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Journals from ACI Baobab Center - Senegal, Africa

2010-11-10 Impressions of Senegal after 2 months


Ça va mes amies? Ça fait longtemps!!!  - How are you my friends? It’s been a long time!

As some say—time flies when you’re having fun! We are approaching the two month mark of our study abroad experience in Dakar and we have certainly come a long way. When we arrived, we were like chickens with our heads cut off, abruptly confronted with Senegalese city culture, which can only be described as organized chaos.  Observed well, a rhythm of life emerges from this chaos, heavily influenced by African values of communal living and appreciation for taking one’s time. We’ve learned to navigate through a traffic system which lacks stop lights of any kind, how to haggle with taxi drivers and venders for the local price, to artfully avoid giving our number out to one of the many say-say (a Senegalese playboy), to slow down our hasty American pace and much more...

From the bustle of downtown, to the “suburbs” of Baobab where we go to school, to the claustrophobic markets of H.L.M bursting from the seams with beautiful fabric—city life is vibrant and diverse. Each quartier, neighborhood, has a different feel according to its demographics often based on factors such as ethnicity, socio-economic class, or religion. Families tend to live together in the same quartier, and spend the evenings sitting outside the house making attaya and discussing everything under the sun. Pods of young boys migrate up and down the street, passing a soccer ball to one another periodically stopping to watch a "football" game happening in one of the neighborhood's sandy lots. Women, regal in their matching colorful os and panges (traditional top and skirt), self-assertively go about their tasks with a type of confidence I’d love to have one day. The hum of sewing machines can be heard at all hours from every street corner from tailors fervently trying to finish embroidered garments before Tabaski, a huge Islamic holiday.

Life here is fascinating.

My normal day during the week is spent going back and forth from school (which is a 20-minute walk) for classes and home for lunch. Our classes are organized so that we take most of them together as the “Linfield group." This is nice because we’ve bonded well as a group, but sort of a disadvantage to making Senegalese friends because we don’t have the opportunity to meet many locals our age while studying at the center. Yet everyone who works at the center is SO nice and social, like a big family, and our huge host families also provide us with plenty of social opportunities.  Myself, I never imagined I would develop such a great relationship with my family. They welcomed me in right away while I did my best to be observant, social and respectful—the key to integrating into a Senegalese family. I see my host parents as parents, and my brothers and sisters as brothers and sisters--which is AMAZING. If I had no other contacts outside my family, I think life would still be fine and dandy!

There will be more to write about soon!

Jenna Johnson
Psychology Major, Art & Francophone Studies Minor

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