dalal ak diam, bienvenue, welcome!

Dalal ak diam, Bienvenue, Welcome! Follow along with my journey to Senegal this fall in stories, quotes, and pictures.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Snapshot of village and city contrasts

It is interesting to see how like in the US, regional differences come into play. When some friends who are doing their internships in the villages visited me here in St. Louis, I had the chance to learn about the contrast between mentalities and daily life in urban vs. rural Senegal. Also, my host mom’s niece who is a teacher and commutes to a village 20 km outside of St. Louis, fills me in on her opinions. My apologies for the grand generalization that is about to follow, but for those readers who haven’t had a chance to go to Senegal, I think it’s only fair to give you even a general idea of the contrast.
When I say village, you may be thinking huts in the middle of nowhere with the most primitive of amenities. One wise social studies teacher I had is known to say that in most stereotypes, there is a grain of truth. In many of the villages, residents are very perserverent, they work with what they have and as a result are used to a different standard of living. Like their city-dwellers counterparts, have a lifestyle which has socialized them into that environment. Even though I opted for a city, if I had more time in Senegal, I would definitely spend it in a village, because the challenges the residents of villages face are not the same as in the city.
You still do see huts in the villages I have briefly stopped by, but alongside wooden buildings which make up different rooms surrounding the courtyard of the house. Houses here are designed to accomodate the grande famille and much like the meals out the common bowl, are logistically adaptable to an unknown number of guests who may be there. Many people may share a room or even a bed, but this depends on the living situation of each family. The bathroom situation is always interesting here, as you never know exactly which elements of the western conception of a bathroom will be present or in working order, but for the most part, houses have a squat toilet in an outhouse in the villages. Especially closer to St. Louis, most villages have electricity, schools, a public health structure, and a (weekly) market. Most are economically tied to agriculture, of millet, peanuts, tomatoes, eggplants, or other vegetables, or if close to a body of water, fishing. Senegal is relatively endowed with arable land for a Sahel country, but the condition of the transportation infrastructure poses major problems for the establishment of value chains which could realize the full economic potential of the farming and fishing.
As my friends described it, after the harvest season, there is a lot of time spent “chilling” on mats in the courtyard, although there is a strongly marked division of labor between men and women. Women also work in the fields, and are also responsible for all household tasks, and remember, even in the city 99% of families do or have laundry done by hand. It’s easy to forget how much labor is saved by certain household devices. I found this out first hand, when I was cooking parmesan chicken, mashed potatoes, salad with hot artichoke dressing for my host family, that cebbu jen and other Senegalese dishes have a certain cooking process that maximize of the one gas burner as the single heating element in the kitchen and minimize dishes used. Here I was, used to having up to four burners and an oven at my disposal, trying to figure out what order I could cook things in to keep them warm and how not to dirty too many dishes, as I knew they would probably insist on washing them for me.
 In general, Senegalese families have more children than in the US. The average is 4-5 children, but in villages, it can be much higher. I liked the analogy that one of my professors used, that each house can be like a kindergarten. I have been impressed by how the families manage the children without much access to playgrounds, a lot of toys, books, or games, something that would be difficult for me to do coming from a culture where material goods are abundant even for children. Luckily for me, my two younger host sisters, Khady (age 7) and Néné (age 9) have been endlessly entertained by crazy games and drawings that we invented with my blank notebook and the pack of five colored pencils I bought at the boutique, trying to ride Pape’s (my host brother) bike, and piggyback rides around the house.
We all watch a little bit of TV (for me, less than an hour a day). Depending on the day, it’s the journal de 20h (8pm news), a French soap or a soap dubbed in French, a Wolof drama vignette like Mayacine ak Dial which became my favorite when one episode featured as a guest a lost anglophone Toubab, or the music channel.TV is something that even with electricity, is much less common in the village. Collé, my host mom’s niece, mentioned that it is difficult for her to teach in the village, because in her opinion the children there are less éclairés, as they have less access to printed and visual media than kids in St. Louis, and often do not have much chance to travel. At the same time, a lot of the TV programming is imported not what I would consider quality (although I’m not a soap fan, so take this with a grain of salt). In certain villages, there is a strong local radio presence with a variety of programming for different audiences.     
 It’s too bad we don’t live with an older relation, because they tend to be very connected to the oral tradition which I haven’t heard too much being in the city. The concept of the grande famille, with all of the grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and a variety of relations is very strong, and even in places like St. Louis and Dakar where people don’t always live with the grande famille, you can tell in the converations especially around holidays that the relations are still on their minds. At this point in time, I would say many Senegalese adults in the city are still connected to their home villages, even if they don’t visit, although with more children being born in the city, this may begin to disappear.
Due to trends in urbanization brought on by access to jobs and the lack of transportation infrastructure, there is a marked difference between life in the city and in the régions, I would argue that there are even cultural differences between the two, in the language (the Wolof in the city is more of a Wolof-French creole), and attitudes (usage of time, relationships with neighbors, etc.) It is absolutely fascinating, as someone who has experienced some regional differences in the US, to see that differences are so vast in a country with 12 million people and the size of one of the US states.

Meet me in St. Louis

Maintenant pour me ratrapper un peu, so now for a little catch up on the blog writing. Part of the reason it’s been quiet on the blog lately is that I’ve transitioned to my internship phase in St. Louis (definitely not Missouri) in the north of Senegal where I have been interning at Centre Mame Fatim Konté, teaching two classes, working in office, and observing. It’s been an intense experience, mostly adjusting to the work schedule, making new friends, and coming to terms with the fact that my time in Senegal is coming to a close, faster than I expected it would. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why, but trying to live life in Senegal parallel to the life that is still going on back in the US is difficult, especially when they are both operating at different speeds.
As a city, St. Louis is a night and day difference from Dakar. I was expecting another bustling city, but St. Louis has a small town character combined with city infrastructure. Most St. Louisiens that I talk to (and it’s gotten to be quite a few, as people enjoy stopping me on the street to make small talk, comment on my appearance, or give me advice) describe the city as more “calme” or “tranquille” than Dakar.

A rooftop view of Sor from the CKMFK. I teach English up here in the kitchen and during the break, I like standing up here with the students on the patio area and feeling the nice river/ocean breeze
One of my favorite descriptions of the difference came in English class when we were practicing constructions with “how.” One student’s response to “How is Dakar?” was “I think Dakar is terrible because there are bad boys but it is an excellent city.” Her translation of “aggressors” as “bad boys” made me smile, but I must say she has a point. Dakar does have a lot of services and large businesses, and a crucial factor given the global economy, a chance for employment. These magnet factors make for the urban jungle that the city has come to be, as people try to find just enough space, perhaps in a relative’s house, a rented room, or even on the street for a chance at a different life. Unfortunately, you also see that others have recognized this business opportunity in the housing industry, and people are frequently exploited by schemes and high rent.
 In terms of safety and livability, St. Louis has treated me well so far, perhaps better even than Dakar. I can finish my shift at 7pm, which is after sunset, and safely walk the mile back to my host family with absolutely no problem. Even on weekends, other than people who frankly dérange (irritate) me on the street or the beach, it’s been fine. Certain situations do make me wish I had learned enough Wolof to tell people off effectively, as so far “May ma jamm” hasn’t worked. In addition, when I am miffed, what I speak is English, not French or Wolof, or even Frangolof (français-anglais-ouolof) which has become my dialect of choice due to teaching English and speaking Wolof with my host family. Thankfully, most of the Wolof I speak with people is the greeting regimen, which as I grasp more of the language, I am really beginning to enjoy. On my walks to work and around town, I have many chances to practice, because after two weeks of living here, the reality is that I cannot walk anywhere in Sor or downtown St. Louis without running into at least one person I know.     
Sor, where I live, is mostly residential, and there is a market and commercial district I cross to get to my work.  We are not too far away from the Pont Faidhebre, which connects Sor and the mainland with the island that is down town St. Louis, and one of my favorite walks/jogs is to cross the newly refurbished bridge where there is a nice breeze. Something I noticed was many young children there are, or more accurately, how children I see because it is safe enough from them to play outside and there is space enough for them to play. St. Louis is also home to a lot more domestic animals, even after the Tabaski chickens around. You also see a fair amount of charettes, two wheeled carts drawn by a horse, and some particularily crazy charretiers who drive them by standing on the charette holding the reins going at breakneck speed. I’ve yet to get a good picture of that, but hopefully before I go back to Dakar. As one of my neighbors put it, chaque maison est une petite ferme (each house is a little farm) at least in this part of town, but it is neat to see the blend of city and country that St. Louis is.

Another feature that sets St. Louis apart for me was the abundance of schools, mosques, and military camps. An interesting combination, I know, but a revealing one about the geopolitics of St. Louis. As a border city just across the Senegal River from Mauritania, there is a visible military presence “just in case.” Senegal and Mauritania have not had the friendliest history, but thankfully the Senegalese army has not engaged in a war (peacekeeping missions only) since its independence. The mosques can be explained by St. Louis’ northern locale, closer to the Maghrib, and areas that were Islamized earlier in history than other parts, say the Casamance, in the south. As for the schools, well one of my theories is as an urban center in the north, schools especially higher education institutions for the surrounding areas. Although it is interesting to note that decentralization of formal education is a rather recent phenomenon, the university in St. Louis (Gaston Berger) was opened in 1990, the first after the University of Dakar (Cheikh Anta Diop) in the 60’s. Another factor, St. Louis was the capital of the Afrique Occidentale Française (AOF) during colonial times until the turn of the 20th century when it was moved to Dakar, there was a concentration on education to train “assistants” and “interpreters” for the colonial government. In fact, I live not too far from the building of the former school for interpreters and sons of chiefs, who were taken away from their homes and trained here. All in all, it has been an interesting and fitting place for me to do an internship with my interest in education and policy, especially given the Wolof-French diglossia, with other languages native to West Africa and increasingly English thrown into the mix.   

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Maanguiy Fii, I'm still here

Hi everyone!

First of all, I need to start off with an echo of my Facebook status, that I owe a big "baal ma" and "maasa" (I'm sorry) to everyone for my terribly disappointing lack of communication especially with the blog. It is definitely not for lack of stories/pictures, and I miss you all, but the effective time management I do so well with back home has eluded me with the big move to St. Louis for the internship phase. Also, the wave of fatigue that could be culture shock, the sudden change in the weather, some homesickness, and dealing with a carbohydrate-intense diet and lack of personal space has been a challenge, but not one that is going to prevent me from having a good (and effective) time here in St. Louis or from keeping in touch while I have wifi.   

So, where to start... with a new internetship teaching two classes at a community education center (Centre Mame Fatim Konté), in a new city with a new family (la famille Sy, who are very nice, were Leila's host family, crazy coincidence, and have little kids, so life is very exciting), a new set of Senegalese names (I now effectively answer to 10 different names other than my real name, two were actually given to me and the rest are from other Americans, French, or Belgians that lived with my family or worked at the center), and some new friends (three of which want so badly to be more than friends) there has been a lot going on.

But first, I have to backtrack and show you all some magnificent sights I saw on a day trip to Ile de la Madeleine in Dakar, the weekend before leaving for St. Louis.

A little background, Ile de la Madeleine is a small island reserve just off the coast from Dakar, actually we saw it every day on our walk to and from WARC, if you take the Corniche, the paved parkway that follows the coast. It used to be a national park that was staffed with rangers, but after an incident of bloodshed between the rangers and some fishermen, it has been left alone. That being said, the way to access the island (other than swimming, which would require you to be in excellent shape even though it's not far) is to contract a pirgoue (like a large wooden canoe) and it's crew to take you out. 

Here are some of the pirogues at the Soumbedienne Beach, the take off point for Ile de M and for fishing boats in this part of Dakar.

Thankfully, John, a friend in Dakar already knew a good crew, so our group got a good deal and a decently sized pirogue, they come in all sizes and all states of reliability. We were teasing each other while waiting for the preparation because there was a fisherman that rowed out to his pirogue in what serisouly looked like a bathtub, but despite the lack of life jackets (even though I already new the vocabulary gilets de sauvage, I knew better than to ask, this was the informal sector after all). Thankfully our pirgoue was much more re  than most. 
While we were waiting for John to get there, it was interesting and highly annoying to be a part of the business of negotiating a passage. Several boat captains approached us and would not stop insisting on the importance that we leave right away with them, despite the clear French we used to explain that we were fine waiting. So much for the "customer is always right" cultural attitude I'm used to in the states. After a while in Dakar, I've gotten used to being treated at times as a business opportunity due to my appearance, realizing that people everywhere need to make a living, but at times, it's tempting to retort back with some Wolof  "Maay ma jamm" (leave me alone!)

The ride over to the Ile de M was actually really fun, considering I was preparing myself for a swim after the various horror stories I had heard about Ile de M crossings. It was different to be sitting literally a handspan above the waterline, plowing through some small ocean waves. But believe me, once we got there and went rock climbing on the volcanic rocks, swimming in the lagoon, and climbing in a baobab tree, the hassle was totally worth it. But I'll let the pics speak for themselves.

The lagoon, great for swimming because of the low salt content and the bottom which is all light blue and pink shell fragments.

Great rock climbing, just watch out for the sea urchins if you fall in!

 ...and Baobab climbing

Our boat crew taking a rest while we enjoy the sights. We had the whole place to ourselves until another group came in the second pirogue you see to the right.

All in all a good day of play for us

And it seemed a good day of work for the fishermen!

Looks like my internet time is up for now, but be prepared for more stories, including Tabaski, which I guarantee will be a surprise for most!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yaasa laa togg! (I managed to “make” yaasa)

Well, when I say I managed to make Yaasa, I mean that I asked Mariama, our maid, who speaks Wolof, to show me how she made it. I’ve been wanting to learn some Senegalese cooking for a while, (as is the case with a few other things that have been tough to fit into the schedule) and I finally got my chance. Mariama laughed so hard when I got the question “Can you teach me how to cook Yaasa?” across in Wolof after a conversation about her family. (quelque chose comme “Ndax bëgg nga, mën nga ma jangale naka togg yaasa, s’il te plait?” which is a terrible attempt at a polite request because we haven’t learned that yet in Wolof class, and if I asked my host family, they would just ask her the question for me, and I wanted to try)
She and Gorgui, one of my host brothers who was around, found it hilarious that I followed her around the kitchen all morning with my pocket-sized notebook, watching and scribbling ingredients and directions in English while asking feebly constructed Wolof questions about the process. But in the end of the day, I minced two onions (soobleey? I think in Wolof) did not mince any of my fingers, and had a great time. Mariama is a patient teacher and found time in her busy cleaning schedule to talk to me, and I got the yaasa recipe, plus a few more words in Wolof.
After a while, I had to get out of the kitchen and let Mariama do her work, so I took an hour walk while the rice was steaming. It was a nice chance to get out (in general, midday is a great time to walk, because only crazy Toubabs with cabin fever (me) and those who have to be out working are on the sidewalks) Inadvertently, my path took me right by a mosque at the opportune time (Friday, for afternoon prayer), so I had to dodge traffic in order to walk behind the mats of people who were caught on the sidewalk when they had to start their prayers.
Back just in the nick of time for lunch, everyone liked the yaasa (which they claimed was my yaasa, even though I explained over and over that I cut two onions). This also brought about a new slew of Senegalese husband joking, which seems to happen whenever I do something right or make a new effort to be a part of the host family. I wonder what will happen next weekend when I attempt American food on our propane tank heating element.   


Toubacouta, a very small city southeast of Dakar, but there is so much about it that I experienced to describe in one blog post. To start, our group of 18 plus Waly and Korka, who work with the program (very cool people) took a “toubab bus” on the highway towards Kaolack for a four day long fieldtrip outside of Dakar. We had a full itinerary with visits to a poste de santé (public health station), a national park (an estuary with mangrove trees), a performance by a Mandinka dance/theater troupe, a roundtable (well, round “mat”) discussion with groupements de femmes in Nema Baa (women’s agricultural and business co-ops), and a lecture by the former mayor of Sokone (a slightly bigger town) about decentralization and development in his experience. In between all this excitement was time to relax poolside at the hotel (it would have been a richer experience to stay with families in the village, but this may have been a logistical issue, in any case, I’ll take a pool even if the water was a bit murky and there were some bugs and I’ll take the first air-conditioned night I’ve spent in Senegal since our first night in the country).  
It was such a treat to eat authentic Senegalese meals with the family of Dr. Sene, the director of the MSID program, at the home of his brother and to meet some of his extended family, including the second wife of his father, who was not a young lady) and interesting to say the least to interact with a few Senegalese students, born in the area, but studying in Dakar who showed us around the village. In order to keep this blog post from getting too out of control lengthwise, here are some of the highlights of the trip
-          Meeting the groupements de femmes, in Nema Baa. These women literally work around the clock to raise vegetables and grain as well as caring for their families. In this part of Senegal, as in many others, agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, but made exceptionally difficult due to impassable or poorly maintained roads, and lack of linkages to value chains where transformation of products provides a much high margin of profit. As the women brought up in the discussion (in Wolof and Sereer, translated to French by Waly), their life is improved by pooling resources within the group, but from what I’ve seen, real potential for a life that is not plagued by back-breaking work needs better infrastructure, but alas, one of the many problems of “development,” is how to logistically move all actors from political and economic point to point when it’s not in everyone’s best interest, and often the poorest take the worst losses.

-          Watching a local soccer league game and a performance by the Mandinka dance and theater troupe. It was great to see whole communities be able to take a break from exhausting work and have the time and energy for great community bonding events. The dance/theater performance was really well done, lots of variety, and it was neat to see that even during the drama, they used a folk story in which characters spoke mainly local languages (Wolof, Mandinka) but other characters, would “comment” in Wolof, French, or even English to keep all audience members engaged. These performers were in such excellent shape, you wouldn’t believe their stunts unless you saw it, especially the fire-eater and the glass man (dancing on broken glass?!?!?). Grace, one of the group, will be doing her internship with this band, and pretty much everyone is jealous of her.

-           Visiting the national park, wildlife refuge, and planting mangrove seedlings. We stopped off at headquarters to talk to the ranger a little about the park’s history and current objectives. Then, since there was no gas at all in the town, and the mangrove area we were projected to visit required a motorboat, we put off the proposed seedling trip to visit a wildlife refuge. It felt very touristy to ride around in a random-looking safari vehicle, but it was fun to be 10 feet away from two rhinos and see some different animals. Later in the afternoon, the gas somehow made its way to the boat motor, and we were able to take a pirogue out to the mangroves. The pirogues are like long wooden canoes. Ours seated all of the group, plus the students and a small crew. Fun times were singing random songs in the pirogues as we cruised through the water, watching people harvest oysters and the satisfaction of getting to do some highly organized semi-independent work with my hands, sorting mangrove seedlings and planting them in rows. Getting to the mangrove seedling bed was another story… a story involving knee to thigh deep mud embedded with crabs… i.e. lovely bleeding cuts covered with black mud.

All in all it was an intense experience, but a good time to get to know everyone in the group better (and play old cards games like in band tour days). It will be very different in a week when I will be “on my own” i.e. not in the same city as other group members when I will be transitioning from Dakar to St. Louis (in the north on the coast) for my internship.

I hope all is well with you, your family, friends, work and study, Miss you, and hopefully I won’t be offline as much next week.   

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lekkal, Suur naa, and other useful food-related topics

So, as promised, I have to say a few words about the cuisine here in Senegal, especially since once I get back from out four day field trip to Toubacouta, I am going to attempt cooking à la senegalaise. For someone who is used to a lot of variety in her diet, especially seasonal variety, Senegalese food seems very standard and reliable so far in Dakar. For breakfast, I can always count on part of a baguette and tea before school, although I found out the first day with my host family it’s weird to not eat anything on your bread, so I’ve accepted the Chocoleca/Chocpain (think Nutella with a peanut base) that now comes pre-spread on the bread when I get to the table. So all you chocolate fans in the states should definitely come to Senegal!

Lunch (if with my host family)  at 2:30-3:30 and dinner 8:30-9:30 are usually about the same size, and are one in a selection of dishes we eat, which are 90% of the time rice cooked in palm oil with fish with a few vegetables. Since all my host siblings prefer the fish and I prefer the vegetables, I usually get as much carrot, eggplant, and cabbage as I want. Besides worrying about my slow metabolism, the food here has not been a problem, in fact, I’m not sick of it yet. I have to add that it has been mango season, so I’ve been hitting the fruit stand at lunch for the most delicious mangos at about 50 cents USD a piece. My family also varies the sauces, etc. that we eat on the rice/fish combo. There is yaasa (onion sauce), begguch (hibiscus leaf base), maafee (peanut sauce) which are my favorites, and also some red sauce with a tomato base that goes with beef or mutton and couscous when we have that.  Sometimes the rice has spices in it, and other times it’s plain, but so far, nothing has been very spicy, as long as you take care to not eat the rice directly around a pepper. I made this mistake once, and since there is no drinking during meals (only after) I learned quickly not to do that again.  

I haven’t gone to many restaurants, but the ones I’ve been to usually have a combo of the Senegalese food I just mentioned and random sandwiches, salads, pizzas, etc. There isn’t really fast food, per se but there are fruit stands, boutiques that sell drinks, snacks, and  sandwiches(sheep liver, egg, tuna, etc.), dibiteries which sell grilled meat, and pizza shops. Last night I went to Nice Cream with my host sister, which is awesome! She got a huge three flavor cone for about 3.5 USD, and the atmosphere and the ice cream was very chill (pun intended). Mostly, I drink water here, but every once and a while we have bissap (hibiscus) or bouye (baobab fruit/ pain de singe) juice or ataaya. Being a predominantly Muslim country, there is not a lot of alcohol, and what "drinks" there are in restaurants are generally not what you expect (like, some straight alcohol in the bottom of a [water] glass) and are very expensive.

 Portion sizes here are very interesting, because they are quite large for everyone. One night last week, apparently I wasn’t eating enough at dinner, so my oldest host brother told me to get a spoon (normally, I *attempt* eating with my hands) and so I went in the cupboard and got the spoon size I would use in the US. Before even sitting down, my host sister said basically “what are you doing that for, go and get a real spoon!” (the size of the serving spoons I have at home) At every meal, when someone finishes, you will hear “lekkal” (Wolof for, eat!) or if it’s me, they prefer “Il faut bien manger.” But the good news is there is usually a remedy for that, “Suur naa” or “doyena” (spelling approx.) which both mean “I’m full.”

The fun thing about eating here, is meals are very communal, down to eating out of the same bowl. There are lots of good feelings around food. Although, it has been tough to adjust to the fact that I can’t sip water during the meal, and people don’t talk too much. Another alteration is that eating in front of people is not only rude, but basically forbidden. Whenever someone brings food in the house, they offer you a bit/sip, and refusing this is difficult culturally. It’s tough when the food is a sheep liver sandwich or half a fried egg at 10:30pm, but a really cool concept nonetheless.
Another fun food related custom is ataaya, the traditional tea. The best way to describe it is a  long brewed, somewhat bittersweet tea, which you drink in the equivalent of a shot glass (not even kidding on that one). One of my host brothers makes it and he is usually off doing things, so we’ve had it twice, once on a Saturday night until 3am with all of the friends/neighbors over, which was great fun! Another treat is Thiakri, a sour yogurt with orange/vanilla flavor and millet couscous.

It will different this weekend to go into “the regions” out of Dakar, because I was told the food can be somewhat different (i.e. less rice more millet and less meat more veges).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

La Vie Quotidienne (a little about daily life this week)

On Monday, it was back to class, and back to paper-writing and presentation mode for school. The class schedule is getting to be normal now, as are trips to the Parcours store or fruit stand at lunch time. I’ve been missing friends and family lately (although I'm still happy and excited to be in Senegal), but also starting to get concerned as time ticks away. A part of American culture that I believe will always stick with me is the constant doubt whether I’ve been using time wisely as I could be. While I’m in Dakar, I want to have time for the small moments, like hanging out at a restaurant with friends, spending time with my host family, going to the market, etc. but it’s also important for me to do make some concrete career building steps to go along with the personal development.
Yesterday before class, I went for a walk to marché guele tapée (which I found by myself) and since I didn’t find too much there, I took a city bus to the Sandaga market downtown and actually succeeded in buying something (and letting the salesperson assume I was Canadian, as I thought the French and Americans would probably get worse prices) Everyone in my host family is doing well, elementary school teaching starts next week for Maman, high school for Theirno, and college for Amadou. Lately, I’ve been getting “cooking lessons” from Fatimata on how to operate the gas tank heating element. The first time around didn’t go so well, although I didn’t get burned. I guess I was unintentionally entertaining enough to make Thierno laugh so he had to restart the prayers he was in the middle of saying. This is probably just as entertaining as the dancing lessons during commercials courtesy of Khady, but it’s all in good fun. Gorgui, my oldest host brother who business travels, came back yesterday, which makes the mini soap opera that is my host family more interesting. Even though a lot of the conversation in Wolof (and all host family members enjoy poking fun at me for the ridiculously small amount of Wolof phrases I can say), they are always happy to backtrack and explain things, making them my go-to resource for any random questions I have about Senegal.  
This week, I’m hoping to catch up on my Skype (sorry to everyone I missed due to the last minute desert excursion) and on the blog posts (food and walking around Dakar could go on forever, so I’m trying to write them neatly, not in my normal rambling story-telling style). We are also taking a field trip to Dakar’s Chinatown today, which I think will be fascinating.
Since class is about to start, I’ll sign off now. Thinking about you all!