Dakar mystifies me. I find myself in a fascinating whirlwind of new culture, sounds, smells, tastes, and words. I haven’t even come close to scratching the surface of Dakar, but from the past few days of exploration I’d like to share with you what I’ve discovered thus far.
While my advanced French for the most part nicks confusion and miscommunication, I’ve found that my bumbling, not so cute Wolof opens more doors and hearts- earning me many more smiles. I’ve fallen in love with the Senegalese greeting, wishing others, complete strangers, a day full of peace.
In the late afternoon, as the population escapes the midday humidity and heat, I lounge around with my host brother and his futbol playing friends- drinking ataaya (tea) from an ancient pot, watching documentaries about animals, listening to akon and beyonce, checking our Facebook, asking each other questions, and making plans for the rest of the month, as if we were old friends. We joke and they take it upon themselves to teach me Wolof, writing me lessons in my little notebook. They wear Nike and Adidas, I feel oddly out of place in my modest skirts.
Yet although I have found a place in my home, the sights I see are hard to process and comprehend. A beautiful city, yet one filled with enormous income disparities, gaps between the richest of the rich, poorest of the poor. I see Talibe beggar children to whom I shyly mutter Baal Ma Ko Ba Beneen (forgive me until next time)standing near children wearing designer clothes. I see individuals missing limbs and living in shacks next to individuals who drive Porsche Turbos and who own technology too expensive for even me to buy.
There is much I still don’t understand, much I am eager to learn. But I am here, I am present, I am willing. Here I come Dakar.