A Glimpse of My Four Days a Week

Emily Hess - Senegal


February 3, 2011

I’ve never heard a statement more true than, “life is always a surprise,” especially since I’ve been in my new homestay in a small village called Noflaye, just south of Dakar. Adjustment was hard at first, and it took a lot of time, but I can proudly say that I call Noflaye home today- without thinking about it first. So, in a summary, my home life is either completely boring or so busy I don’t have time to process it. And 9 times out of 10, something insane and unexpected just pops up, and then the entire schedule I thought I had is turned to shreds. Unpredictable is a good word to sum up most of this trip. But as basic as I can make it, my day in a nutshell is this:

On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays of every week, I have English Club at a private school in Rufisque called, “La Sagesse”, which means “wisdom” in English. I try to wake up at around 8:15 am so that I can catch a bus in time and won’t have trouble getting to the school. But of course, usually all the precautions I take to try to avoid insanity is usually in vain. Crazy things will happen; one of these days I’ll stop trying to control it.

Next on my list is of course, getting dressed and getting ready for the day. I’m lucky enough to have a bathroom that partially works on the other side of the house where the “neighbors” live. My house has two families living in it with a big open courtyard in the middle, like most Senegalese houses. So in order for me to go to the bathroom, I have to leave my room, walk outside a few feet to the other side of the house, turn the water on from the outside and go in. But I’m not complaining at all, believe me. I appreciate the little things in life, like toilets.

When I’m finished with that, it’s time for “ndekki”, which is the first meal of the day. My house is on a little patch of land I like to call, “The Island,” because it’s not dead smack in the middle of Noflaye, but a little up the road from it away from hustle and bustle and most of the other people that live in the village. There are good and bad things about this, but it’s nice in the morning to not have to kick my brain into French and Wolof right after waking up so I can talk to a lot of people moving about. So in order to get to the restaurant, where my family gives me breakfast, I walk across the “island” about 30 feet or so, and go into the little restaurant in the next building over. I usually greet the few people I see passing in the morning, and Coumba, my cousin, who works in the restaurant in the morning.

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I typically make my own breakfast and sometimes my coffee, so it gives me some time to decompress and prepare for the day. My host dad buys me chocolate for breakfast because he says it’s comforting to me so far from home. Typical Senegalese breakfast is bread with some kind of spread and instant coffee or tea. So I eat my bread and drink my coffee and leave at around 9:00 a.m., God willing.

The next event on my list is special to me alone, public transportation to work. I have to take two buses and two taxis every day that I work, sometimes three taxis if I can’t find a bus, so at first this was a very intricate and very daunting process in order to get to school especially back when I spoke no Wolof, little French, and had no knowledge of the layout of the city of Rufisque. But I got the hang of it, and now I typically don’t have problems. Except for an unexpected surprise like the bus breaking down, the taxi getting pulled over by cops, or the bus dropping me off at the edge of the city and turning around, I usually get a bus to pick me up in half an hour or less, and I usually am close to the garage where I can get a taxi to the neighborhood my school is in. This is not always the case, but on good days, I don’t have trouble. So on good days, I make it to the garage by about 9:45 or a little earlier. After the bus, I walk to the far right side of a large patch of land called the “garage” right at the most common intersection in Rufisque. This “garage” is filled with a lot of different things: people, animals, food and fruit for sale, cars, taximen, and the occasional beggar. It can often be a busy and overwhelming place, but I keep my head away from distractions and make my way to the taxis that I know go to my neighborhood. When I find a taxi, the driver usually waits for the car to fill up, sometimes I get lucky and the car only needs me to take off, but sometimes I’m waiting for up to half an hour, depending on the day.

I take this taxi to HLM, the name of the neighborhood, and get out at the big soccer field in the middle. I then walk through rows of houses and pass a few boutiques until I arrive to see sometimes hundreds of the students gathered outside in between classes buying ice cream and fruit and sandwiches that are sold by local women and mothers of some of the students right out in front of the building. I usually arrive here at around 10:00 or so. I go into the school greet teachers, students, my boss, and my friends, and make my way off to another part of the neighborhood to work on the day’s lesson and study. I meet up with the Senegalese student name Elhadji who is also an apprentice from a university in Sebi typically around this time and we go to my boss’ house to begin the day’s lesson and study and rest a little. Except on Fridays when I have English Club in the morning, we have English club right after lunch up until about 6 p.m. And then I take all the aforementioned in reverse to go back home.

When life isn’t crazy and unexpected, this is my four days a week.

Emily Hess