I left you in the beautiful village of Ethwar. Since then I’ve been back in the sea surrounded, stinky, crowded, vibrant Dakar to finish classes and move away from my home-stay family.
Dakar is big, about 1, 030594 people and there is always something to do. Being me, one of the most fun things I did recently was eat at an Ethiopian restaurant (which I am stoked to go back to tonight). The food was delicious, we drank mojitoes, and the menu was half in English. In Dakar we also spend a good amount of time dancing. Maybe about as much time dancing as eating (that’s a nice proportion). Every Friday in a government sponsored artist commune there is a big reggae concert where we found ourselves dancing the night away with dreadlocked artists. Every first Saturday of the month there is a ‘Toubab party’ at a club on a cliff overlooking the ocean where, once again, our feet kept moving until 4am. Sometimes the music just finds you while you are watching your television and all of a sudden your siblings get up
Classes have also finished up around here. The last day of class consisted of our language professors teaching us how to make cëbujën (the national rice and fish dish of Senegal). We made more food than I had ever seen before in one place. But really we are only finishing classes so that we have time in our last month (yikes!) to conduct research and do a final project. The variety of topics is inspiring: recycled art, spiritual medicine, car rapides (local colorful buses), women who sleep with women in Senegal (it is strictly forbidden by law), and the controversial African Renaissance Monument (bigger than the statue of liberty) just to name a few. Then there is me. I’m making a podcast, This American Life style, documenting our stories while we have been studying and living in Senegal. NPR here I come you had best get prepared.
As it is ISP (Independent Study Project) month we had the option to move out of our host families. For me this was an easy decision. Not only did I want to live on my own and cook, but I never quite felt like me while I stayed with my family. I felt like my family underestimated me and my intelligence because my French is not that great and my Wolof is taking forever to improve. But we did pass some great times before I left. Namely I became an expert in fake hair and Tabaski.
Tabaski is a huge Muslim holiday where a mouton gets sacrificed, everyone barbeques all day, dresses up and visits friends at night. For this holiday women especially go crazy. Although nobody has a lot of money women spend at least 10,000 FCFA on a new traditional outfit, and probably about that much on their hair. I spent one memorable evening after school attaching beads to the end of a little girl’s braids that my sister had done. Before Tabaski there were at least five strange women hanging around my house waiting for one or my other sister’s to do their hair. I soon learned that no-one here has real hair. Nor do I. I got braided extensions, they’re growing on me. But at the same time I’m really excited for the day when my head doesn’t feel quite so heavy anymore. That day is tomorrow.
The day of Tabaski passed like this. I woke up early to clean the house, chop vegetables, pound spices, general aide around the house. I watched my older brother drag away our mouton and when next I saw it its head had been mostly severed. Since it was a religious ceremony I kind of thought I would get to watch but regardless the butchering was quite exciting. Hacking away at the legs, spine, hide, with a knife and axe. After we got a bit of rib and maybe leg my sister and I made grilled ribs and shish-ka-bobs. The shish-ka-bobs were great. The grilled liver… questionable. I did not eat anything else that was prepared. There was one piece of meat that my mother wrapped with the small intestine. It looked delectable (eugh). All the meat was ‘processed’ often wrapped in intestine and put in bags to give to other people. We ate a huge lunch. Then the rest of the time was spent cleaning up the house, and cleaning up ourselves. My sisters disappeared to our neighbor’s house which had become a salon. Shaving eyebrows, new eyelashes, painting nails, entirely new nails… you name it. Then I changed into my orange boubou that my mom had made for me. My sisters later told me that it wasn’t time yet and only the grande dames were wearing theirs at this hour. And that was pretty much my Tabaski.
Oh except then I went to the real favorite musician of Senegal’s concert. Youssou N’Dour on Tabaski night was ridiculous. Although it was in a club, everyone was wearing their Tabaski best. The men in their grande bou-bous danced like they had wings. Everyone danced better than us Toubabs but it didn’t even matter because the concert itself was so beautiful. Even at 4am I summoned up all the energy I had to once again dance the night away.
And now, I am writing this blog post from one of the two balconies in my new apartment. There are palm-like trees out front, a plugged sink, and four wonderful roommates inside. So far only a broken couch and a leaking faucet have made us worry. The morning after our apartment-warming gathering our crazy proprietor said don’t worry about it, you are young!
So here is to the last month (WHAAT?) in Senegal!