and Gambia. I also have to finish up my research at RADDHO and present my ICRP, all before arriving back in the States on the morning of the 24th… just in time for Christmas! I’ll write again soon to catch you up, but in the meantime here are some pictures from my experiences the past few weeks. I’m going to try to be crafty and use a slideshow. Enjoy! 

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1 Month left in Senegal!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I’ll be thinking about all my family and friends (in the U.S. and abroad) extra much today. I hope you all have a great holiday. I am going grocery shopping with Grace and Ellen, and then we’re heading over to the apartment of another girl who takes classes at the Baobab Center. I think we’re doing chicken instead of turkey, because it doesn’t seem to be the easiest or cheapest thing to find here, but I’m excited to see what we can make! I’m definitely hoping for some mashed potatoes, cornbread, and lots and lots of desserts. I made a little list of things I’m thankful for here in Senegal and at home in the U.S. You can read it if you want or just skip ahead to the actual part of the blog entry…

 Thankful for in Senegal: having two kind and welcoming host families, Grace and Ellen, getting to see new things every day, teranga (Senegalese hospitality, something they pride themselves on), days/nights when the power stays on, how convenient boutiques are for buying everything you need a few feet away from your house, buying delicious juice (bisap is my favorite) for 100 CFA (20 cents), when we eat maafe or yassa, hearing the call to prayer every day, being able to walk places, being able to bargain down prices, amazing tailors for very cheap, Senegalese time which makes it ok to be 5-10 minutes late, Professor Ba (my History of Islam Professor, he is hilarious), not having a lot of homework, cooler temperatures at night time!, the mangoes and fresh fruit here, warm weather, and plenty of other things.

 Thankful for in the U.S.: having family and friends close by, a variety of food (salad and vegetables, dairy products, also being able to choose what I want to eat), personal space (doesn’t really exist here), appliances (toilet seat, washing machine, sink, oven, refrigerator, etc.), no flies swarming around me when I eat breakfast, electricity not being an issue, snuggling up with a blanket in the fall/winter, change of seasons, resources like libraries, no malaria, not worrying about having to bargain for prices, warm water in the shower, and much much more.

Here’s a recap of my trip to Sokone: Thursday the 17th Ellen, Grace and I met up at the Baobab Center and got into a van to head to Sokone with our Seminar professor, Pap Diop, and another man who works at ACI, Samba. Sokone is a little town in the south of Senegal, just north of the Gambian border. The trip took about 6 hours. We arrived in time to eat lunch there, which we did at our “auberge”- a kind of hostel type place. It is run by a man named Baba, who has hosted students in the Kalamazoo program for 6 years now. He is a super friendly man, and the longer I was there, the more I realized he’s really an impressive person too. He was raised in Dakar, but decided to move out of the city, and has spent his life in Sokone, helping to start projects that will better the town and its people.

After lunch we had a few visits to places around the town: a center for handicapped people where they can take classes to learn trade skills to help them live more self sufficiently and a warehouse where a group of women make millet and other grains. Baba helped to create the handicapped center, and wanted us to see a little of the work that women’s groups do in Sokone. After these visits Baba introduced us to Casey, a Peace Corps from Boston who lives and works in Sokone. Baba is her “counterpart,” meaning he helps her integrate into the community and serves as a resource for her.

Baba and Pap Diop told us we would be having some evening festivities, and with only that knowledge of what would be going on, Casey, Ellen, Grace, and I piled into the van. After us about 8 Senegalese guys hopped into the van too. We didn’t really know what was going on, but we went along with it. We had some good Wolof practice by chatting with the guys in the van… they thought it was funny to ask us simple questions and get more advanced as the drive went on. They ended up complimenting our Wolof, something that hasn’t happened too often. We drove for a while, and somehow ended up in a field. We drove through the field along tracks that are usually frequented only by donkey carts. Finally we pulled up to a little clearing with some palm trees. There we met Armando, a little Senegalese man with crooked teeth and a friendly smile.

Pap Diop and Baba then explained to us what was going on. During the ride to Sokone, Grace had asked if it was possible to find palm wine there, because we have heard about it but haven’t been able to find it since it’s only made and available in the southern parts of the country. Pap put in a call to Baba and they threw together a little excursion to not only let us taste some palm wine, but also to see where it comes from. One of the ways Armando makes his money is by traveling to this palm tree clearing, scaling the tree, getting the liquid, and then selling it in town. He showed us the entire process, from using palm leaves to create a tap for the tree, to sharpening his knife, to using a hoop device to climb up the tree. He filled up several bottles and came back down. I have a video of Armando scaling the tree that I’ll have to post for you to see… it was impressive. After this display, we got to taste some palm wine that Baba had brought along and had already chilled. It was…pretty gross. It tasted kind of like vinegary pickle juice mixed with coconut milk. I could only drink a tiny bit.

While all this was going on, the guys who had come with us in the van (who turned out to be musicians) were drumming and singing. It was great background music during the palm wine exhibition, and then afterwards made for great dancing and listening. We stayed until dark, then headed back for dinner. It was a great evening.

Saturday was the busiest day I’ve had in Senegal, maybe in my life. We saw so many things in just a day but it was worth being tired the next day. In the morning we went to the outskirts of Sokone and walked down to an area where there are mangrove trees. We learned about how Baba has helped people in the village start initiatives to protect the mangroves since they are becoming less present in the area. People in the village eat a lot of oysters and shells, which grow on the roots of the mangroves that are underwater. They’ve started building places the shells can grow so that people don’t chop the mangrove roots while trying to collect the seafood. Another way of protecting the mangroves is by installing bee houses in the trees. The bees fly there, deposit their honey, and are ready to sting any intruders trying to chop down the mangroves. The honey is then collected and sold by village women. Ecotourism at its finest.

Next we took a pirogue to an island and walked across it to reach an area called Bamboung, which is a protected reserve. It is attempting to bring back species of fish that used to live there but have disappeared with over fishing. While we were walking through the brush across this island, Casey told us that one of her Peace Corps friends lives on a similar island and isn’t allowed out too late at night because of all they hyenas in the area. Yikes. At Bamboung, Grace, Ellen, Casey and I went swimming in the delta while waiting for lunch to be ready. There were some older French people on vacation that we chatted with and ended up eating lunch with. All the women had their hair braided and tied up with colorful scrunchies, so they were looking pretty ridiculous.

After lunch was my favorite part of the day. Grace, Ellen, Casey, Samba, a guy from Bamboung and I all went kayaking. Ellen and I shared a kayak. After a short paddle across part of the delta, we went into the mangroves through a tiny little passageway. We had to stop using our kayak paddles and just pull ourselves through using the branches of the mangroves. It was incredible. After kayaking, we took a pirogue to another pirogue, which took us to an island made of seashells. On the way, we got to see the best sunset I’ve seen here so far. The sun was setting behind gorgeous baobab trees that had winding branches. The sun was super orange and it was very stereotypical African imagery, but still super pretty.

Since it was getting dark, we did a quick tour of the shell island. There are tons of HUGE baobab trees covering the island. The island has hills and at the top of one of them we got to look out at the delta and other islands in the light of the setting sun, which was beautiful. We then hopped back into our boat and went a little further along to another area of mangroves where Baba told us that lots of birds nest at night. I didn’t know what to expect when he said “lots of birds.” But sure enough, in the dim evening light, we pulled up to a island of mangroves that had hundreds and hundreds of birds covering it. I took pictures but they are kind of hard to see since it was dark. It is hard to explain how cool it was to see so many birds covering a little island made of trees. Even though there were seemingly identical mangrove islands all around, the birds choose to spend the night in this one place every night. Each bird had its own little nook in the branches of the mangroves. At this point it was pretty dark, so we headed back to the auberge.

The day wasn’t over yet, though. We had dinner and heard drumming going on right outside the walls of the auberge. After dinner, village women came in and escorted us all out to the soirée that was going on in our honor. Baba said this was a way of showing the village we weren’t tourists, by having a “fête” and dancing with them, we became members of their community. There was a huge circle of people, and they kept making us go into the middle to dance. It was embarrassing considering how good the women are at dancing and how terrible I am. Oh well. I stopped worrying about how funny I must look because they just think it’s hilarious to watch white people dance, so they were plenty entertained. Watching the women, especially the young girls (some of them must have only been 6 or 7) dancing in the middle of the crowd was incredible. What a good day.

Sunday we did a quick visit with a woman who works with environmental protection in Sokone, then did a really neat visit to a high school and talked to young girls there who are brought in from surrounding villages that don’t have schools to receive an education. Talking with them was really interesting. After lunch, we got back in the van and headed home to Dakar. A quick but really great trip to Sokone.

Alright, sorry this post got way longer than I was planning (how does that always happen??). I will write again after I have my Thanksgiving adventures to report, and will also post my Sokone pictures. Next week I have to turn in 3 papers, 7-10 pages each, in French. I am finished with one, but I’ll be busy with working on the other two for the next week. Alright. Happy Thanksgiving again. Ba ci kanam (see you later).

River Valley Pictures

Here are my pictures from my Senegal River Valley trip to Richard Toll and Saint Louis. Better late than never! Enjoy, and hopefully more pictures and stories to come soon after my return from Sokone on Saturday!

Post Tabaski and M23

This entry won’t be too long; unfortunately I don’t have anything as exciting as Tabaski to write about. I can say that the effects of Tabaski are still being felt all around Dakar. Until yesterday (almost a week after the holiday), at least one meal each day consisted of something with sheep meat. I was so excited when we finally went back to having fish with our rice for lunch. Also, a lot of the household maids around the city went back to their homes for the holiday. Ours, Aïssatou (who is 21… it’s crazy to think how different my life is from hers), stayed with us for Tabaski, but went home a few days later for some time with her family. My family here has been getting everything done that it needs to, but things like laundry and meal times have become a little more disorganized.

I have started going to RADDHO (a human rights organization based in Dakar) for my ICRP a few times a week. I’ve been reading books and news articles to get me up to date on the history of politics in Senegal and what’s been going on lately. One really interesting dynamic of the upcoming elections is the protests that occur pretty frequently. On June 23 of this year was a huge protest against Abdoulaye Wade, the current president, who is trying to run for another term. A lot of people believe it’s unconstitutional for him to run again, because he’s already filled the two term maximum, but the law that created that limit came into effect after the start of his first term, so there is a lot of debate about the issue. I think it would be ridiculous to re-elect a 90-year-old man as your president, but I guess I don’t really have much sway here.

Anyways, the point is that after the June 23rd protest, a group formed called M23 (the movement of the 23rd of June) that is a group against Wade’s candidature. It is closely connected to RADDHO, because the RADDHO president is a member of M23 (I’m fairly certain he’s the president of the movement too). On Friday while I was at RADDHO I got to sit in on the M23’s planning committee meeting. It was Tessa (another American study abroad student doing an internship there), about 20 men, 2 women, and me in attendence.  They were discussing reflections on their last protest and planning for the next one. People started debating when it should be, and the discussion got really heated (as political discussions tend to do). It was really interesting and I couldn’t believe I pretty much fell into the chance to get to attend meetings of one of Senegal’s biggest, most recent political movements. After the meeting I found out one of the men there has a son who is going to Towson University, which is about 5 minutes from my house in the US…small world.

The only other really exciting thing to report is that I met up with my friend Megan who goes to Wooster this weekend. She’s studying abroad here too, and lives not too far away, but with our different schedules we hadn’t found a time to meet up yet. It was good to see a familiar face, and she introduced Grace, Ellen, and me to a bunch of her friends. It was great to hear about how their experiences have been similar and different to mine. I had a lot of fun seeing Megan and hope to get to hang out with her again soon. Who knows, maybe we’ll celebrate a Wooster Thanksgiving in Dakar together.

Next Thursday I’m going to Sokone for one of my classes. Sokone is a small town in the south of Senegal. The trip will just be through the weekend, but I’m really excited to see what it’s like in the south of the country. It’s supposed to be beautiful. I’ll let you know how that goes, and I haven’t forgotten about those River Valley pictures either, I promise, they are just so slow to load!

“Tresse”d, but not quite ready for Tabaski

This past weekend was a giant buildup waiting for Tabaski on Monday. On Saturday Sarah, Neal, Erik, Ellen, Grace, and I took a car rapide and headed to the market. We left around noon and because there was so much traffic (cars and people), we didn’t get back until the evening.

Sunday I hung out with my family all day. At this point we had 5 sheep tied up outside of our house, and someone had to be watching them all day to make sure that no one stole them. Various family members kept asking me if I was going to braid my hair for Tabaski. I kept saying I wasn’t sure, but finally I was persuaded. After lunch at around 2:40, Astou and my grandmother sat me down on a little wooden stool outside and started braiding my hair. [Braid in French is “Tresse”… that’s my little explanation for the title of this post]. I’m not sure if they realized what they were getting themselves into. I have a lot of hair. 5 hours later I was incredibly ready for the braiding to be over so I could move my neck into a comfortable position and get off that rock hard wooden stool, so I was very grateful when the braiding was finished at around 8 pm. My grandmother was very proud of her handiwork and kept telling me how great the braids looked. People who walked by during the process were pretty funny; some just laughed from a distance but others stopped and commented, and a few even wanted to try to help braid. I was glad to have so many family members around as entertainment. Ginor kept talking about how excited he was for the next day. He asked me multiple times if I would cry when the sheep were killed.

my braids... the top of my head

At one point during the braiding process my head was resting on my grandmother’s knee, so I could only look straight ahead. This guy came and sat directly in my line of vision and began sharpening all of my family’s knives. He also sharpened a machete and a little axe thing. Behind him were our 5 sheep, unknowingly witnessing the sharpening of the tools that were going to kill them the next day. Yikes.

Monday morning I woke up early and ate breakfast with some of my family members. I found out that Tabaski is a holiday that basically focuses on the slaughter of sheep in order to commemorate when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Ismail (Muslims believe it was Ismail not Isaac) because of a command by God. At the last second, an angel exchanged Ismael with a ram, which Abraham sacrificed instead. Because of this story, Muslim families in Senegal kill about 2 million sheep every Tabaski.

The men all headed to the mosque a little after 8 for the morning prayer. I stayed home with the women, who were preparing for the day. I started cutting up potatoes for French fries and was working on this when the men got back. This turned out to be a great thing… it gave me a way to distract myself when the sheep slaughter started. Within 15 minutes of the men getting back from the mosque, they had changed out of their nice clothes and had brought the 5 rams into the courtyard. Ok, I’m going to describe the sheep slaughter now, not in incredible detail, but just be prepared for some blood and guts (or don’t read this part if you don’t want to hear about it).

One at a time, they carried each ram over to the little basin where there is a faucet and drain, put their neck on the little ledge of the basin, and slit their throats. The first sheep wasn’t so bad… I thought I might not mind the process so much after all. I was wrong. The second sheep was carried into the middle of the courtyard after having its throat slit and laid down next to the other dead sheep. Except this one wasn’t dead. I looked over as it squirmed and kicked and let out a defeated bleating noise. And then it kept wriggling. I think I must have looked completely horrified, because a few family members patted my shoulders and asked if I was ok. It was terrible. I felt so bad for the sheep. It definitely was alive for a few minutes after having it’s throat slit. This happened with a few of the sheep, they twitch and kick and make quiet noises for a few minutes after their throats are slit. Ugh. I get chills just thinking about it again. Ew ew ew. I had to stare intently at the potatoes I was cutting so I wouldn’t think too much about the 5 sheep dying right next to me.

skinning the sheep

After the sheep were dead, the men immediately moved on to skinning them. The knives, the machete, and the ax were all put to use. There was sawing and hacking and pulling and tearing. I didn’t mind this as much as the killing, but there was definitely just a ton of blood all over the courtyard.

dead sheep in the courtyard

Senegalese use pretty much every body part for something. Not a lot of those sheep went to waste. I saw them emptying out the contents of the stomach into a bucket so that they could use the stomach itself for something, and apparently they cook and eat the testicles. I just kept working on those potatoes (we cut up SO MANY potatoes).

my job... potatoes are much easier to deal with than bloody sheep

As the process continued, various buckets, tubs, and bowls were filled with different parts of the sheep. Some bowls had ribs, others legs, others intestines and unidentifiable body parts. After all of the sorting process was finished, there was deep cleaning. The sheep hides were removed from the house, and soap and water was dumped onto the floor of the courtyard. I was glad to see that they did a good job scrubbing and cleaning to get rid of all the blood and sheep remnants.

separating meat

bowls of meat.

After I finished with the potatoes, I helped Mami cut up some of the meat. I had to hold the meat while she cut chunks of it into a bowl. The whole time I was just thinking about how this would never happen in the U.S. and how different Tabaski is than any holiday that we have. When we finished that I got a break and hung out with baby Bamba, Mami’s little baby brother. I definitely preferred that to smelling the raw meat and blood.

baby Bamba!

Throughout the morning the women were cooking different bits of the meat, and when they were ready we would snack on some meat with mustard and onion sauce. Tasty.

A little before lunchtime, I went with Mami around the neighborhood to deliver some of our meat to our Christian neighbors who don’t celebrate Tabaski. It was interesting to see how considerate my family was to think about giving away extra meat, and how appreciative the families we visited were.

Lunch was sheep (of course) that had been cooked in a spice rub, as well as an onion sauce and the French fries I helped to make. It was good but Neal and I had some weird cut of the sheep that was hard to get the meat off of the bone and I think I just didn’t have much appetite because of all the morning’s activities.

After lunch people started changing into their fancy clothes. I put on my Tabaski clothes, and Astou tied my headscarf on for me. My family said lots of ooohs and aaahs when they saw me in my outfit. They said I was a true Senegalese for the day. Neal and I then met up with Erik, Sarah, and Ellen to head over to Grace’s house to visit. We got there before they had eaten lunch (it was like 3:30). Her family was so excited to see us all in our traditional clothes. We hung out in her parlor and they made us eat again. They also brought us juice and fruit salad.

drinking juice that matches my outfit...

After spending some time at Grace’s, we all walked back over to my house and hung out there for the evening, playing with Ginor, Maj and Bamba and talking.

me and Maj in our green Tabaski clothes

As it got to be later, we decided we’d head over to Ellen’s to visit her family for a bit. My family asked if I wanted dinner (more sheep, surprise surprise) but I couldn’t handle any more meat for the day. Sarah, Grace and Ellen made attaaya (we decided we still need to get some lessons from the Senegalese to perfect the tea) and then we went up onto the roof terrace and watched a movie.

Tabaski toubabs

Grace, Ellen, and I in our boubous

Tabaski was definitely an interesting experience. I got to spend a lot of time with my family, which was fun, but I’m glad I don’t have to experience sheep slaughter very often. Not really a fan. This morning, the morning after Tabaski, was the quietest I’ve seen Dakar. I walked with Sarah, Neal, and Erik to the Baobab Center to see them off on their way back to the University in Saint Louis, and there was barely anyone out and about. I feel like it was how the U.S. is on the morning of New Year’s Day… just much quieter than usual. People slept in and businesses were closed. I guess now life in Senegal will go back to normal, except for those 2 million sheep…


Back in the swing of things in Dakar

To start, I’ve thought of a couple good stories I forgot/ ran out of space to write about before. Oh and I have reached the halfway point of my time in Senegal! How strange… it’s gone by pretty quickly.

  1. Just to show how kind my host mom in Richard Toll was: the day before I left I was talking to her and I said how grateful I was that her family was so kind. She said it was the family who was grateful to have me around. She said that it means a lot to them to have someone come and consciously make an effort to embrace a different lifestyle. She said she knew I was experiencing a lot of things I wasn’t used to, and she was happy to see that I was doing my best to be a part of the family and truly discovering the way they live. I’m not phrasing it as nicely as she did, but it was very complimentary and thoughtful, and caught me by surprise. I hadn’t thought that the family would think about a student living in their house that way.
  2. When I talk to friends from home they keep saying “you must be fluent by now!” Just to show that I am indeed not fluent and have a lot more work to do on my French, here’s a little story from lunch one day… I was eating at a restaurant with Fatou, Khady, Professor Diallo, Grace, and Ellen, and a spider was on my seat. I made a face that they all noticed before brushing it off. Professor Diallo made some comment like oh you don’t like bugs? I said I usually don’t mind bugs, but “jai peur d’arachides.” That was supposed to mean I’m afraid of spiders. Instead I said, “I’m scared of peanuts.” Arachide… araignée, close enough…
  3. We had a lot of interesting conversations with Fatou and Khady. Going to an all girls school for so long and then a liberal arts college, I definitely have some really liberal views on subjects relating to women’s rights. One day at lunch we started talking about marriage, polygamy, rape, and the role of women in Senegal. Grace, Ellen, and I did a lot of listening as Professor Diallo, Khady, and Fatou discussed their opinions. Khady and Fatou said what they wanted in a husband. Surprisingly, they were both accepting of polygamy. They also both had some views that seemed repressive of women. Professor Diallo kept turning to us and saying that their education was strong, because the Senegalese education system incorporates a lot of Quranic values, which definitely portray males as superior. When Ellen, Grace, and I finally started contributing our views and opinions, we had some in common with the other two girls, but definitely were much more liberal and feminist than they were. I have never really experienced women who aren’t strong supporters of women’s rights. It was interesting and showed the impact different types of education can have.

Ok, now here’s a little bit about what I’ve been doing since I’ve been back in Dakar. On Tuesday night for dinner, Grace, Ellen, and I decided it was time for a break from rice. We remembered that there was a little convenience store/food court type of place that offers buy one get one free pizzas on Tuesdays. We headed over around 7:30 to get pizza for dinner. When we got there it was PACKED! It seems like pizza Tuesdays are popular with the young Senegalese crowd. We waited in line and then waited again for our pizza, but it was worth it. Cheesy and delicious.

For the Kalamazoo program in Senegal, students are required to do a project called ICRP (Integrative Cultural Research Project). We pick an aspect of Senegalese culture that we want to study and work with a project coordinator at the Baobab Center to find somewhere we can do our project. I decided I wanted to learn more about politics in Senegal and the presidential elections coming up in February. People in Senegal are generally much more politically aware than people in the U.S. Every day I my family has conversations about the current president, Abdoulaye Wade, who is about 90 years old (that’s not an exaggeration). I figured that even though I won’t be here at the time of the elections, the few months preceding them will be very important and interesting to study. The project coordinator helped me find RADDHO (Rencontre africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme), a human rights organization that is involved in many different areas, including politics. The website is in French, but in case you’re interested in checking it out, here’s the link:  Before I left for Richard Toll, I visited the office, which is about a 10 minute walk from the Baobab Center, and talked to a woman there about being able to do my ICRP at RADDO. She agreed it would work and told me to come back when I returned to Dakar to discuss details. Thursday morning I stopped by to check in. Fatou hadn’t arrived yet, so I waited in an office with a nice man named Omar until she got there. People kept popping in and saying hello, it seems like everyone at RADDHO is super friendly and will be nice to work with. I’m still not sure exactly what I’ll be doing but I think it’ll be an interesting experience.

My host mom in Dakar is still in Saudi Arabia doing the Hadj. She called one morning this week and I got to talk to her on the phone. The conversation mostly consisted of me saying hello and asking how she was, and then her saying over and over “Ah, ma cherie, ma fille, ahhhh, je t’aime ma cherie, ma cherie, ma fille…” She should be getting back in mid-November.

Monday the 7th is the big holiday of Tabaski. People keep telling me it is the holiday of sheep… basically meaning that it’s the day where they slaughter a ridiculous amount of sheep. For Tabaski people wear really elegant clothes, some people give simple gifts, but the main thing is making sure your family has enough sheep. I am pretty sure they get enough sheep for each grown man to slaughter one. Right now my family has 3 sheep outside, and Ginor says we’ll be getting 3 more. We’ll see if he’s right. The sheep are really expensive, and that cost paired with the cost of Tabaski clothes makes it an expensive holiday. A lot of people pick up odd jobs to help pay for it all. This friend of my host mom keeps trying to get me to buy jewelry from her even though I keep insisting I don’t need it. Ellen’s host mom had her computer stolen earlier this week. Someone walked into her house while she wasn’t there. Her husband was napping in the living room and the thief walked right by him, took his cell phone, then went into her bedroom and took her computer. A friend of my family, Pape, told me that his iPhone had been stolen this week, and someone had attempted to take his wallet while he was praying in the mosque! People are really desperate for money right before the holiday because they want to be able to afford a sheep to celebrate properly. Pape gave me a bunch of warnings that this week I need to be extra careful not to walk around with a bunch of money with me or too many valuables, and to be sure to lock my bedroom door, just because there are some people that will be trying to get enough money to buy their family a sheep for Tabaski. Yikes.

Last night I felt like I really was an integrated member of the family. I was sitting outside with Astou, one of the married women in the house (Mami and Ginor’s mom) and my grandmother. We were just talking and relaxing after dinner. All of a sudden Astou just handed me her baby and said, “Lauren, can you hold him? I’m tired.” So I was then in charge of baby Bamba. I’m not sure how old he is but he has the biggest eyes and is super cute. Later, Ginor asked me to go on a walk with him so he could buy something from a shop nearby (it was dark out). We got back and a few minutes later, Mami asked if I could go with her to get some couscous. A few minutes after we got back Amadou asked if I would come with him to get some milk. After going on all these errands, I returned, and the grandmother asked if I would sit and guard the sheep while she prayed. Apparently because of all the thievery that goes on before Tabaski, and the high demand for sheep, my family has been having someone sit outside and keep an eye on the sheep all week. At night we bring them in and they sleep in a back enclosed courtyard area. I successfully managed to keep all the sheep present and accounted for before heading to bed.

When I returned from Richard Toll, both John and Neal, the two other toubabs living in my house were gone. John is living in a village until December for part of his program, and Neal is taking classes at the university in Saint Louis for his program. Today Neal, Sarah, and Erik, the three Wisconsin students, are coming back to Dakar to celebrate Tabaski with their host families. It will be fun to get to see them this weekend!

I promise I’ll put up River Valley pictures soon.

Here’s a preview… more to come!

Visiting the Peulh village

Fatou, me, Grace, and Khady in Saint Louis

Senegal River Valley

Hello again! I have returned to Dakar after two weeks in the north of Senegal. While I had access to internet a couple times, I had to use it to do some research for a final presentation we had to do for our Senegal River Valley class so I’m sorry I haven’t given any updates in a while. I am happy to say that I successfully completed my 20-minute presentation in French this morning and it went well!

I typed up some entries during my time in Richard Toll and Saint Louis, but if I posted that all here, it would be a small novel and I don’t think anyone would want to read all of what I have to say. Instead I’m going to tell you a little more briefly about what I did and what was the most impressionable to me about my time in the river valley. Oh, and just so you know, the purpose of this trip was to learn about the area called the river valley that surrounds the Senegal River. The river valley is a very fertile area, and most of the rice that Senegal produces comes from this region. Our program there consisted of visiting different companies, organizations, and types of places that make the river valley such an important part of Senegal. We also got to see a bit of the culture and the way people here live (through our host families and several visits) because the lifestyle is very different than the lifestyle in Dakar.

To start, it was about a 6-hour drive to Richard Toll from Dakar. The scenery along the way was great; it was the most open space I’ve seen since I got here. We stopped along the way in Saint Louis to pick up two Senegalese students, Fatou and Khady (pronounced Hadi), who would be accompanying us during our two-day visit of the area. Both of these girls live in Saint Louis and attend the university there. Having them along during the trip turned out to be one of the best parts; it was always interesting to have discussions with them and hear their perspectives on different subjects. Since we’re the same age and are all college students, it was interesting to compare their thoughts with my own and those of Grace and Ellen.

Ok, here’s a little bit about what I was doing these past 2 weeks:

  • I visited many types of companies relating to agriculture and food production. Some examples include the Compagnie Sucriere de Senegal, which is the leading producer of sugar cane in the country, a USAID project relating to the economic benefits of agriculture in the area, a pisciculture organization that raises and gives fish to local producers and teaches them how to do the same in an effective way, the rice fields of my host mom, several rice factories, a huge vegetable company that exports all their products, and more. Even though agriculture isn’t really a subject that interests me to any grand extent, I liked visiting these places just for the reason of understanding why and how they are so important to Senegalese culture.
  • I spent 3 days in Saint Louis, which was Senegal’s first capital city (before Dakar) and which is really a beautiful place. It is right along the Senegal River and has some of the bustle of a city without being as overwhelming as Dakar can be. While there, we stayed in a nice hotel and got a little break from the constant eating of rice by eating at restaurants that served French food including delicious soups and salads.
  • In Saint Louis we visited two parks: Langue de Barbarie and Parc Guembeul. Guembeul is a wildlife reserve and has all sorts of animals ranging from turtles and African deer to monkeys and wild pigs (that aren’t actually being protected by the reserve, they’ve just helped themselves to it). We walked through the park with a guide and saw a bunch of monkeys, turtles, and a cool large creature that I’m not sure of the name. It was fun just to walk through the safari-like environment.

Langue de Barbarie is a national park known for its birds. It is a thin strip of land that borders the Atlantic Ocean. Starting in about December is prime time for birds to nest in the park. Our guide said that people come to Senegal with the sole intention of bird watching in that park. We rode in a pirogue down the river and saw some neat species of birds, but apparently nowhere near as many as we would have if we were there a few months later. It was a beautiful, relaxing, sunny trip down the river.

  • We were in Saint Louis for a Saturday night, and couldn’t reject Fatou and Khady’s invitation to go out with them that night. They got ready and definitely showed us up in terms of makeup, clothes, and jewelry. We met up with a couple of their friends, as well as their brothers and took taxis to their favorite club. We danced and danced and at about 5:30 am when Grace asked what time it was we couldn’t believe it was so late! We got into bed a little after 6 am…. A true Senegalese night out. I’m not sure how often I’d be able to do that.
  • Back in Richard Toll, my host mom took me to visit the project she started in 2000, Walo Aliment. She organized a group of 85 women between the ages of 18 and 60 to come together to make animal licking stones. They sell these stones to make money. However, because of the expenses of buying all the materials for the licking stones, it is not an extremely profitable business, but the women still go home each day they work with 1000 CFA (about 2 dollars). This is some of the women’s sole way of earning money. My host mom told me that a lot of women in Senegal, especially in rural areas, don’t feel that they can work; that they must rely on their husbands for money. She has started teaching the uneducated women in the group how to write and do simple arithmetic. She also has a ton of ideas for the future of the project, like a kindergarten for the children of the women, a garden behind the building where they could grow vegetables to sell and have another avenue of making money. My first visit to Walo Aliment I watched the women working and they were very excited to see my interest in what they were doing. I went back again to talk to the women and I helped them make a few of the licking stones. They were a friendly, lively bunch, and at one point they started dancing and singing because they were so excited that a toubab was at the project with them. I ended up talking to my mom a bunch about Walo Aliment and used it for the topic of my final presentation for my Senegal River Valley class (20 minutes in French… scary, but wasn’t that bad).
  • We visited a Peulh (ethnic group) village that was over 20 km away from the nearest town. This means that the closest school, hospital, and other public services are located over 20 km away from the village. Because of this, none of the kids in the village go to school. We learned that the only language people in that village are able to write correctly is Arabic. They mostly speak Pulaar, which not even our professor speaks. We had to have another guy that came with us translate what we said in French to the village community. We sat with them and drank attaaya and tried some of their “lait cahier” which is a sugary milky substance. After sitting with them for a while and communicating through the only person who could be our translator, a bunch of the women and children gave us a tour of the village. They invited us into their “casses” or huts, and were so excited to take pictures with us. There was a 20 year old woman who had been married for 8 years (since she was 12!) and who had 2 kids. It was crazy to see the difference in lifestyle. I really enjoyed that visit.
  • My Richard Toll host family was incredible. They were similar to my family in Dakar in size- there were about 15 or so family members. My host mom was so nice, and really patient in talking to me, especially about Walo Aliment. I had a bunch of host brothers who were in their late 20’s- early 30’s and their wives were in their 20’s. The kids in the family were much shyer than the kids in my Dakar family. One little girl who was about 2 would usually back away from me in fear and say “soussa!” when she saw me, which means “I’m scared” in Pulaar. The rest of the family thought this was hilarious. The women in my Richard Toll family prepared the best food I’ve had while I was here. The traditional Senegalese lunch dish, ceebu jenn (rice with vegetables and fish), was SOO GOOD. They were definitely trying to fatten me up. They always told me to eat more, eat more, eat more… “il faut manger bien” (it is necessary to eat well) was their favorite phrase during meal times. After lunch and dinner I would hang out in the courtyard area in the house or outside if it was cool enough to drink attaaya and talk with my brothers and sometimes their wives. Kama, Mamaudou, other Mamaudou, Moustapha, Diouf, and a few other guys that never really talked to me were the regulars. They taught me some Pulaar and would talk about life in Senegal and ask about America. My 48-year-old uncle Mamaudou wanted to marry me to get to America, and told me so often. The rest of the group would just make fun of him and say “she doesn’t want to marry you, you’re too old” and then laugh.  They were surprised that I wasn’t at least engaged though. A lot of people walking bye in the street would say “bonjour, madame, ca va?” to me, and my host brothers would correct them, saying it was mademoiselle, not madame. Each time it sparked a conversation about how I am not yet married. In Peulh society, girls get married very young; in villages at 12-14, and in towns and cities usually around 18. One of my host sisters there was 21 and had been married for 3 years. She had a baby who was about a year old. When I left, a friend of the family who had taken the role of my Pulaar professor gave me a necklace he had made for me as a gift. One of my sisters gave me a small change purse, and my mom gave me a boubou, a traditional Senegalese outfit as a parting gift. They’re probably one of the nicest families in Senegal. I’m lucky I got to stay with them.
  • I saw Mauritania a few times across the Senegal River… that’s how far north we were.
  • The weekend before we left, there was a wedding at Grace’s house. Grace’s host mom insisted that we attend the wedding. Weddings here are muuuch different than weddings in the U.S. First of all, there is no real ceremony where vows are exchanged. The actual official marriage occurs between the parents of the bride and groom in a mosque where they determine how much the groom will pay for the bride. Then there is just a big party with a ton of ritual things that happen. So Friday night I headed over to Grace’s house around 7. We walked around, saw a bunch of the women cooking, and a bunch more women hanging out outside. They were all very excited toubabs were attending the wedding. We lounged with them and talked. At around 10 we were wondering what was going on (people here don’t always find it necessary to inform us about what’s happening). Finally around 10:30 pm we ate dinner, which was rice with meat from the cow that had been slaughtered as a sacrifice earlier that day for the wedding. After dinner, women started saying they were going to go look for the bride. She wasn’t there yet. Apparently the bride stays at her house, then comes to the house of the man she’s marrying to spend their first night together. The next day there is a big party to celebrate, with lots of dancing and eating. It wasn’t until a little after 1 am that the bride arrived, completely covered in a scarf. She knelt while family members surrounded her and said blessings and other things I couldn’t understand for a while. I can imagine it was super hot under that scarf. After this, the bride was taken to the room where she would spend the night. At this point, Grace, Ellen, and I were super tired, and watched from Grace’s bed through the window in her room. We fell asleep to people chanting and kind of shouting at the bride in her room. It was strange. While we slept we apparently missed another meal that happened at around 1:30 am or something like that. Bizarre. The next day I went home to spend time with my family, then went back for more wedding festivities after lunch. We were sitting under a tent on the roof of Grace’s house listening to the music when the bride came up onto the roof with her maid of honor type friend. She ended up sitting right in front of me… it was like we accidentally became members of the bridal party. There was a bunch of dancing and griots trying to get money, mostly from the bride and us, the toubabs of course. It was a very interesting experience.
  •  I got to see the university in Saint Louis, where Fatou and Khady go to school. It’s campus was very spread out. The dorms were fairly simple, but I was surprised to see that they were co-ed. For some reason I assumed that there would be separate dorms for men and women. It was interesting to see that there are tons more guys than girls at the university.
  • One day my host brother Kama gave me a tour of Richard Toll. We walked through the neighborhood and saw the area surrounding it. We then took a watir, a horse drawn cart, into the center of the town. There is a big market there where we bought fish and onions and some other vegetables for dinner. He insisted I try this fried dough ball and a kind of fruit/nut thing that is supposed to be good if you’re tired. The fried dough was tasty of course, and the fruit/nut thing was interesting but kind of bitter and I didn’t really like it that much. Riding on the watir was really fun and people that we passed thought it was hilarious to see a white woman riding on one. They operate like taxis around the town, there are people who own horses that get the cart part and charge about 20 cents for a ride wherever you want in town. Kama wanted to know if we have them in the States.
  • We went to a “fête” (party) at a little village called Pakh one evening. There were tam tams, the traditional Senegalese drums, and pretty much everyone in the village was there. The kids went crazy when our van pulled up… as I walked to the circle of people where the drums were kids were pulling on my arms and touching my skin; it felt like a stereotypical scene of a white person in Africa. The drumming was great, and the dancing was even better. The women of the village would enter the circle of people and dance for a short time before exiting the circle and letting someone else dance. Their dancing is wild; their legs fly everywhere and move in directions you wouldn’t think could be possible. They kept making Grace, Ellen, and me dance, which was embarrassing. Definitely cannot compete with their dancing. Luckily, they just made us do the youza, a Senegalese dance that is way less complicated than what they were doing. Still embarrassing though. Overall the fête was a great time. I have some videos of women dancing that I’ll try to upload on here sometime.
  • One morning I dropped a necklace behind my bedside table and when I went to stick my arm behind the table to grab it, there was a lizard there. Caught me by surprise, that’s for sure…
  • On the drive home, Professor Diallo told us that there was a sheep on the top of our van that our driver had bought. We all laughed and didn’t believe him. But then Diagne, the driver, pulled over and sure enough, we had a sheep strapped to the top of the van. It was hilarious. I climbed up to say hi. I felt kind of bad for him having to travel up there, but he seemed pretty comfortable. People in Senegal definitely put a lot of stuff on the top of their cars in ways we don’t in the U.S. Sometimes we’ll drive by busses with at least 40 sacks of rice strapped to the top of them. Crazy.

I’m pretty sure I could write pages more about all the stuff I did in Richard Toll and Saint Louis. I really liked it there. Grace and Ellen were both really excited to come back to Dakar, but I kind of miss the peacefulness and my family in Richard Toll. It was really nice to see the friendly and outgoing kids in my Dakar family though when we returned, Maj and Ginor jumped up and down and shouted “Lauren” and ran to say hi. Also, the tailor finished my Tabaski clothes … I can’t wait to wear them on Monday. They are really pretty. Anyways, that’s all for now. I can’t believe it’s snowed in the States already… it’s still in the upper 80’s here every day. Nights are starting to cool off a little though, alhumdulilay.

I’ll write again soon and post some pictures from my trip.

Ker Moussa = Ker Massar?

Another eventful week. Thursday afternoon I had no classes, so Grace and Ellen and I headed to HLM (the fabric market) so I could search for fabric for Tabaski. We thought we’d try to take a car rapide to try to feel like true Senegalese people. After lunch we headed in the direction where we thought we could find a car rapide heading the correct direction. We wandered around for a bit, and asked one car rapide “apprenti” (the guy who hangs off the back of the bus and collects people’s money) if it was going to HLM. He pointed us vaguely across the road and told us to wait over there. When we were walking away he just burst out laughing. We stood over in the general direction the guy had pointed us and tried to wait for a car rapide. While we were waiting these 4 French men drove by in a taxi and waved and shouted to us. They had their taxi drive them all the way around the traffic circle and then park along the side of it so they could come chat and sketchily invite us to their hotel for a party the next night. We politely declined and opted to get a taxi to avoid the chaotic search for a car rapide. At HLM I found some green fabric that will hopefully become a nice Tabaski outfit. I took my fabric to my family’s tailor on Saturday and I’m excited to see what he comes up with!

Friday was Matt’s (another student at the Baobab center) last day in Dakar, so he invited a bunch of us out to dinner with him on Thursday night. We met at the Baobab center and got taxis downtown. Matt told us he had read about a cool Senegalese restaurant in his guide book that was supposed to be really good. The taxi driver didn’t know where it was and Matt had to use extensive Wolof (way more than I know) to describe it to him. Grace, Ellen, Sarah, and I took one taxi and the guys who were with us took another. Our taxi broke down right around the bend of a traffic circle. Our driver got out and was fiddling with the engine while we sat nervously in the car, not sure what to do. Luckily he was very nice and got us another taxi to take us the rest of the way.

The restaurant was really good. They had an extensive menu and it took us all a while to figure out what we wanted. They had traditional Senegalese food, Portuguese food, Cape Verdian food, “American” food, and more. I had maafe (the peanut sauce) with chicken because it’s one of my favorite dishes here and my family doesn’t make it that often. There was a “griot” at the restaurant, a traditional storyteller/musician who attend baptisms and other ceremonies, sing praises to people, and get money for it. The griot at the restaurant came over to our table and sang to each of us individually. He asked us our names and then would sing; with the chorus in between each person’s verse was pretty much the word “Toubab” with some instrumental breaks. At one point the griot was attempting to sing to Matt, but Matt wasn’t paying attention. The griot turned to me, since I was sitting next to him, and asked what my husband’s name is. Pretty funny. It was a great evening overall.

Me and my "husband" Matt

The group at dinner

Friday there was a baptism for Dior’s baby at my house. It was a relatively small ceremony because my host mom is away in Mecca right now doing the Hajj. When she gets back in mid-November, we’ll have a bigger festive celebration. The baptism was mainly for upholding the tradition of giving the baby a name 7 days after it is born and sacrificing a sheep in the baby’s honor. I had class in the morning, so I missed the actual sheep sacrifice, but when I came home at 1, there were tons of bowls containing various sheep parts, and a bunch of women sitting around in fancy outfits cooking, chopping onions, slicing potatoes, and chatting. Dior invited me to come hang out in her room where Diatu (my host sister), Maj (Dior’s other daughter), Dior’s sister Fatou (who is 24), and a few other women were sitting and talking. The new baby was there as well! The baby’s name is something like Noguaye. I got to hold her… I’m not sure I’ve ever held a baby so small in my life.

Tiny baby!

Lunch was delicious; it was rice with the sheep’s meat. It kind of freaked me out that I had seen the sheep alive in the courtyard that morning and was eating it for lunch, but I tried not to think about it. We all had Fanta, Coke, or Sprite to celebrate the festivities, and sat around chatting for hours. At around 3 or 4 when some of the older ladies were getting tired, they pulled a mattress out into the courtyard and sprawled out on that and continued chatting. Everyone was in a good mood and it was nice to see the whole family and some friends interact like that.

Friday night we went out dancing at a club with some American and some Senegalese friends, which was fun. Saturday Grace, Ellen and I did homework. We didn’t do much else because it was SUPER hot and neither the power nor the water was working for most of the day. I never figured out what was going on with the water, but let me tell you my cold shower that night was delightful.

Sunday, Grace, Ellen, Sarah, Neal, and I woke up early to try to go see a monastery Ellen and Grace read about in a guidebook. They thought it would be neat to see a monastery in Senegal, to hear the Gregorian chants, and to buy some goat cheese, which the monastery is known for. It is located in a town called Keur Moussa. Unfortunately, being toubabs, we misunderstood this to be the same as Ker Massar, a completely different place. We took a bus and were very proud when we arrived in Ker Massar and found a church. We arrived right when mass was starting, and it wasn’t until about halfway through the mass that we started realizing we were not at the monastery. Whooops. I’m glad we went because it was interesting to see the Christian culture in Senegal since I have really only experienced Muslim culture so far. We’re saving the trip to the monastery and the goat cheese for a later date.

The church in Ker Massar... not quite what we were looking for but interesting nonetheless

We got back by lunchtime, and then Ellen, Grace and I headed back out for a tour of the Dakar suburbs with Professor Diallo. It was super interesting. We were in a cab and went through Dakar to the outskirts of the city. Suburbs in Senegal aren’t the same as the U.S., where it is often the wealthier people who opt out of living in the city and choose to live in a more peaceful area. Instead, it is the poor people who can’t afford to live in the city who live in the suburbs in Senegal. We saw many fascinating sights, like the one large green space in Dakar, which Professor Diallo said is called the Central Park of Dakar, and the place where everyone’s trash is deposited. This was incredible to me. We drove out through these piles of trash that were in huuuge mounds around a little dirt road. There are people that have constructed little make shift houses and villages on the trash because they sort it and sell it for a living. Apparently selling the bottles that are dumped at this site actually brings in about $1500 U.S. dollars per person per month. The trash went on for miles and miles. Some of it was burning and there were people of all ages, men, women and children, plus some goats and dogs walking around through the trash. Wow.

trash on trash on trash

Village on top of the trash

Burning trash

Goats and the city behind.

We ended our tour by visiting a little zoo that had some lions, tigers, monkeys, warthogs, African deer, hyenas, birds, and other animals. It was similar to a zoo in the U.S., but the animals’ living spaces weren’t quite as nice and it ended up being a little depressing.

On Tuesday (tomorrow) Grace, Ellen, Professor Diallo, and I head up to the north of Senegal for two weeks. We will be staying in a town called Richard Toll, and visiting Saint Louis as well as some rural villages. I will have a host family for the time I’m there. I’m really looking forward to experiencing Senegal outside of Dakar. I’m not sure how often I’ll have internet access, but I’m sure I’ll have lots of stories to tell when I get back! I also have more pictures to upload, so I’ll try to do that either tonight or the next time I have internet.