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International Development in Senegal

Saying Goodbye

My last day in Senegal is quickly approaching, which means this is my last blog post of the semester. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to read this blog. I hope you gained as much from reading it as I did from writing it. Goodbyes. I try so hard to avoid them, all of the discomfort and sadness that they bring. Sometimes, though, I think a goodbye turns into something more. Sometimes goodbye isn’t really a goodbye when you know you’ll be taking something with you. […]

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Integration

Last night my sister asked me to come with her to the boutique in our neighborhood to buy bread for dinner. I put down the book I was reading and bounded down the stairs two at a time, aware that she was already halfway out the door. I reached our front door and just as I was reaching around to close it I realized something. “Tabara,” I asked, “Est-ce que je peux porter des shorts?” (Can I wear shorts?) “C’est pas grave,” she said with a smile (it’s not a […]

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Collectivism

This past week I found myself returning from another forum hosted by my internship organization in a village on the outskirts of the city. Scrunched in between two others in the backseat of an old pickup truck, I was tossed around like a rag doll every time our driver unsuccessfully tried to maneuver around a pothole. Wind whipping flyaway strands of hair around my face, I closed my eyes every now and then, pressing my palms against my eyelids to keep out the dust that threatened to make me regret […]

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Kaolack

Ah, Kaolack. What a place you are. I’m a week and a half into my life and internship here and it has been quite the experience. For one, it is hot. VERY HOT. Sweating doesn’t faze me much anymore, and mosquitoes and flies are batted away lazily; even my high-intensity DEET bug spray can’t do much to keep them away sometimes. Fans are a small luxury, though luckily my mom has one in her bedroom. Multiple nights I have dreamed about snow-covered mountains. That is not an exaggeration. Yet, life […]

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Snapshots of Gambia

I think the best way to give a glimpse into my past week in the Gambia is to make a bullet point list of notable experiences. I thus name this list: Gambia Snapshots. The people: very, very friendly. They reminded me much of the Senegalese, though I would say the hagglers are more aggressive as a result of the large tourist industry that caters to foreigners in the area I stayed. One day I spent the entire afternoon sitting in the alley outside our guesthouse under a large shady tree […]

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The Halfway Point

As the halfway point in my semester approaches and my time here in Dakar comes to a close, I think it’s only fitting that I give a short synopsis of what it is exactly that I have been doing and plan to do over the next couple of months. I spent the last couple of months here in Dakar, taking a full schedule of classes through my program (for those who don’t know, the program is MSID Senegal: Minnesota Studies in International Development.) My main classes have been Wolof, international […]

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La Lutte

I spent this past weekend in the village of Toubacouta, part of a four-day trip with my program to get out of the city and supplement classroom learning with real-life experience. The village was small, located about a four hours’ drive South of Dakar. We may as well have traveled for days though because, as any Senegalese will tell you, village life in Senegal is entirely different from life in the city. So too are sporting events different in the village, and for the first time I got to watch […]

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Language Mistakes

I’d like to start this off by saying that I was originally hoping to write about another part of Senegalese culture in this blog post. After my latest language mistake, however, it’s only fitting that I share some (painful) stories about my language speaking abilities. I like to think I’m fairly adventurous when it comes to learning and practicing languages. Unfortunately, this also means I’m particularly prone to saying things I didn’t originally mean to say (my apologies in advance for the crude language.) In another post I mentioned that […]

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On culture shock

Culture shock: that feeling of stumbling down a dark hallway and frequently running face-first into a wall. Difficult, yet thrilling. I like to think that crashing into this wall, so to speak, helps me to better orient myself to my surroundings. I find that culture shock most often occurs when I am least expecting it. This is how I discovered that my host father has a second wife. This past weekend I was sitting next to my host sister, Fatou Kiné, at her birthday party. “Where is Papa Samba?” I asked. “He is […]

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The loss of control

L’oreille collée au sol, j’entendais passer demain. My ear to the ground, I heard tomorrow pass by. –Aimé Césaire Every day at school last semester I used to set out a plan for myself. I would run through all the events of the day while I lay in bed every morning: papers due, homework to finish, people to see, and activities to go to. This speaks to American culture, I believe: a shared motivation for prosperity, a drive, the laying down of stepping stones to systematically get to where you […]

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First look at Sénégal

I’ve been told that the East Coast is expecting a snowstorm tomorrow and that classes have been cancelled! A bit ironic seeing as there is approximately a 0% chance that my classes will be cancelled as it won’t be raining for a very long time here in Dakar. Everywhere there is sand, and the temperature runs at a solid 75-80 degrees daily. I’ve been in Dakar since Sunday and what I can say is that in my few days here, I’ve discovered that this city has a liveliness that is […]

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A little reflecting on little changes

PSA to everyone in my life: I live in Ann Arbor, in a big beautiful house with 9 beautiful women. My bedroom is modest but nice. It’s not fully unpacked yet, but that’s okay. You (every one of you) are welcome to come over whenever you want! It’s something I loved so much about Senegal and will miss dearly: it’s not expected, and even can be rude, to ask to come over. Don’t wait for someone to invite you over: they won’t. And if you want to go over, don’t […]

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Showing a Readiness to Give More of Something Than is Necessary or Expected

It was never an original idea, my theory. There are probably lots of quotes, maybe even a Bible verse, which say the same thing. But I realized this theory for myself and decided a couple years ago to really live it out. It started out slowly, but I’ve gotten much better. I finally think I’m good at it, that it’s a habit, although there will always be room for betterment. Here it is: If you are generous you will never run out. Be generous, with everything: your time, your food, […]

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Pressing rewind

Bringing you an update in backwards order. Z. Yama is writing an essay about himself in English for his English class which started last week. I am starting a 20 page essay in French about my internship which is due in two weeks. We occasionally ask each other for advice, and every thirty minutes or so we proofread each other’s work. It’s a good system. Y. I ate dinner (lentils, my favorite meal) and spent time with my family, “family” being an elastic word that includes my neighbor Laye (who […]

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Sunday Morning Peace

Again I am blown away by my experience at church this morning. I visited an Evangelist church in Dakar, about a four minute drive from my house. I went alone today, although in retrospect I should have invited someone to come. Anyway, it was good time spent free of distractions. The title of the sermon today was “A la recherche du bonheur”, The Search for Happiness. The preacher started off with a little story. There was a man who lost his wallet. The next day he was searching along the […]

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