What, you expected me take advantage of my French skills so I could live in Paris and take dSLR pictures of the Eiffel Tower while bicycling in a bright red silk scarf and flowy skirt, daily baguette in tow?
…Yeah, me too.
First: it’s okay. I wasn’t exactly sure where Senegal was either. Let’s study the following map.
Dakar is Senegal’s capital, and is the westernmost city of Senegal. It’s coastal, sub-Saharan, and I’ll really need an umbrella for the time period I’m going. Also, il fait chaud.
Senegal is considered a “developing” country but it’s one of the more developed countries in Africa, and Dakar especially is quite developed. I will have will have electricity, quelquefois. I will have internet, quelquefois. I will have vegetables, quelquefois. I will not have toilet paper.
A large, uncomfortable disparity exists between rich expats or government officials and street children or Talibé.
Wikipedia has a lot of information about what Senegal’s industries actually are, but the ones that I care about are the fishing industry and the peanut industry.
You should have read the above sentence and realized that I will be eating a lot of peanuts and fish, probably in the form of thieboudienne, or ceebu jen, Senegal’s national dish. I will also be eating a lot of oily white rice, les baguettes, and Nescafé instant coffee.
Senegal was once a French colony and still retains French influence beyond baguettes. For example, the educated class learns French in school, and French is what is used on signs everywhere. However, a plurality of Senegalese speak and are Wolof, with Pular and Serer being the second- and third-most populous languages/ethnic groups, respectively. Most Senegalese are Muslim, though there are pockets of Catholicism.
Mbalax is a popular genre of music unique to the Senegalese area, and dancing, running, and le football are popular activities. Senegalese people are especially proud of their culture of hospitality, called teranga in Wolof.
Finally, the people of Dakar care about fashion. There are many tailors here who will custom-make clothing for you. These facts are sad to me because a) I plan on wearing ugly, unfashionable clothes so I can prevent mosquito bites and b) I’m going straight to backpacking in Europe, which means I can’t take back much with me.
WHAT [I THINK] I’M DOING
For four months, I will be studying with CIEE’s Language and Culture program at CIEE’s Study Center in Mermoz since the Suffolk University campus is no more. I’ll be taking Advanced French, Beginner Wolof, Senegalese Society and Culture, an elective (I chose Santé Publique), and an internship seminar (I’ll be working with a community clinic named Dispensaire Saint Laurent). Only Senegalese Society and Culture will be taught in English.
I will be staying with a host family. I might be taking surfing lessons. Most shockingly, I will be wearing long sleeves and long pants. All of the time. J’ai peur des moustiques.
I will be littering my blog posts with French and Wolof in an attempt to make these two languages stick to my brain. I’ll explain the Wolof terms but hopefully you have a working knowledge of French, or at least Google Translate.