This is a blog post about food in Dakar, Senegal.
- Breakfast: chocopain (chocolate spread) and bread with kinkileba tea
- Lunch: Sandwich omelette frites at CIEE study center – This is literally just eggs and fries with ketchup and mayo in a massive sandwich and I LOVE it (500 CFA = 82 cents)
- Dinner: Doorat which is an entire grilled fish with fries, mayo, and yassa (an onion sauce)
- Breakfast: bread and chocolate
- Lunch: Ceebujën (this means rice and fish in Wolof)
- Snack: biscrème cookies (100CFA at all of the nearby boutiques = 16 cents)
- Dinner: ndambe which is pretty much just a massive plate of beans with more bread
- Breakfast: surprise surprise more bread, chocolate, and tea (I don’t hate it tho)
- Lunch: yassa poisson which is a fish with the yassa onion sauce, and white rice. This was the plat du jour at CIEE (1000 CFA = $1.63)
- Dinner: Spaghetti with an onion and meat sauce
...continue reading "What’s in my stomach??"
This past weekend I traveled with my public health class three hours outside of Dakar to a village called Niarhar, in the Fatick region. I had never taken a public health course before, and chose this one at the beginning of the semester because I thought that Senegal would provide an interesting context to learn about the subject. We hadn’t realized until we arrived that we were in the town that our professor is from, and we were able to meet his entire family.
The point of the trip was to complete an “enquête”, or survey, that consisted of finding 40 kids and asking their parents questions regarding their children’s health. The class was split into 3 groups determined by the kids’ ages. I was in a group of 4 students charged with the task of finding the parents of 40 kids between the age of 3 and 5 years old.
Initially when our professor described the survey that we would be conducting, I was a bit apprehensive towards the idea of showing up to a village and asking parents medical questions regarding their children, especially considering none of us are actually studying medicine. The village itself was mostly Serer, and each group was provided a translator, meaning my already weak Wolof wasn’t useful for the most part.
We asked questions like age of child, sex, is he or she vaccinated, total # of children in household, has he or she been sick within the last month, did he or she go to the dispensiaire, was traditional healing used, what was the treatment, do you face obstacles in going to the local hospital, parents’ education level, and where they receive their information regarding health. I found that certain parents were more than willing to answer these questions for us, whereas others seemed a bit wary. In hindsight, I still feel uncomfortable about certain aspects of the experience.
...continue reading "Public Health Excursion"
We’ve reached the point of the semester when it feels as if I’ve fallen into a routine and the days are flying by. Towards the beginning, I was constantly confronting new ideas, cultural differences, and what seemed at the time to be insurmountable obstacles. While I still face (plenty of) obstacles, it’s starting to feel like things are comfortable. At face value, comfort doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation, however I realize I chose to study abroad in order to push myself beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone.
The on site CIEE staff organized a meeting last week in which a former student came to talk to us about this very topic, which made me much more cognizant of how my falling back into a comfort zone could be negatively impacting not only my own study abroad experience, but also more importantly the people of Senegal.
The speaker, Jacob Winterstein, is a teacher and a poet based in Philly, so you already know he’s cool. His presentation pulled themes from an article called “The View from the Veranda: Understanding Today’s Colonial Student”, in which the author, Anthony Ogden, defines and discusses this study abroad student archetype. (No, a colonial student in this sense does not mean a student who comes from GW). After having just arrived in Senegal, I had spoken with my friends studying abroad in South Africa and Rwanda (hello Emily and Carly) about feeling like I did not have a right to live here. I was struggling to understand my place and Carly said to me, “Ecotourism and voluntourism are topics, why don’t ppl write about educational tourism???”. Well, Carly, have I got the article for you.
...continue reading "To be a Colonial"
This past week all 40 CIEE students traveled across every region of Senegal to complete a mandatory part of the program: the rural visit. We had heard a couple of horror stories (real or not I’ll never know) about rural visits from semesters past; students getting lost without being able to speak the local language, people losing all of their money, and there was even the story of a girl getting bit by some mysterious bug and going blind for a bit (I actually met this girl and she can in fact see again) .
The anticipation was intense, and only made worse by the fact that we would be traveling independently of our program staff/host families. A few days before we left, we were charged with the task of ranking our top three locations that we wanted to visit while taking into account whether or not we wanted to stay with a peace corps volunteer, their specific sector within the peace corps, travel distance, and whether or not we wanted to travel with another CIEE student.
I am an extremely indecisive person, and normally when given a few options I ALWAYS pick the wrong one. So I decided to take the list of places and google each of them. In doing so, I was the very last person to turn in my ranked villages and ended up being assigned to one that was not where I had hoped to go and not in the sector that I had hoped to observe. I need to be less indecisive. That being said, I was still placed with peace corps like I had hoped, and I was partnered with another student who is absolutely marvelous. (Shout out to Sarah for always laughing, for sharing her “meta moments”, and for almost passing out on the bush car then sticking through the rest of the trip like a champ). In hindsight, I am extremely grateful for the week I had, the people I met, and the honest and thought provoking insight I received from my Peace Corps volunteer host, Taryn.
On Monday, with travel instructions and duffle bag in hand, I set out to take a taxi from my home to the gare. Sarah and I were meeting there that morning so that we could take the sept-place together to Linguère, which is the town closest to the village we stayed in. Luckily we got there within minutes of each other because right when I stepped out of the cab there were a bunch of men asking me where I was going and offering to lead me there.
...continue reading "Rural visits: mosquitos, bush cars, and a full moon"
Things haven’t been particularly easy in this third week, but overall I’m really and truly enjoying myself and loving it here in Dakar. There is definitely a more relaxed vibe here, and no one is ever too rushed to stop and ask how you're doing. Now that I’ve started my internship and found myself in a routine of sorts, I thought I’d outline what a typical week looks like for anyone who may be curious, or interested in this program. (note: details vary for everyone. Except for the part about not having toilet paper. That's definitely a constant.)
Mondays and Wednesdays are for classes. I wake up around 6:45, shower, get ready, eat breakfast (which is always a giant piece of baguette with chocopain and tea), and catch the bus around 8:00 with some other students who live in my neighborhood. The bus stop is only a five-minute walk from my house and the stop where we get off is about ten minutes from the CIEE study center.
We normally arrive at the study center somewhere between 8:30 and 8:45. Classes start at 9 (however I have the first time slot free so I try to get some homework done during that time), and each one is an hour and fifteen minutes. After my free space I have beginner’s Wolof, public health, lunch, democracy and governance, and advanced French for development studies, all of which are in French. For lunch, we can leave to buy food, go home, or even ask our families to pack us a lunch, but normally we eat on the roof terrace where there is a small kitchen with a kind woman named Marie who sells spectacular food. There’s a menu consisting of massive sandwiches on entire baguettes or you can by the “plat du jour”. Each of those cost 1,000 CFA francs which is equivalent to about $1.60. Last week I had the plat du jour, which was a plate of couscous and beef, and it was absolutely fantastic.
...continue reading "Une semaine à Dakar"
It has now been two full weeks since I arrived in Dakar, and my self perception has evolved only in the sense that my “identity” abroad has become much more complex and difficult to reconcile.
In almost everything I do I wonder how Senegalese nationals perceive me and my actions, as well as how that may reflect on the United States. Given the current political climate in the US, it is extremely common to hear something along the lines of, “Hey, what does Donald Trump think he’s doing??” as soon as people learn I am American. Living with a Muslim family in a country where 95% of people practice Islam, it’s difficult to discuss Trump’s policies, specifically his executive order barring travel from 7 predominantly Muslim countries.
When I was eating lunch with a friend at the study center last week, a local student approached us and asked us why Americans have the right to travel wherever they want then ban people on the basis of religion. As an American fortunate enough to go abroad to a country where I have been accepted and welcomed with open arms, I had no answer for him. Since the executive order was put in place, I have noticed that I am asked about who I voted for much more frequently.
My homestay family has the news on everyday, and we had a very in depth conversation about their feelings on the ban. I have always known that America’s actions affect the world, but I don’t think I was as cognizant of just how influential these policies are beyond the affected countries, even if just in changing the course of day to day conversation.
...continue reading "Student?? Guest??? TOURIST???? AMERICAN!!"
This is a question I have received A LOT since making the decision to study abroad in Dakar, especially within the last couple of weeks as I prepared for my departure. I have noticed that the answer I give to this question varies depending on who is asking. My close friends and family tended to ask why I chose to study abroad in Senegal with genuine curiosity. They wanted to learn more about what went into making this decision, and to hear about the kind of experiences that I could have.
HOWEVER, the majority of reactions I received usually followed the same predictable dialogue consisting of, “Where is that?” to which I would say “West Africa,” which usually produced a contemptuous tone when they would proceed to ask, “why??” coupled with a face that bordered somewhere between confusion, judgment, shock, and distaste, along with the occasional offensive comment.
While most reactions were not that extreme, a common thread and I think the worst part of these interactions has been seeing the immediate reactionary facial expressions to the word, “Africa”. My friends at GW were pretty much all so supportive and inquisitive, that when I came home for winter break the blatant racism that I sometimes saw from my coworkers and complete strangers directed towards an entire continent was shocking. I hope to be able to know how to react better to these comments upon my return.
...continue reading "So why Senegal??"
It has now been exactly one week since I arrived in Senegal, but it has been one of the longest weeks of my life. I think I was still in denial that I was studying abroad until leaving the airport in Dakar, but it has been a whirlwind since then. A few CIEE staff members were waiting for us after we got our luggage, and we took a small bus/van to immediately drop us off at our respective homestays.
The three neighborhoods in Dakar where CIEE students are placed are Ouakam (where I live), Mermoz, and Sacre-Cœur 3. Ouakam is the only neighborhood that requires using public transport to go to the study center. When I originally found this out, I was a bit apprehensive considering I still go the wrong way on the DC metro or completely miss my stop when I don’t pay enough attention. After having taken the bus for a week now, I realize that the 30 minute commute has helped me to better orient myself and get to know the other 10 students who live in Ouakam.
Originally when I got off of the bus, it seemed a little abrupt going straight to my homestay from the airport, especially since I was one of the first to be dropped off. When we arrived my host brother was waiting for me and he drove me back to the house. It was a fast drive, but on the way he asked me a couple of questions (still have no clue what he was saying) and when I gave him the deer in headlights face that my whole family is probably used to at this point, he said, “Don’t you speak French???” My comprehension has improved a good amount since then, so I think I just needed time to adjust to the Senegalese accent as well as how quickly they speak.
...continue reading ""Don’t you speak French???""
The biggest challenge for me during my volunteer work was feeling like I fit in at my host organization, ImagiNation Afrika. Although it was run by an American and most of the other people who worked there spoke English, I felt like I should speak French, and most of the time I was really shy so I didn’t talk to people as much as I would have liked to looking back on it now with some 20/20 hindsight. I think I was especially self-conscious of my French-speaking abilities because many Americans are often not very nice to people who go to the US and don’t speak English very well. I doubt people here would have been equally as judgmental but I finally realized that that was the reason I felt so shy.
Things got better when I started working with the Americans at University of Michigan who are helping with the Men na Nekk multimedia project. Feeling like I had something that I was contributing to the organization (there wasn’t very much work to be done towards the beginning) and feeling like I had a reason to be there gave me a better sense of belonging.
Since the Men na Nekk project is still in its beginning stages and there aren’t any visible results yet, it’s hard to say that I feel particularly proud of any accomplishment so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep contact with some people at the organization and hear about how the final project turns out. Once I see ImagiNation Afrika start making a difference for real kids in the Casamance, then I’ll definitely feel proud that I was able to at least have a small part in that work.
...continue reading "Final Thoughts"
The last subject I wrote about was the challenges many countries would face now that Donald Trump is our President Elect. Developing countries especially will have a unique battle ahead as Mr. Trump has made it quite clear that his sole focus is on “Making America Great Again”. Despite this upsetting news my friends, family, and colleagues came together to fight for a great cause. Our fundraiser was very successful and the money we raised will go a long way for the refugees. The money that each individual donated will make all the difference in the life of a refugee who wants to pursue his education or even just make it another day with food on the table.
While I am proud we raised money I am even more proud of the fact that we brought something new to the table. P.A.R.I had never before held a fundraiser, which is pretty astounding considering it is a non-profit organization. P.A.R.I has always relied on private donors or the church to support its mission. While this is great, P.A.R.I is really straining to reach as many refugees as possible. By using contacts from the community, it is surprising to see how many people will come together under a great cause (even in a country that frowns upon homosexuality). Then again, compassion is something Senegal has in spades.
...continue reading "The End, but Not Really"