A week in to the summer session, I have many thoughts and reflections incoherently bouncing around in my head. To give myself some time to compile them and to depict what the days have been like so far, here are a few teasers.
We all arrived over the course of three days (May 31-June 2). Unlike other trips that allow for more initial autonomy, living here in Dakar has required orientation to every little detail. Firstly, electricity. Since 2005, the power cuts that previously impeded upon the summer months’ happenings have become a daily, and yet unpredictable, occurrence, varying in length and frequency. I have since learned to take showers in the dark and am slowly–very slowly– becoming accustomed to walking through unlit (and unmarked) alleys and streets at night. Of course, all who live in Senegal navigate “les découpages de current” with minimal affect. (Aside: I was visiting a friend of my host brother last night who asked me if I had seen “les découpages de current”. Thinking he, a Muslim, had asked if I had seen “les découpages du Qu’ran” (cutting or tearing of the Qu’ran), I felt like I was being asked if I participate in cult activity. Needless to say, I assured him that I would be unlikely to associate with anyone committing such acts. When my host brother corrected me, I thought it best not to explain what I thought he said.)
Secondly, getting around Dakar inevitably requires using the public transportation available. Car Rapides are much like the tap-taps of Haiti and the DR: buses with a paint job to best any kindergarten classroom that follow an understood, but unmarked, route, with variable prices and no consistent schedule. To know where the CR is going, you listen well to the apprenti (apprentice) hanging from the back of the bus, who will be shouting the end destination. Assuming you know when to, getting off the CR requires a simple tap-tap on the metal of the vehicle and then a climb, a push, and a squeeze out the back door. Not advised for the claustrophobic. Of course, for the American equivalent of $0.25, it is hard to beat. Ndiage Ndiaye (Sounds like “Jog ‘n Jy”) is a long, more crowded version of the Car Rapides and the Tata is a bigger Ndiage Ndiaye imported from India. And taxis for those of us who like to get ripped off.
Navigating Dakarois life has amounted to a woefully humanizing affect: at home, I do my best to be aware, cultural, and suave. Here, I find myself here entirely uninformed. Not to mention personal independence, which has gone out the window with my vegetarianism. Think Big Fat Greek Wedding: “You don’t eat no meat?” Well, I do here.
More to come on the host family, Toubabs, my internship, dance class, travel, and all things bartered.