(Photo taken by my three year old host niece. Excuse the blurriness. She’s just starting to master her photography skills.)
I have been here a month.
I can’t believe it has been an entire, full month. Some days time flies past me, racing at shocking speeds before my eyes and dragging me along with it. On other days I see time out of the corner of my eye, dragging its feet and moving with a level of lethargy that would make a sloth jealous. I’ve seen time from all angles here. And what I’ve learnt is that time is definitely a social construct that I will never understand. Perhaps this is why I never properly learnt how to read a clock (this is the excuse I’m going to stick with from now on).
So although time is incomprehensible to me, I will still attempt to give you a description of my day. A glimpse into the life of Oumy Sarr (my Senegalese name). From the moment my eyes open to the moment I succumb to exhaustion at the end of the day.
My alarm sounds and causes me immense amounts of panic, which is enough to wake me out of my comfortable sleep. It is the same sound I used throughout my IB exams, so it isn’t hard to see why it might be effective at shocking me awake.
I groan, glance at the clock, and groan again. I think to myself, each and every morning without fail Do I really have to get up? And decide that yes, I do. Each morning I hope I can argue my more reasonable side back to sleep, but each morning she insists on doing productive things. So I get up, much to the dismay of my tired eyes.
Drag my half asleep self to my closet and take my malaria pill and my vitamins.
Walk to the bathroom to do bathroom things.
Not even 9 seconds later…
Run back towards my closet to make sure I took my malaria pill. Inspect the package at length. Think back to 1 minute ago and try to distinguish whether it’s yesterday’s events I’m remembering or whether I actually did take it this morning.
Run back to the bathroom and shower. Worry about being late. Remember that being late is as normal as breathing here and stop worrying. Worry again because I want to prove myself to absolutely everyone. While showering, have regular shower thoughts like ‘I wonder if the boutique will be open this morning?’, ‘I wonder if intelligent life forms exist outside of the Earth and if so are they green?” and ‘Gosh I hope it doesn’t rain on my way to work!’.
Get out of shower and immediately start sweating. Immediately. The sweat is impatient, and never waits to start doing what it does best. Keep attempting to dry off, and end up just redistributing the sweat to other locations. Realize my efforts are futile, but continue to try and mop up the sweat nonetheless.
Feel defeated and let the sweat become a part of the day’s outfit.
Get dressed and accept the sweat stains that have no doubt already blossomed across my t-shirt.
Sit quietly and wonder why I woke up that early. Pull out my book and read.
Make my way to the boutique, the one not even 20 seconds from my house’s gate. Greet those on the street, including my host mom who sells food at the boutique in the morning. Ask the boutique owner for my morning bread. “Jai ma mburu, fukki ak juroom!”. Nine times out of ten the boutiquier will repeat my sentence in a weird voice in an attempt to make fun of my North American accent. I make a face at him and then we both laugh and I leave to enjoy my sweet, sweet baguette.
Smother my baguette with chocopain, a Senegalese twist on nutella. Take a bite and realize that chocopain is definitely better than nutella. Pull out my book and read a little more while I wait for my leaving time to roll around.
Get stressed out by the fact that I might get dehydrated during the day if I don’t drink an entire litre of water right now. Decide there is no better time than the present and drink enough water to put my dehydration worries to rest.
Gather my things and walk to the bus. Yesterday I walked past a man that asked me where I was going. He asked if it was important. I asked why and he said I walk like I am on a mission. I laugh and continue to walk like I am on a mission towards the bus.
Patiently await the numero 7 bus which will no doubt come my way sooner or later. Usually it is closer to later than sooner. In general, the bus runs on its absolute own timetable of its own design, very loosely about every 15 minutes. Very loosely. I just stand there and hope I won’t be late.
Hop on the bus and hand my 100 CFA coin to the person beside me, who passes it down the line of people until it reaches the ticket person. The level of trust in the bus was shocking to me initially but now it’s normal. Handing your money down the line, there’s no question of if someone might take your coin. Within a few seconds my ticket will be passed back up the line to me, without fail each time. Usually there is no where to sit, so I stand almost pressed up against the glass. The bus has space to accommodate about 15 people, but there is always about 25 that manage to squeeze into the bus. Personal space doesn’t exist in the buses here in Thies.
Realize Hey! This is my stop! And jump off the bus. The bus doesn’t have doors, just an empty space where the door should be, so it isn’t hard to disembark. Sometimes I wave at the bus driver. They think I’m pretty weird. But it’s okay. At least I am enjoying myself.
Arrive to work and greet everyone that crosses my path. I work at two different apprenticeships, both of which are very different from each other. While I am at my apprenticeship, I try to learn as much as possible. The first few days, my most important tasks were to find the location of the toilet, to learn the names of those around me and try not to make myself look like an idiot. I may not have been able to fulfill the last one.
~1:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Lunch is another thing in Senegal that seems to run completely on its own schedule. It may float in at 1:00 pm (also known as 13h… Senegal runs on 24 hour time). The arrival time is questionable but the flavours never disappoint. We sit together on the floor and indulge. It’s great. Sometimes there’s even ataya, which I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get enough of.
Leave work and try to find my way to Inspection D’academie. Though I’m directionally challenged I can generally make my way there eventually. Sometimes I will stop by Auchan, the gigantic French supermarket on the way there to ‘browse’ (or rather stand in the air conditioning for a few minutes). I cross the street and brace myself as the cars race by, ignoring the rules of the road and the rules of common sense, weaving in and out of lanes like it’s a video game. Each time I manage to successfully cross I breathe a sigh of relief. Against all odds! I succeed.
Greet the other fellows at our Wolof language class and sit down in the hot and humid classroom. Stare at the blank chalkboard and brace myself for the embarrassment to come of mispronunciation and mistakes. I get more and more used to it every day. Luckily we get to have the best language teacher in all of Senegal (she is also the only language teacher that has taught me in Senegal, but she still deserves the title).
Language class ends and we all go our separate ways. We share stories between us of the strange and hilarious things that happen in our day to day lives as we leave. Like seeing a goat get into a taxi, eating chicken intestines for the first time or getting a marriage proposal in the market. I delight in these sharing times.
We take the bus home, tired from the day. I can feel the sweat on my skin and I dream all the way about the beautiful, cold shower I can take when I arrive back home.
Bid adieu to my fellow friend and neighbour Abdullah. Fist bump my brother who plays soccer on the makeshift field near my house. Say hello to everyone, absolutely everyone. Greet my family members when I arrive home and receive the best hugs ever from my little cousin and niece. I drag myself up my steps and jump into the shower as soon as I can. The relief is immediate and great. Definitely worth all the sweating the day brought.
Hang out with my little niece and nephew, Daouda and Maman Astou. They are one and three, and they definitely know how to tire someone out. I play games with them and let Maman Astou instruct me on how to jump from one tile to the next. They entertain me for hours on end. Sometimes Maman Astou will take my book that I am reading, hold it upside down in front of her and ‘read’. She just says a bunch of random Wolof words stringed together. Sometimes she’ll instruct me to read it out loud to her and every now and then she’ll shout one of the English words that she likes, like “Alaska!” Or “Wild!”. They never cease to entertain me with all their shenanigans.
Help my host sister to cook dinner. We talk about our days and she laughs at the stories of my interactions on the street. We cook outside, and look at the stars as we cook.
~9:00 pm – 10:00 pm
We eat dinner. It’s great. Sometimes we eat downstairs with everyone or sometimes it’s a small group of us upstairs. Whether it is one or the other it is always good. Filled with conversation and laughter, I find myself delighted when I can figure out what my family is saying in their quick versed Wolof. I understand more and more as time goes on, and each time I know what they’re saying I repeat the sentence with a look of absolute unadulterated glee on my face. We all laugh.
10:30 pm – 11:30 pm
I retreat back to my room, absolutely and completely exhausted by the busy nature of the day. I collapse into bed and pull out a book, or sometimes listen to music. I always sweat profusely in my bed, regardless of whether or not the fan is on. My family really likes Drake (especially God’s Plan), and sometimes I’ll hear them playing it from downstairs. As I drift into sleep, I hear the sheep in my yard baaaaa-ing. I hear the crickets cricket-ing. I hear a laugh every now and then from downstairs. Other than these noises, it is silent. No cars, no disturbances. Only peace. Jammrekk.