As Salaam Aleykum,
In Wolof this means “Peace be with you” and it is probably the most important phrase to know because you say it whenever you are greeting someone (whether they are in your family, your friends or a stranger on the street). Peace be with you signifies the sense of community and partnership between all people here and is just one example of the way people look after each other. Much of this stems from the fact that 95% of the population is Muslim, which permeates all facets of their lives. Senegal is truly le pays de la teranga –meaning the country of hospitality, and they never let you forget it!
I have been in Yoff for three full days now, and for such a short time I feel like I’ve experienced a years worth on new things! I have one of my host brothers (Serigne) to thank for that because he has been like my personal guide from the moment he picked me up at the airport. He speaks French very well, and seems to understand my broken sentences so communication is pretty good. He’s always telling me, “Kahti (my name in Senegalese), if there’s anything you need or any question you have you must ask me, even if it’s the middle of the night” (rough translation from French).
As I mentioned Serigne (pronounced Sereen) is just one of my many host siblings. I’m still not sure exactly who all lives here and how they’re related, but the core family that is here all the time is Mama Africa (right) and Papa, Serigne, Cissé (boy in his late 20s), Marie (daughter, 24 years old), Nadu (house maid in her 20s who is part of the family), Assane (son, 21 years old) and Mustafa (son, about 8 or 9 years old). From time to time I meet others that seem to be living here, they are mostly males in their mid 20s, but they don’t eat with the family. I guess you could think of it as a boarding house, but everyone is treated like family. Everyone speaks wolof as a first language, but depending on how far they got in school they speak French as well. As a result, I really doubt that my French will be much improved when I return, but I may have a good handle on Wolof.
The house itself has three floors. The kitchen, living room area and a few bedrooms are on the first floor. Up the stairs which are partially outdoors the second floor has some tenants and finally the third floor I have my own room and down the hall is where a few of the boys sleep. Where I live couldn’t be better situated. I’m just a five min walk from the beach, a 2 min walk from work and around the corner from where the program director (Marian) lives.
Thursday, when I arrived, I spent most of the day with my new family. In the afternoon my host siblings took me to the beach to hang out, swim and drink tea! It was so beautiful, and the water was great!In the picture from left to right is Nadu, me, ?, Marie, and in front is Cissé.
The rhythm of life:From the beat of the Tamtam in the street to the pauses for prayer and the coming together for meals, Senegal has a rhythm. Sitting in my room I can always hear a drum being played somewhere, and often you can hear a voice singing as well. I had the unique opportunity to get a sampling of all of Africa’s arts this Friday at the opening cerimonies of Africa’s third edition of the Festival Mondial des Artes Negres (FesMAN) being held here in Dakar! This is a Festival lasting till the end of December that brings in artistes, musicians and lectors from all over the World, and the opening ceremonies featured renown artists from Senegal and around the world. Friday night Serigne and I took a short bus ride to the stadium where there was free admission to the spectacle! From seven until midnight there was a mixture of music and dance, video, speakers and fireworks. Some of the artists that preformed are known worldwide (Angélique Kidjo, Youssou Ndour, Doudou Ndiaye Rose, Mahotella Queens, Minyeshu, Ismaël Lô, Baba Maal, Manu Dibango). Speakers included the president of Senegal (M. Wade), and many other presidents from African countries. It is an experience that I’ll never ever forget! To the right is a picture of one performance that included at least 500 people in traditional clothes dancing to music and a light show! To the left is a picture of Serigne in the crowd at the opening ceremonies.