Monday, October 29, 2007

Bonjour, St Louis!

I just typed this long entry and of course it was deleated. Its Murphys Law. TIA.

We arrived at the University Gaston Berger de St. Louis safely yesterday. This is where I will be living and taking classes for the next year. But let me start at the beginning...

Last weekend I went to a church service in Dakar. It was full of africans about my age. The worship music was beautiful and organic and with a full choir singing in 4 different languages. They made me stand up and introduce myself. The pastor spoke for about 2 hours on the role of women in the church. I actually agreed with most of what he had to say.

I had my final Wolof exam and did pretty well. I just wish that I knew more every time that I get in a cab or try to buy something. I had a batik lesson and made some pretty awesome tapestries that came in handy later.

I talked to the dr who prescribed me some powder stuff to drink to settle my stomache. Im just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Im much better than before but still not 100 percent. Theres so much processed sugar in my diet here and not enough exercise. Ive been doing yoga, but I want to start running again soon here on campus. I cant wait until I have a normal poop! That will be a day to celebrate.

We went out dancing for our last 2 nights in Dakar. The first night I went with Megan Alaska and some of her Senegalese friends to a shi shi but shady club in Dakar. We wanted to jam on the dance floor but we found that most senegalese young people dance close and slow to almost every song; including the fast ones, because that closeness is frowned upon in public. Oh well, we managed to make fools of ourselves anyway, because we're toubabs. Embrace Awkwardness. The club started filling up with old white men and their entourages of beautiful young senegalese women around 4 am. It was kind of nasty and Megans friend explained that these young women get free drinks and some money in exchange for doting on gross greasy toubabs (mostly frenchmen). Prostitution is rampant in the clubs in Dakar.

The next night, Natalie, Annie, Megan Alaska, and I were hanging with Moussa and friends on the terrace. We ended up going to the Senegalese equivalent of a house party, which was a bunch of young people dancing to pumping music in a courtyard. 1000 CFA to get in and all the drinks you want. Moussa, Mactar, Jimmy, and Amadou had to stick close to us; though; becuase men would just grab us and start dancing waaay too close. It was funny at first, but we left after some men started to pull us apart and shout at each other. Our bros were gentlemen, though; and ushered us out. It was quite a night.

The next morning we left early for St Louis. Moussa actually started to cry when I hugged him goodbye, but I promised to visit. The bus ride was about 4 hours north through the African plain. There were very few buildings along the way; but lots of huts and goats. It was all very primitive looking and organic, almost stereotypical african. Lots of beautiful scenery with the baobab trees along the road. We got to campus which is about a 10 minute taxi ride from downtown. The downtown is located on an island off the coast, so we have to cross a bridge to get there. The university campus is big and open and brown. My roommate hasn’t moved in yet; but the cockroaches sure have. I spent a good amount of time just cleaning my room of dead bugs and dirt. The batiks came in handy to hang up on the dirty walls. I really wish I had some good art. This year I will be showering with a bucket of water that Ive fetched from a sink on the first floor. My toilet is a hole in the ground. Im an expert squatter now, though. Running water in our dorm only works between the hours of 11pm and 7am, to conserve water across campus.

We have been meeting with professors of Arabic, Islamic History, Wolof and French, to set up the times for these classes. Weve met with Baydallaye Kane, our faculty advisor here. Hes sort of a legend and we love him and he is able to help us no matter the problem. Sick? Call Baydallaye. Bad grades? Call Baydallaye. Lost a limb? Baydallaye, baby.

Other than that, weve just been walking around campus and eating in the cafeteria. That’s a trip Ill explain later. Some of the girls and I were marvelling at just how much this feels like camp. Its like We walk from cabin to dirty cabin to the mess hall with different sessions during the day. Weve pulled out the photos of our families and wear a lot of sunscreen. Camp Gaston Berger. Tomorrow we have arts and crafts and are going to the swimmin hole.

I feel a little lost and disoriented, but this will pass. The educational system here is so disorganized that some students are now taking final exams from last semester, some have started classes today; some don’t start for a few weeks, depending on the department. We haven’t even chosen our classes, and will do that ¨sometime this week¨. We have wolof for 6 hours a week and intensive French. I have learned to roll wit it. Its been good for me, I think.

Okay, I think this is all for now. Oh! Skype!
We now have 3 computers for us 10 americans, so internet usage will probably be more reliable. Ive bought skype credit, so we can set up Skype dates if you get it too. If you email me your phone number, I can call you sometime as well. Just remember that my time difference is 6 hours ahead of WI. My skype name is c.skroch .
Also; if you send me mail/packages, please be sure that you send it to my address at the Universite Gaston Berger in Saint Louis, care of Baydallaye Kane NOT Dakar anymore. The address is on my first blog post. I have postcards I want to send, but I have yet to find a post office.

Always classy. And a little awkward too.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Au revoir, Dakar!

Leaving for St. Louis tomorrow to start school.
Feeling much better after consulting the Dr.
Went dancing last night until 6 am.
Theres a soccer riot in the street.
I love senegal.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stranger; dont leave so soon.

¨Stranger, dont leave so soon.
Sit on the mat and drink tea with us.
Drink the first glass because it is bitter like the dry season. Drink and you will feel the wind that blows and heat that breaks the bones in your body.
Drink the second glass because it is gentle like the return of the rains. Drink and you will see the grass grow; the milk in the calabashes; your hunger satisfied.
Stay and drink the third glass because it is sweet like love.
Stranger, dont leave so soon. Sit on the mat and drink tea with us.¨
-Traditional Senegalese song

Its been a tough week.

We had some intense sessions on AIDS in Africa this week. The awesome director of the Baobab Center; Gary Engleberg, ran this session and really did a good job of making us all think. We did this simulation where we had to visualize all this loss and had to imagine the person we depend upon the most being dissappointed in us and leaving us forever. it was pretty intense, even for me who rarely cries. I held it in though. I just want to tell you, loved ones, that I love you no matter what decisions you make and no matter how far away I am. I may not always agree with you, but my heart is always with you. I am so blessed to have friends like you.

That was monday.

As you can see in my photos; we went to the Ile of Goree. It is about a 30 minute ferry ride from dakar. The little tiny island was a major hub of the slave trade from the 16th to 19th centuries, when slavery was officially outlawed by France in 1815. It is estimated that 15 to 20 MILLION slaves passed through that tiny island. There is one building there called the Maison das Esclaves where the new slaves would be herded and kept up to 3 months before being sold. We walked through the tiny rooms where hundreds of slaves would be stacked and my heart was just rendered apart. The injustice was so profound. The slaves would be chained together on the first floor; when the slave owners would party in their quarters on the second floor. Like I said; there is one door called the Port of no Return, where slaves would pass through to get on boats and leave forever. A few years ago the Pope stood in that door and appologized for the Catholic Churchs contribution to the slave trade. By law, if a slave girl became pregnant by a slave owner, she was officially freed back to the country of Senegal, so prostitution and rape were common on Goree. The island is now a beautiful, sunny tourist attraction with brightly colored houses and tropical flowers. The vendors there are especially vicious, but the cafes are peaceful and jazz is played everywhere.

Also, ever since last weekends crazy illness, I havent felt 100 percent. Thank God for Cold-Eez, even in Africa. I stayed in most nights and Have had stomache aches that take me back to my pre-Celiac-diagnosis days. I think I have a virus that moved from my head to my stomache. Im going to the doctor tomorrow morning when they open; and until then, Im popping Ibuprofen like mad. TIA, as the Senegalese say. This Is Africa. Ive just caught the Africa Syndrome.
Because of this, Ive been mentally and physically exhausted. Just general blah.

I still love africa; though; and wouldnt trade this for the world.

This morning our neighbor passed away. She was only 40 and left 2 kids. I was doing yoga on the terrace early this morning and I heard the wailing and ululations of the neighborhood women in the streets. When I left for school; everybody was sitting outside but the neighborhood was eerily silent. Even Moussa isnt his normal funny self. Muslim funerals move quickly- she is already buried- but the neighborhood is still pretty grey. Makes you think.

Im not loooking forward to leaving Dakar and my host family this sunday. They told me that Im adopted as a daughter and sister and that my new last name is Diallo. I think I should change my facebook.
I will certianly be back to visit; but Im not looking forward to starting all over in St. Louis. Its like the first day of college. Remember that day? It is the first day of college. After sunday I move 3 hours north of dakar to the Universite Gaston Berger de Saint Louis where my classes will officially commence and I will move into the dorms with a senegalese roomate. Itll be good to have more freedom again. We will also have our own computers so I will have a little more reliable internet access, so that means Skype Dates and Facebook albums galore.

Sorry; I dont mean to have this whole entry be a downer; but I just needed a little catharsis. Everything will be alright. I just need to get to the hospital.

Tonight was fun, some girls and I made batik cloths and mine turned out pretty rad. photos later. Ive also had some pretty interesting spiritual conversations and went to a great church service. Details later.

A shoutout to Maria, too, for getting through to me on my phone, if even for a minute.

Anyway...Always classy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Goree Island

Goree Island is off the Southern tip of Dakar and it was one of the biggest slave trading spots in Africa. Because it is so far west, 20 million slaves were routed through this island that is less than 1 square mile. The slave trade here lasted over 300 years. The island is beautiful and idyllic and haunting. I was especially impacted and will tell the stories later. The doorway in the above photo is called the Port of No Return in the Maison des Esclaves because it would be the door that the slaves stepped through to get on the boats that would take them away from Africa forever.

Deep Breaths

"this is what you shall do:
love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants (tyranny...), argue not concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your every flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.."
-Walt Whitman

This weekend I got knocked flat on my back by a ragin February-style cold. Besides the lovely constipation/diahhrea cyles that Ive grown accustomed to, I had a fever, which doesnt happen to me very often. Moussa and friends were so kind but I spent pretty much the entire weekend in bed. Im much better now except the sniffles and fatigue. I only get sick like this once a year, and always in February. Man did I ever want some chocolate.

Needless to say, I have been absent from life for a few days. We did do some cool stuff last week that I will write about soon (and sweet photos!). There is so much to do, so many emails to respond to (please be patient with me), and so much I want to see in Dakar before we leave on Sunday.
Im feeling a little overwhelmed.

Friday, October 19, 2007

When an old man dies, a library burns. - Senegalese Proverb

Writing dilligently on this thing has been hard due to all the coups d*electricite that happen at inconventient times. As always, Ill do my best. And Ill stop using this as my intro.

A buddhist guru monk came to stay at my house here for a few days. He is a friend of someone who stayed here previously and he was passing through on his way to visit her. Guruji Nakamura is from Tokyo and lives and works in India teaching music and meditation. Hes big into peace and he and Megan Alaska and I had some very interesting conversations about spirituality and peace proceses. He asked to read my palm and told me:
1. I will have a very long life, maybe 100 years.
2. my emotion line is very straight? meaning that Im very stable and level headed? almost stoic, but I use my heart a lot.
3. My destiny line is crooked and faint, meaning that I need someone strong to lead me in my life. He suggested that I find a strong man to take care of me.

Guruji also suggested mediation as a healing practice for some of my neuroses. I should take time for myself and do some deep breathing and yoga. Check. He gave me a chatelet, a string of beads like a rosary that people use as they meditate to channel movement. Sweet.
He is a musician he played his guitar and sang for us songs in English and Japanese. At one point; Megan and I were sitting in my room; singing Imagine by the Beatles with a Buddhist monk dressed in all the orange robes who had just flown in from a peace conference in Iceland. Trippy. Meg and I just looked at each other and said ¨Dude; Senegal is crazy. How did we find ourselves in this place?^

What else have I been up to?

Oh; we went out to a rad jazz club the other night. The Senegalese usually dont go out until about 12 or 1 am, so thats been hard for me. They sleep during the day; but I cant; so Im just fatigued when I go out. The young people sit around until they go out dancing etc. ANyway, we went to this little Jazz club called Pan Art and there was an AMAZING band playing. They started the night with straight up jazz, but then played everything from Marvin Gaye to Bone Thugs and Harmony to When the Saints Go Marching In to traditional Senegalese mbalax. It was so rad. We danced and left about 4 am. Going out in Senegal is like a 2 day affair. I can only do that every so often.

Because of the weird schedules; Nescafe instant coffee has become my best friend. I drink it at least 2 times per day because I cant eat the bread they eat for every meal, including breakfast. Breakfast I have nescafe and powdered milk. I have it again about 10 am during our break of Wolof class. If I go home for lunch I usually have rice and some kind of meat about 130 pm when the kids come home from school. If not, I go the local fruit stand and buy fresh mango or banana or I go to Casino Supermarche and buy something like a tomato and brie cheese or thiackry, a yummy yogurt millet thing like granola. Then I eat more rice and meat stuff or some times home meade french fries or cooked vegetables or peas and beef or my favorite, maffe, chicken with peanut sauce over rice for dinner about 9 pm. Like I said, we eat sitting on the floor around one big bowl with our hands. There are often 10 or more people eating around the bowl but we never run out of food. Its amazing, eating like that forces you to think about other people and feel satisfied easier. Everybody eats in their own little pie slice shaped space in the bowl and people eat quickly and rarely talk. No drinks are served during meals, but you can drink water afterwards. One of my fav traditions is the Attayah tea that I have sometimes after dinner. its such an affair to make the tea. There are 3 rounds. The first one minty and sweet, the second stronger; and the third one light and vrey very sweet. it sometimes takes an hour to make and drink all 3 becuase it is accompanied with a lot of socializing, like most things in Senegal.

We went to the Ecopole in the Rails quartier of Dakar the other day. THe Ecopole is a school where the young people can learn skills and to make handicrafts out of recycled materials in order to alleviate poverty. Rails is one of the most devastatingly poor sections of Dakar. There are pretty much cement shacks with tin roofs and sewage in the streets and cholera just waiting to happen. However the community is vibrant and alive there. It reminded me of Manila. We were hot and I was annoyed to be walking around these peoples neighborhood, looking at them like they were animals in a zoo. I had another epiphany there, though. Ive always known that I want to work in an international setting with refugees or peacekeeping and let people know they are loved. Ive thought about going into diplomacy or policy; and Id still LOVE to do that; but God pulled on my heart and said that whatever I do; I will have to return to the slums and work on the ground, not neccessarily in an office. In fact; I believe I have to live in these sort of conditions as well in order to integrate into the community. I cant see the displaced and poor as *us* and *them*, but rather *we*. Gosh, what the heck am I going to do with my life? Maybe become the Secretary General of the United Nations and live in the slums of Senegal. As long as I live by the ocean always.

Speaking of ocean, Ive fallen in love with surfing. Thats all I can say about it. Just think of me with a big smile on my face and bruises all over my body. Alxhamdulillah.

Also; shout out to Brenden for calling me today and actually getting through. Way to go! Way to figure out that phone card!

Okay all, you are loved. So much more coming later.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Korites finest

The women of the house: me, Megan Alaska, Mama Daba the Grand Dame, and Baby Daba.

Dancin in the streets

Kel and I in our Party Pants.

My bros and sis, Moussafa, Tapha, and Baby Daba.

All dressed up and ready to party.

Number 5 on my lifes To Do list: CHECK.

Taxi to Le plage du Virage = 1500 CFA

Surf board rental and lessons= 5000 CFA

= Priceless.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I found a cybercafe that has American keyboards and now it's even harder to type now that I'm used to the French style.

Yesterday we celebrated Korite, which is the holiday on the last day of Ramadan. Ramadan is cool because it really reminds the entire society to God...constantly. The marabouts, Muslim religious leaders, chant and sing God's name so many times per day to remind people to think of God.

Korite is the first day that they break the Ramadan fast. It's really a time when people eat all day, then party all night. The night before, the official breaking of the fast, Moussa and I went to the local European grocery store, Elton, and bought MAGNUM ice cream bars to celebrate. Oh man. I had the white chocolate and Hannah you were right...they are incredible. I have joined the ranks of Mangum lovers everywhere.

The next morning I woke up late, then ate a breakfast of laax, which is a porridge type meal made of millet, with a peanut butter sauce on top. Ironic, because I gave up peanut butter for Ramadan. Then I helped my mom Kel and the servants make lunch. I sat around some and read until we all ate chicken and frenchfries and salad around the bowl. They brought out the fancy mat for the holiday and we even had Coke and Fanta. The Senegalese are obsessed with Fanta. The whole day I was anticipating putting on my new bubu, the korite dress I bought. After lunch, however, we just sat around more. I ended up taking a 2 hour nap. (I know...Cath napping? It really was a special day). Finally Megan Alaska and Mactar came over. Mactar is Moussa's best friend and Megan is toubab from alaska who is a rotary scholar staying with his family. She's way cool and I can see us being good friends. I finally dressed up and we did what all the rest of the Senegalese were doing- walked around the neighborhood, greeting friends and neighbors. THe little kids go around asking for money-it's kind of like Haloween but with cash. The adults walk around mostly, I think, to show off their new outfits. There was a Bayfall drum circle playing wild djembes in my neighborhood, so I danced and tried to get the rest of the neighborhood girls on their feet. It was a good time, when the neighborhood's old lady got up and did a smart little two-step. It was ballin'.

Korite is the holiday when people ask for pardon from each other for offenses they have committed during the year. There is a set of words that everybody greets each toerh with, that makes the asking of pardons lose all meaning. If you say "Ball maa aq" and "Yow nanu Yallah bolle ball", you are asking your neighbor to forgive you and practice profound grace, but everybody uses those words just like they're saying, "What up?" It's an interesting concept.

We walked home and hung out some more. Later we had a little dinner of egg roll type things..made specifically with rice wrappers for me. After that, all the girls from my program came over to my house as well as some of Moussa's friends and we hung out and talked and danced on the terrace until about 3 am when I could take it no longer and had to go to bed. I'm such a toubab. We ate and drank more on the terrace and some of the girls went out to a club. It was rad seeing them all glammed up in their Korite dresses and fulars. Pictures coming soon.

Jill and I decided that Korite is a lot like Christmas day, except we dont' get presents and there's no egg nog. It represents something important and symbolic in a major religion, but theres just a lot of eating and sitting around and socializing. Korite was hilariously anticlimatic, but happy.

Oh sad news, my host dad has malaria. He's alright, but the Imam, the most holy of muslim leaders here, came to visit. He really has a commanding presence. However, I did see him pull a Razor phone out from underneath his big robes and say "What's up?"

I should leave this cybercafe soon, though. The kid next to me is looking at porn and Today I am going surfing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Woo!

Dewenati, everyone. Until next year.

Fekkel dewen. Until your next year.

Baal ma aq. Will you forgive me?

Baal naa la. Baal ma. I will forgive you. WIll you Forgive me?

Yall nanu Yallah bolle ball. You are forgiven, in God's name.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

See for yourself

A pirouge like the one we took going to Iles de Madelines.

Our happy picnic on the rocks.

Claire and the delicious mango that grows in Senegal.

Climbing the cliffs to look over the ocean. I thought I could see America.

By the clear pools of salt water and gold.

The price we had to pay for the beautiful day.

Happiness is the ocean.

How do the employees of the Mexican restaurant in Senegal greet the customers?

“Salsalaa Malekum”

...Thank you for that.

I added new photos to the below posts, just so I can keep them in logical order. Im a little AR like that. These are photos from our trip the les Madelines...

Monday, October 8, 2007

l^homme qui a pris 1000 voyages a vivre 1000 vies.

Lu bees, yall? Whats up?

Topical comments on things Ive observed here; because this internet is too slow to post photos:

Im learning Wolof slowly but surely, alxhamdulaayla. Its more difficult because I have to learn Wolof in French. I acutally suprised myself at my level of french ability when I started speaking to the senegalese =thank you Chouse?= but it still definitely needs help. I can speak just fine with Moussa and friends in French, but I get tounge tied when I speak to anyone older than me. Its as if I forgot it all, especially conjucation. Oh well, its sink or swim here with the language. Most people speak wolof though, esp if theyre uneducated. Its not a difficult language to learn) the grammar structure has a simple set up, but there are too many languages floating around in my head. Meme; the senegalese will say one sentance using French, wolof, english; and arabic. Its tough to follow. Man, I love languages so much!

Teranga is the most important thing in senegalese society. Teranga means hospitality and it means that neighbors will go out of their way to feed you and make you comfortable. Even for an awkward toubab like me. For example, a part of lunch is always put aside just in case a neighbor shows up between then and dinner. Also; the whole community bands together to help those in neeed. Community is huge here. Eveyone is aunt and uncle and son or daughter to everyone else. It makes it difficult to tell who belongs to whose family.

Speaking of family, I had my first proposal of marriage the other day. I just laughed it off and used my handy phrase =Am naa juroomi jekker= I have five husbands.

Yesterday my brother Moussa took all of us girls to les Iles de Madelines, which is a set of 2 islands about 3 km off the southern coast of Dakar. First we had to walk to the boat shop, which was sweltering; but then we got in the perougues, which are large canoe things with motors that seat about 11 people. Then I remembered my love affair with the ocean. Oh my goodness, the whole experience was wonderful. Les Madelines are big rock formations and a National nature reserve where people can hike and picnic and swim in the clear pools and waterfalls. I have stunning photos. It was so so hot and visitors have to bring all their own food and water. Everybody got sunburned, but it was glorious to swim. Let me describe one moment that, as it was happening, i realized would be one of my favorite moments of my whole life. I climbed by myself to the peak of one of the cliffs, over the black rock. When I stood up, i was looking over the waves crashing againt the shore in a huge and beautiful roar. Warm wind, the sun on my face, the sound of the waves and the crazy penguin birds. Africa. Seriously amazing.
I hope I always live by big water.
We picniced on fresh mango and baguettes and cheese and swam with a fun lebanese family and sat in the shade while some people smoked. Les madelines arent visited very often; so we had pretty mucxh the whole island to ourselves. Jill and I took a hike up another cliff and we discovered a place that would be PERFECT for a wedding ceremony, in a little hut on a platform over looking the atlantic. She and I hiked to see the pengin birds and thats when I felt most like I was actually in africa.

Were all worn out now and sunburned. It was a much needed vacation though, because we havent stopped having events and classes since we got here. LAst night I drank tea with some friends and we watched highlights from the Rugby wold cup (which was so awesome by the way) and a Steven Segal movie. What a life. Im getting credit for this?

Okay I will try to post photos later;;; for now I might try to find some aloe for my sunburn and wait for it to turn into a sweet tan.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Wherever you place your foot, there is purpose

This is our group waiting for a new bus to arrive after ours broke down.

My house, The kid is peeking in my front door that opens to the courtyard.

This is the courtyard of my home, where they pray and eat on the floor. My room is the open door on the left. The sairs go up to the rooftop terrace. As you can see on the top, there is a tree that grows up through the tile floor in the courtyard.

Natalie in the Grand Market downtown.

This is a pretty calm spot. I dont take my camera out in the crazy places. There are too many people shouting and grabbing at you and trying to steer you places and just general confusion.

Moussa and Baby Daba, my host brother and sister.

A woman wearing a bubu and peigne, the traditional dress of Senegal, with traditional fabric. Most women wear this instead of western clothes because if its functionality and cool fabric. I just went to the tailor to get one made for Korite.

Note the Cybercafe behind them. This is my internet source. It costs about 250 CFA for an hour. Thats about 50 cents.

Me in front of the Baobab Center, where I have cultural orientation and Wolof classes. It is about a 20 minute walk from my house. Its also a night hangout spot for us Toubabs where we can drink Attayah tea =a tradition in Senegal= and watch hilarious African music videos and learn to play the djembe and chill with the fun caretakers, Ibou and Samba =who actually knows how to Samba=


This is my bathroom. The toilet is the hole in the floor and the shower drains into the toilet hole.

One of my favorite places in senegal so far, my rooftop terrace where I can hear the prayers from the mosque and watch the city.

Friday, October 5, 2007

CELL PHONE and Ma famille Senegalese

There is so much information to comment on. So much culture and detail; so little electricity. SO many adventures Ive had alreadÿ.

First; I GOT A CELL PHONE. You can call me now, but I think that it might be expensive, depending on your phone plan? esp if you dont use a phone card. You can also send text messages. To call me dial; 011 221 77-718-6117 . 001 is to call out of the US to a foreign number. 221 is Senegals country code. Dial 77 ONLY AFTER OCTOBER 7, because that is when all the numbers in the nation will switch to this prefix. 718-6117 is my actual cell number. I cant call you until I buy more credit for my SIM card, but I will do that soon. I also cant call you unless you give me your number. I also cant call you very often; because its pretty expensive to call out of Senegal. but this is my info for safekeeping.

We arrived at our familys houses two days ago. First impressions...awkward. Karla from the Baobab center told us to embrace the awkwardness and that it will get better. I know shes right; but itll take some time. Im living in the poor Marmoz district with a muslim family. The dad, You, is a jolly but quiet old man who is very religious. He prays in the courtyard at least 5 times a day. His wife, Mama Daba, is off visiting her sister whose husband just died. The daughter in law, Ker, has been my orientator and she brings me breakfast and such. I dont know who or where Kers husband is, but i dont feel like tis time to ask yet. Ker has 3 kids...I dont know the boys names who are 8 and 11, but Baby Daba is one of the cutest kids Ive ever seen. and this is coming from me. She copies everything anyone says; in any language. Fatou is the servant girl who is probably 13 years old and lives with them. She is up and working long before ond after the family is in bed. Yous nephew, Moussa, lives on their rooftop terrace. He has been my best senegalese friend so far. He is a little older than me and graduated from the university I will be attending in Saint Louis. Hes a journalist now; so weve been able to talk politics and religion. Like many senegalese, he knows more about american politics than some americans do.

I have my own room and a bathroom close by. Unlike some of the other girls who shower in a bucket, I have running water that drains right into the toilet that is a hole in the floor. One interesting thing has been living without a mirror. There are none in the house. Its actually been pretty humbling.

The family is very nice and polite to me, but a little sandoffish. I guess I wasnt expecting that, so I felt pretty alone on my first night here. But overall, its alright. I feel like I can be a ^pretty independant person anyway. Everybody goes about their business and pretty much ignores me. Not that I expect tehm to entertain me all the time =in fact i dont like that= but it just makes for awkward silences sometimes. I eat ¨around the bowl¨ on the floor with Ker and the children and fatou. The men eat elsewhere. This means that there is one communal bowl filled with ceb bu jen =rice fish and some vegetable= and we all eat out of it with our hands. I will have to explain more about eating etiquette later:::its so interesting. After that Ill talk to moussa on the terrace and watch the bats fight in the mango tree and jam to some senegalese hip hop until they go to the Mosque for evening prayers.

Weve plopped into Senegal during the grand heat of Ramadan. Because 95 percent of the population is muslim, this time of year is pretty amazing. Everyone fasts from sunset to sundown, and in the heat and stress of the city; it makes for some pretty crazy drivers and ornery people. My dad here prays 5 times per day; then everyone goes to the mosque at night. I love sitting on the roof and listening to the call to prayer. I take that time to be alone and meditate and pray myself. It is calming to know that God is the God of everything; every country and all peoples. I will talk more later about religions role in senegal, because it is probably the biggest thing in everyones lives. It is almost impossible for a senegalese to understand that some people believe there is no God. How? they say. Why not?

My family has hosted many students at their house before, and I can feel that vibe. Im trying to resist the urge to think that I am just another face in the string of faces that has occupied the same room. Anonymity is my biggest fear; i realized on my first night. That explains so so much. Glad I relized it though. Epiphanies.

Wolof classes are going well. I love languages and the learning of them so much. Today we went on a sortie to the market downtown. That. was. crazyness. First we piled onto a crowed bus that broke down so we all had to get off and wait for anther to arrive that was already full and then we walked all around the downtown area with our guides. However, I was so over stimulatedf from the hustle and bustle and sounds and colors and lanugages and beautiful faces that I didnt really orientate myself. Downtown Dakar is a lot to handle. I love it. Im going to try to find the UN headquarters sometime soon.

I did make my first real purchase. 5 meters of beautiful blue fabric to make a dress for Korite, which is the celebration on the final day of Ramadan, which should happen next fri or sat, depending on the moon. The fabric cost about 15 dollars. I will take to it to tailor next to my house soon and get a dress made; which should cost about 10 bucks for a skirt, shirt, and head wrap. Sweet. I cant wait to send home clothing to you guys.

Arg, there is so much to talk about. Life here, the entire sociology of this place, is so much more like real life. Though things seem crazy and disorganized, people always take the time to chat and everybody knows all their neighbors and they walk everywhere and dont buy what they dont need. This is also telling of the poor socioeconomic situation in the country comparatively speaking. But this is how the majority of the worlds population lives.

Overall; Ive been pretty healthy. One girl has already had to see the doctor. My family has filtered water for me, which im going to try to ween myself off of slowly. Thank God for health/

im running out of internet time/ Sorry for not being able to respond to your emails individually. Know that I love you and I wish you all the Jamm in the world.

Pictures coming soon, inshahallah.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I cant believe Im in Africa

This is surreal.

Im sitting in a cybercafé in Dakar; hoping that the power doesnt go out for another 3 hours; trying to figure out this French keyboard ....forgive my misspelling... glistening from the humidity; and marveling at this place. There are no words for the excitement and fatigue and wonder and profound joy that I feel. Maybe Grateful.

After bumming around Madrid for a few hours we caught our flight to Dakar. Madrid is the quinticential european cité: tiny streets and fancy clothes and tapas. Landing in Dakar; Walking onto the tarmack the first thing that hit me was the heat. About 85 degrees at 10pm and humid because were on the ocean. A rep from the Baobab center met us at the airport and we drove throught the city to our temporary apartment. They had dinner of rice and fish and bottled water waiting for us. We were all pretty much exhausted but we couldnt fall asleep. I think Ive slept about 12 hours in the past 3 days but its all a big blur.

We started bright and early this morning with breqkfast of beef and peas and walked to the B center where we have orientation sessions and wolof classes for 4 hours a day. This morning the directors talked about Senegalese cultural norms and orientation to the city. Then we took a walk with some senegalese girls who work for the center. It was killer hot :i was wearing my trusty spf 70: and we found neccesary places: ATM, grocery store =LB, youd love it=, doctors office; etc. Then we went back to our apt and had lunch with the girls. Seriously; theyre a riot.

Just a story: Not only do people stare at my hair, and the general fact of being a toubab =white person=; but some of the senegalese girls will come up to us american girls and ¨discreetly¨ grab our bootys and complement our djaifundae...which roughly translates to ¨bootyliciousness¨. I guess its a big complement and the senegalese newspaper even publishes a ¨Miss Djaifundae¨ list... the most bootylicious famous women mostly in America. So far Beyonces on top. So...a big holla to all the djaifundae women out there. Represent.

After lunch we returned to the BC to have Safety orientation. Senegal is one of the safest countries in Africa. and their major crimes are petty theft and traffic violations. And indeed the traffic is CrayZay here, but ill get used to it. The authorities are pretty strict, and we read an article about an irishman who spent 4 months in prison for mooning a government building. African prison. Needless to say, africa is so different from the US. There are so many people out on the streets, socializing and doing nothing. This also has to do with the extremely high unemployment rate. Everything feels...disorganized? Alive. I can scarcely take it all in. I feel so over stimulated. This in addition to the lack of sleep makes for one crazy high. I already think I could love it here, but give it time.

We walked home afterwards and had dinner of fish and french fries. then the power went out for the past 3 hours. The 10 other american girls and I lit candles and sat on our balcony overlooking the small but busy street below and talked about predictions for ourselves this year. Megan and Claire are going to get malaria. Sandra will get some rare african maladie, Maren will win djaifundae contests worldwide, Natalie will recieve many cheezy love text messages on her cell phone, because Senegalese men are famous for that. Jill will be mistaken for a boy because she doesnt have her ears peirced; and they say that I will come home with at least one jekker =husband=.

Tommorow we have wolof lessons and more orientation. In the evening I move in with my family homestay; so that should be interesting. Arg; there are so so so many details I want to write; but im afriad of another power outage; so Ill stop for now.

Keep me informed about your lives; and if you comment on one of my posts; please sign it with your full name; because I cant tell your names all the time.

Jamm ak jamm, folks. Peace and peace.

Its going to be an incredible year.