Senegal Post #1

I’ve never been much of an online blogger. I have this journal that I use; it ties up with a string and has handmade paper inside. I write whatever I feel like and I feel quite romantic when I do, like an old vagabond taking record for whomever may stumble across his account.

In Senegal, I suppose it’s convenient that I prefer a pen and paper to a keyboard, since wifi is hard to come by. For this blog, I see it working like this: I’ll write like I’m used to, in my little journal, almost everyday. Then I’ll come and transcribe it here, maybe once every other week. But no, it won’t be a direct copy and paste. I will leave some in my journal for only me to remember.


25 May 2014
DFW Airport

Off again…

My flight has been delayed from 5:40pm to 8:45pm, but I am grateful because I met a kind writer from Mexico named Francisco who gave me a signed copy of his book and told me I had to learn Spanish. If I had left earlier, I would not have met him, and I wouldn’t have received his inspiration.

But my stop in Madrid will only be a few hours, so progress on that front will be minimal. I will be going on to Senegal, where I will be spending the next two months.

Many people are very afraid of the idea of Africa. I am realizing that they have stigmatized it in their minds, allowing only the bad to color their perceptions. I am glad that I was born with a possibly irresponsible lack of trepidation. It’s served me well so far, for the most part.

I have no idea what to expect. And I guess it hasn’t really even sunk in yet. Traveling is always so surreal.

The sunset is beautiful, and everyone is taking pictures. This reminds me of the supermarket today – a lady was making funny faces at a stranger’s baby, and the baby was laughing. Sunsets and babies are things that remind people of beauty and humanness. They make you forget where you are and what you were doing for just a moment to appreciate something worth appreciating.

I will learn Spanish, soon. But first, I have to work on my French. Maybe I’ll write a bit of this in French.

So, I guess… À tout à l’heure!


27 May 2014
La Citronelle Hôtel

It was our first day of orientation today. It was very exciting, but I’m a little bit nervous. This research project is a bit daunting to me. But I know it was just the first day, and I shouldn’t expect to have the most solid of foundations yet.

I found orientation a bit paranoid, but I suppose that’s just my nature. When something really bad happens to me somewhere, maybe I’ll start to abide by precautions with a little bit more grace. But then again, maybe not.

There’s so much to think about that I might explode. On top of speaking in foreign languages and acclimating to a new culture and getting to know the lay of the land in a new city, I have the research project. On top of that, I have my class assignments. On top of that, I have my own creative projects that I want to pursue. It’s a lot.

However, all of those things are things that I am passionate about and want to do. So I should never let any of it be a burden. They are all my passions, so I should be careful not to burn them out. I have to find balance.

I hope the pictures that I took today on my disposable come out alright.


28 May 2014
Chez Dieng 

So I’m finally with my new host family. They are very nice, and accommodating to my weird diet. There are two sisters (Marième, who is 32, and Kiné, who is 17). Kiné seems like an old soul. Marième seems practical and not too serious. Maman is caring, yet commanding.

But I think it will take a while before I’m in the swing of things. The language barrier is still so hard, but they are very patient.

I guess I feel a little lost, and I wish Mame were here. But I guess it’s difficult to get me out of my comfort zone, since I’m comfortable with most things, so this is definitely a valuable experience. The language is the hardest part. I generally consider communication of ideas to be one of my strengths, and when my ability to do that is hampered by being forced to communicate ideas in a foreign language, it can be a bit discouraging.

But that’s okay. C’est bon. Je vais apprendre, de plus en plus.


29 May 2014
Chez Dieng

Today, good things happened, even though I struggled a bit.

My phone situation is not worked out yet. So, it’s a bit difficult because wifi is so scarce and I would really like to talk to my mom. But it’s okay. It’ll happen soon.

But because it didn’t happen today, something else very nice happened. I decided to take a walk instead of trap myself at the Brioche Dorée (where there’s very weak wifi). I ran into a friend I had met who lives in the same neighborhood as I do (Ouakam, in the northwest of Dakar). We talked about how I hadn’t been to the beach yet. Alors, il m’amène à la plage à sa moto.

C’était très amusant. There’s a pretty big language barrier between us, but I think I’m getting better. Et il parle un peu d’anglais aussi. La plage était très belle. Il y avait beaucoup de gens, on faisait le sport, le football en particulier. Les Sénégalais aiment faire le sport!

Riding through the quartier de Ouakam on the motorbike was amazing. It was absolutely gorgeous outside. And there’s always so many people out and about, especially today because of the Thursday Market. Women carrying huge loads of clothing or food on their heads, with a baby wrapped to their back. Men sitting under the orange blossom trees, drinking attaya. Goats and cows walking down the street like pedestrians. Kids being kids, playing football, pointing at me and shouting “Toubab!” (That means “foreigner,” in Wolof. But they don’t say it mean-spiritedly. In Senegal, they have a big sense of humor; they always tease each other. One shouldn’t take things too personally here.)

Alors, je suis fatiguée. À demain, peut-être. Legui legui. Ba beneen yoon.


30 May 2014
Chez Dieng

I will only write a bit – we have a big day tomorrow.

We started class today, and I loved both my teachers.

My phone situation is worked out. I called Mom and Joe – it was very nice to hear their voices.

Tomorrow – Gorée Island.

À tout à l’heure.


2 June 2014
Chez Dieng

This trip is a voyage of challenges, that I set for myself.

  • I will communicate effectively in a foreign language.
  • I will forgo some amenities that I am used to at home.
  • I will conduct a research project in a foreign country.
  • I will challenge my body, exercising daily.
  • I will keep up with my responsibilities in classes here and at CMU.
  • I will continue to pursue my personal creative projects.
  • I will drink my coffee black and press snooze only once.

Today, we ran up the big hill to the light house. I saw the sun setting, and it was absolutely mesmerizing. The ocean melted into the sky in a haze of pastels, and the sun was a perfect circle of orange fading into gold.

My cultural partner, Mint, and I have been having some great conversations. We talked about feminism and homosexuality. It is illegal to be gay in Senegal, and she is very against it, as most people here are. But she was very willing to discuss and hear my opinion, and we drew a parallel between Americans not understanding polygamy and Senegalese not understanding homosexuality. It was all very interesting.

I really enjoy her company. She’s a lot of fun, and can be lighthearted, too.


9 June 2014
Chez Dieng

Today was so much fun. We took a pirogue to the island NGor with Milang and Pierre. Their whole football team team was there, because they had won the Ouakam championship. We swam and ate and jammed and had a really good time. It was all beautiful.

I’m having a really good time here. And I feel like I’m learning so much. But it’s not easy.

I can’t wait until Mame gets here. And to see Toubab Dialaw.