Starting to Adjust (and a trip to Gorée Island)

I am really adjusting. I’m starting to have real, in-depth discussions with my host mother, and I’m even engaging in pleasant small talk with Marie’tou. Today I also talked to my host mother’s grandchildren, who live in Maryland, on the phone and in English!

On the physical side, I’ve stayed healthy. But although I got to skip over the nausea side effect from my malaria medicine, I think I got hit by the fatigue. I’m sleeping 7-8 hours a night and yet I find myself yawning in the middle of class and yearning for a nap. It’s also so hot here that my running and conditioning are barely existent. At least I’m walking a few hours each day! And my legs have been bitten up and down since I’ve become careless with wearing my full-coverage permethrin-laced items. But the medicine I bought has been a godsend in helping shrink the bites.

The CIEE-sponsored trip to Gorée was breathtakingly beautiful, but I didn’t get too much out of it depthwise, so I just uploaded photos in a facebook album (limited space on WordPress). The only downside was that Gorée was very touristy, which meant that we Americans were barraged and pestered with “Hello, I welcome you to my shop,” “good price,” and live music for which we didn’t want to pay. These people were everywhere, even sneaking past the ferry gates. It was the worst when we sat down to eat and people just walked in to the open-air restaurants and swarmed around like vultures, and it was draining to constantly say no for hours on end. But it was also disturbing sensing the desperation. Unlike in Dakar, here the women were as aggressive as the men. Children were selling trinkets alongside children who were on day trips with their families. My friend Kira pointed out the uncomfortable power dynamic between the vacationers and vendors and that the vendors were trapped on Gorée just as the domestic slaves of the past had been.

But the views from the plateau and Musée Historique were worth it. I think my favorite part was standing at the front of the ferry to the island. It felt like I was on a very wet, salty rollercoaster.

In contrast, today was very relaxing. Kira and I walked around Sacré Coeur in the morning, talking about taboo subjects en plein air, our heresy protected by our English. I’m starting to really get my bearings in this neighborhood. We walked with a herd of cows and I got a pain au chocolat for 80c.

We see goats all the time but a herd of cows were something new! Cars, people, and cows all sharing the road. Look at those horns!

I’m spoiled by Tartine/La Farine at home and I don’t think I’m buying another pastry here – if they even use real butter it’d be too hot to stay solid during the folding process and I think almost all the pastries here will have subpar texture.

Looks good but it’s a TRAP!  Do you see how the layers are not properly formed? (first-world whining)

I returned home and had a discussion with my host mother about Islam versus my own beliefs (the religious tolerance here is incroyable), and about the Talibé (she thinks that the marabouts are not at fault and that it is completely the parents’ fault; I’m glad that Senegalese recognize and even openly talk about how the Talibé are being exploité) and people living on the streets (she thinks that there is plenty of work as maids or clothes-washers in homes but that the women make more money begging on the streets for their husbands in their rural villages). I learned that before she retired she was an assistant director for a major peanut oil company. Peanuts are the major agricultural industry in Senegal.

After lunch I relaxed with some homework and letter-writing, and then Kira came over since she doesn’t have internet. Her family had sent delicious cake, and I could taste the orange zest. I was excited because Sunday dinner is that water, oversoaked rice, and sugar combo. While she Skyped, I listened to early-2000’s teenybopper pop, ate cake, and wrote letters.



6 responses to “Starting to Adjust (and a trip to Gorée Island)

  1. The cows walking on the street picture is very interesting – nice picture! Glad you could converse with your host family. What tongue did you use to speak with your host family?

    • My host family only speaks Wolof and French, and since all I’ve learned in Wolof so far is (the many) greetings, we’ve been speaking in French.

      The cows were scrawny but were so calm; I think they’re used to cars and people. Though we have cows on Mission Peak, I’d never get this close to those behemoths.

    • I will! …it’s a complicated problem and I’m afraid of spouting ignorance so I’ll explain after a little bit longer here!
      Just for you, “marabout” can describe three different kinds of religious/spiritual leaders here. The marabouts about which I’m talking about lead Koranic schools. Parents have traditionally sometimes sent a son to these (boarding) schools in Dakar.

      The end of this story is that these children are being exploited terribly. (I’ll have to explain the middle part in an actual post).

  2. It’s good that you’re adjusting well! Also, with this blog, it’s not like you’re going to be forgetting English anytime soon!

  3. Pingback: Standing up for boulettes | albatrossic·

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