I wake up around 6:45 each morning in harmony with the call to prayer bellowing from the mosque across the street from my house. My room is on the second floor and opens up to a terrace, giving me a full view of the mosque from my bed. I walk downstairs, lantern in hand if the power is out, to shower and brush my teeth. I pass my host mom without speaking- we're not supposed to greet them until we are presentable. Since all clothes are washed by hand, it is custom to wash your own underwear in the shower, a practice which I enjoy as it leaves me with no shortage of undergarments. With body fresh and teeth shiny, I can then greet my host mom with the set (translated here) greetings: "How are you? How did you pass the night? How has the morning been?" The responses are set and negative answers do not receive further questions- you are participating in a formality. Time for discussion occurs later, though I've yet to be privy to it. Breakfast is tea and half of a baguette. White bread, white rice, and white potatoes constitute most of what my host family eats. We, the students, all supplement our home diets with yogurt, nuts, grains, and fibrous fruits on the way to school. After breakfast, I pack up my stuff, give my host mom an "a tout a l'heure"(French) or "ba becceg" (Wolof) and head out into the new familiar.
A crowded road divides my house from the salmon-stuccoed mosque in front. The road carries taxis, horse-drawn carts loaded with grain, back-packed students, mothers with children atop, dogs, cats, trash, and dust. It is quite a scene regardless of the hour and is made all the more poignant as I am the only white-skinned person in view. At least until I round the corner of the mosque and meet up with the other toubabs (white foreigners) in our group. We gather by a coffee cart, eagerly recounting the bizarrities of our night passed in the wild alien of our host homes. Everything is story-worthy for us; everything carries weight.
Who slept the whole night? Who had to wipe with water (instead of toilet paper)? An alternative to the fish and rice that fills our stomachs most evenings? Who was watching the Indian soap opera with their family? Language barriers, faulty plumbing systems, power cuts in the middle of a shower. We discuss it all as we walk to school, passing the strangers-turned-friends selling phone cards. Passing the Belle Viande meat truck selling whole quarters of beef from the back of the trailer. Passing the stopped Car-Rapide. Passing the fruit vendor who teaches us Wolof. Walking along the Route de Ouakam, we say salaamaalekum to everyone, eager to use the little Wolof/Arabic we know. Then, we cross the road, dodging the taxis, buses, and horses, and enter our school grounds, a quiet grassy walled haven from our new typical.
This is the morning.