Blog 3: A City Well-Lived

Welcome to Tivaouane! This map shows the memories I have made over the past six months.

Things to know:

Tivaouane- I can only imagine how you are saying it in your head, let my help you out, it is pronounced Tee-wah-wuan. Tiva has a population of about 40,000. This is the second most urban site after Thies for GCY placements in Senegal. Therefore, we have gotten to know aspects of both village and city life. For instance, Tiva is still too big for us to meet everyone but when asked where we live, most people know our family members (particularly our Yaays). Being in Tiva has saved us money, as we are able to walk everywhere and there really isn’t anything to spend our money on (besides fruit and fabric). Unlike Thies, we do not have supermarkets (Auchan), cafes (so no Wi-Fi or places to hang out outside of our homes), or access to the same number of products (we stock up when we can). Though, we differ from smaller locations as getting run over is still a concern, we get decent internet service, our power/water is more consistent, and our market is always open.

Thies- Cleary pronounced, Chess. This is the most urban site placement; the city holds the most fellows and the GCY office is located here. This city is considerably larger than Tivaouane. While in Thies, we typically visit Big Faim (a hotel/restaurant with Wi-Fi, avoid the burgers and pizza), Auchan (a supermarket chain) and everyone’s favorite, O Peche Mignon (a great gelato place with good prices, big portions and Wi-Fi).

The fellows in Tiva- Assa, Maguette, Ramatoulaye and Salka (Host families in Senegal give their fellows new names).

Ngente- A baby-naming ceremony that occurs a few weeks after a baby is born. The day will be spent greeting people, sitting around for hours, hopefully dancing, and eating various rounds of food (including laax, chep bu yapp, and drinks).

Apprenticeship Placements- In Senegal, most fellows were given two apprenticeships. We never considered our lives in Tivaouane as ‘volunteering’, as this city has been and will continue to be fine. We are simply living here and happen to spend our time helping teach and tailor when we are not trying to connect with our communities.

Babs- Our beloved tailoring supervisor, Babacar Mbengue.

Sept-place- Very used cars that hold seven passengers. A common way to travel around Senegal as the fare is cheaper since you share the cost with others, the cheaper alternative is the mini bus, but those take longer to fill up with passengers(I have waited well over 30 minutes before).

Watir- A horse-drawn cart, either used as a means of transport around town or for moving goods. If taking one, make sure to hold on tight…

Cerviche- A common gift to give to your family when returning home from somewhere, typically fruit or snacks.

Yaay- “Mom” in Wolof

Attaya- A popular tea in Senegal that is typically shared post-lunch or in the evenings. There is a hierarchal system in the drinking order as everyone shares the same two cups. Attaya is not meant to be fast as it is brewed and then poured in a particular fashion to maximize the amount of foam bubbles in the cup (only just recently learned that you are not supposed to drink the foam, as it should be saved for the next person).

Teranga- An aspect of Senegalese culture that makes household warm and welcoming. Essentially, “my house is your house.”

Pressea- a popular juice brand, that quickly became the fellows’ drink of choice (unless you want apple juice, in that case check out Valencia or Auchan).

Chakari- A type of grain served typically for dinner, difficult to describe, you’ll see when you get here.

Boutiques- Corner stores that are found everywhere.

Motorcycle men spots- Motorcycles are common means of transport around town, these spots are where the men who drive the motorcycles hang out while waiting for customers. We try to avoid these spots if possible.

Bisap- Hibiscus juice, it will be a dark red color.

Bouy- Juice made from Baobab seeds, it will be tan and have a thicker consistency.



1.           Lycée: The local public high school where Assa helps teach English and my oldest sister is a student. Schools here follow the French system and the students at Lycée range from mid-teens to early 20s. I have been told the school also has an impressive English club.

2.           EDK Station: This chain is found all over Senegal. EDK’s usually include a gas station, bakery, small store and fast food restaurant (with a rather interesting take on cheeseburgers….).

3.           Dem Dikk Station: I highly recommend taking this bus chain if you are headed to Dakar as they really do follow safety regulations (Trust me, I’ve tried to get them to bend the rules and they wouldn’t). These buses have routes all over Senegal and are reasonably priced.

4.           Thies Garage: An overwhelming place, but also your best chance to get out of Tiva. How it works: You approach the crowd of men, simply say where you are headed and then follow their directions. You will be shepherded into either a mini-bus or sept-place that will be less uptight about rules, just be glad if you are not next to an open door as you go down the highway. It is also a good destination for last minute cerviche for host families.

5.           Fruit Lady: Finding her made my day, actually week! Unfortunately, she is out of our way as we met her while walking to the Thies Garage. She always greets us with a smile and has a nice fruit stand.

6.           Funeral: My Yaay hosted a 40th day anniversary funeral at this home and invited all of the Fellows in Tivaouane. The event’s activities were similar to a Ngente, sitting and eating. A memorable day due to the goodie bags we received at the end.

7.           Vegetable Market: This marketplace is known for selling vegetables, though don’t be misled in to thinking vegetables are going to be a large part of your diet. Here you will find a whole network of repetitive stalls with older women selling products (largely fish and vegetables).

8.           Lisa Dabo’s Boutique: Maguette’s host Yaay sells a wide variety of beauty products, household items and fabrics. Admittedly, I am biased, but she really does have nice stuff.

9.           Football Stadium: The stadium holds various soccer games throughout the year here. While the game goes on, the crowds of passionate fans will be chanting and playing drums for their teams and a large variety of snacks will be sold outside of the stadium. If you go, expect a long night and that your friends may potentially fall asleep (@Assa). If possible, go to the city finals, the match occurs in the Fall and the whole city lights up for a couple weeks as neighborhood teams compete against each other. I went with Babs and luckily the best team won (my neighborhood, Fogny)!

10.         Maguette’s House: Keur Lisa Dabo (in the Medin District), Mags’ house is filled with a large family (even larger now, congratulations Awa!) that loves their fellow ferociously. Mags’ host sister-in-law also makes some of the best attaya.

11.         Galaxy Sports: A gym, not a great gym, but a gym nonetheless. I went here once for a dance/aerobic class with Assa, we’ve been meaning to go back…

12.         Fruit Guy: Our original Fruit Guy, easily spotted by his nonchalant facial expression and off-brand air pods. Unlike other fruit vendors he operates from a building.

13.         The Store: The one store. Bit overpriced but a good stop on our way home from Wolof class. They have a decently wide selection of items, our favorites include ice cream, Pringles and cold Presseas.

14.         Assa’s House: Keur Mame Djara (in the Ndoutt District), Assa’s house is a busy place with family members, friends, and chakari buyers always filtering in and out.

15.         Accra Place: Accra are deep-fried bean balls? I think. Either way, they are really yummy.

16.         Orange Data: While you might not expect it, you will have connection while in Senegal. GCY gives you data every month that can be used for internet (if you want Wi-Fi head to Thies). This is our main spot to refill on our internet credit, but Orange data could be bought almost every block. Good luck figuring out Orange’s confusing data credit system, we didn’t.

17.         Elementary School: A public elementary school, my youngest sister goes here. Schools typically start at 8am, everyone comes back home for lunch before returning to class. Afterwards, most students have evening classes at private schools that can run as late as 9pm.

18.         Central Market: The market is a large part of downtown Tiva, this is a busy area with shops and street vendors. Make sure to look out for the cars, semi-trucks, watirs and motorcycles.

19.         Ablaye’s Tailoring Shop: A family friend of Assa. A good tailor who hopes to open his own shop in Dakar one day. Go support!

20.         The Fabric Store: Buying fabric is a highly addicting, and somewhat expensive, hobby. There are gorgeous wax fabrics being sold everywhere. This store just happens to be Babs’ favorite place as he gets a discount due to being “friends” with the owner. To be honest, not the best selection of wax, keep looking around before purchasing.

21.         Basketball Court: This basketball court is in front of another local public elementary school. It becomes busy in the evenings with local teams practicing, including an all-girls team.

22.         New Fruit Guy: Our new Fruit Guy, who is a nicer version of our old one, air pods and everything. We always greet him, even if we are too broke to purchase fruit. It’s hard to feel healthy here, but at least there is good fruit (year-round: oranges, green apples, bananas; seasonal: mangos, watermelon).

23.         The Pink Mosque: Tivaouane is a religious center and every year thousands of people come for Gamou which celebrates the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday.

24.         The Grand Mosque: I am quite familiar with this mosque as I live across from it. The mosque has a large spire that is visible from all over the city (useful when lost). Being near a mosque can mean early morning calls to prayer and constant noise, even as I type this, I can hear music/prayers coming from the mosque. To be honest, the mosque has never bothered me (most of the time I barely notice it), the real culprit for me being awake at 5am is the damn rooster next door.

25.         Pire Garage: There is a garage behind the Grand Mosque that has sept-places to Pire. We used it once and it was a decent enough experience, would use again.

26.         Tailoring and Bab’s: The pink is a gated area with various artisan stalls (blacksmith, jewelry makers, tailors). The red square is one of our favorite places: Babacar’s Atelier de Couture. We come here at least three times a week. Here you will find a very (very) talkative man who will quickly claim you as his child. Days spent here will include some sewing, a lot of greetings and fruitless efforts to find the needle you just lost.

27.         Bisap Place: Where my neighbor sells frozen Bisap from her house. Every family seems to have a go-to Bisap seller, this is mine.

28.         Salka’s House: Keur Bintou Aw (in the Fogny District, which I am still apparently unable to pronounce), my house is in the back of a compound, past the goats. It boasts a pretty amazing roof with a good view of the Grand Mosque and flocks of birds.

29.         Snack Ladies: During school hours, the entrance of the school is lined with ladies selling breakfast and snacks (there is also another fruit guy, but he tried to charge me 200 for a banana). I highly recommend the beignets and when it’s especially hot (as Tiva will be in the 100s/30s year-round) get some frozen Bisap and Bouy.

30.         CEM: A public middle school, if not at Babs’ or my home I will likely be here. CEM has been a large part of my life in Tiva since the beginning. At CEM I take Wolof classes (taught by Pape, an English teacher in Thies who will go off on some of the most unpredictable tangents) with my regional cohort. I come here twice a week to help teach English alongside Mr. Sambou and I am starting to participate in the school’s English club. Also, for almost two months I joined the girls handball team.

31.         Another public Elementary school

32.         Hospital

33.         Police Station

34.         Gendermarie (National Army)

35.         The Road: Tiva is split by this main road and when there is high traffic, crossing it feels like a death sentence. There are no traffic lights, stop signs, cross walks, etc. you just have to wait for the opportune moment and hope for the best. I cross this part of the road often in order to get to CEM.

36.         Fields: This is an open space around the train tracks that converts into soccer fields every evening. There was a lot of tall grass earlier in the year and typically you will see some donkeys grazing. This is my favorite part of the walk to and from CEM as its typically green and peaceful.

37.         Where the Train stops: There are some rail roads that run through Tiva for old trains carrying natural resources. When stopping in Tiva, this is the spot. Instead of going around, most people will jump the train. Don’t do that. What a dumb idea, just add the couple extra minutes it takes to walk around the train.

38.         Train Station: An old train station, I don’t have any memories here, I just pass it a lot.

39.         Total Station: This gas station is the busiest part of Tivaouane as it is at the intersection between roads to the major cities of Mboro or St. Louis. This is also where you will most likely be dropped off when coming back from Thies in public transport.

40.         ATM: There are a couple ATMs in Tiva luckily, this is the one that the fellows prefer. Bonus: the ATM is in a room with a slightly functioning AC.

41.         My Yaay’s Restaurant: My Yaay used to own a restaurant. It’s a bright lime green building and it functioned a bit differently from what you may be imagining. The ingredients were bought daily and everything was cooked using a gas tank stove. My Yaay would make one dish and sold that to her typical customers who brought their large communal bowls every day for lunch. It took me four days to know what’s going on, but if I understood correctly, she is now renting the restaurant to a woman named Ida as my Yaay needed to rest. If you are looking for a cheap dinner in Tiva, Ida makes good Fatayas.

42.         Pick-up Spot: Where Rama and I ask our Team Leader Sam to pick us up for GCY events.

43.         Ramatoulaye’s House: Keur Omar Dieng (in the Arafat District), we quickly noticed Ramatoulaye’s house is in a nicer section of town as the streets are wider and the houses look nicer. Her host family is one of my favorites, they also give us fruit when we visit (while here, free fruit has been one of fastest way to our hearts). Rama also has a very respectable roof, great for dance parties with host siblings and watching the sunrise during all-nighters, as long as you don’t mind the weird-looking chickens waiting to be sold.

44.         CEM 4: Another public middle school, this is where Ramatoulaye helps teach English and my two middle sisters are students here.

45.         Center for People with Disabilities: Ramatoulaye’s second apprenticeship, at first, she helped at their day care (I went along a couple times… some of our most difficult and overwhelming experiences happened there) before quickly switching to help with hand-sewing.


A.           Light Teal spots- Houses we went to for Ngentes

B.           Red dots- Boutiques we frequent

C.           Light Orange spots- Motorcycle Men spots

D.          Red arrows- Ramatoulaye and my route to CEM