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.