Dafa Tang

Olivia Hill - Senegal


October 16, 2012

When I told my host family in Dakar that I would be going to Kebemer there were no words of encouragement.

“Tres difficile” my host grandma said to me as she shook her head and wagged her finger, “not Dakar.”

As the exchange of gestures and a few words went on I started to get more and more deflated.  The excitement from when I learned of my fate for the next 6.5 months slowly drained from my body and turned to the sand that covers everything here.

She described a place without wifi, electricity, someone to do the laundry, and where girls wearing pants is abnormal.

I was angry my family thought I was just some tubab who was not prepared to leave her luxuries behind. 

I wasn’t able to say that I was more than willing to wash my own clothes, and go without wifi.  I knew living in Senegal would not be easy when I signed up for the program, but the only thing I could say was “Je comprend.” It was unbelievably frustrating.  At that moment I wanted nothing more than to prove them wrong.

Now that I’ve been in Kebemer for two week I wonder if my grandma has ever been here, or if she had just been making wild accusations based on hearsay.  She was right when she said it is not Dakar, but was wrong when she thought the way of life here would break me.

In fact, I enjoy many of the luxuries I enjoyed in Dakar such as wifi (nearby), television (my new favorite show is a French-dubbed bollywood soap opera), and most importantly, a fan.  I will wash my own clothes (with the help of suma yaay), but I’m starting to think washing by hand is a skill more people should have. 

It reminded me of when I told people in the states that I was going to Senegal.  People immediately thought of death, Islamic extremists, and no electricity.  None of which are a problem.

Kebemer will be difficult; learning Wolof (and everyone’s name) will be one of the hardest things I ever do, and “dafa tang (it is hot)” is a phrase I hear often.  However, the sweat that forms my fluency will only enrich my experience.  It has to get a lot hotter for me to pack up and fly home.

Olivia Hill