Life All Around

Lily Goldberg - Senegal


October 10, 2011

  In all honestly life here in Dakar is not full of immersion. Initially it felt a little shocking, but that passed quickly. In my home, my host brother and his friends  speak some English, so I get a language break now and then. And everyday all of us fellows are together for a good amount of time so we are hardly living without  English, or even the comforts of home.

In fact life here in Dakar it is very modern and American in many ways. First of all, in my Senegalese home, the TV is always on.  Always. That’s about as American as it gets, right? And also we eat in front of  the TV at least once a day. We do eat around the bowl Senegalese style for main  meals, but usually with spoons not hands. And if there are a lot of people over,  which there often are, we eat on plates with silverware in front of the television or in  various places outside. It’s very social and relaxing, and reminds me of home in  many ways. The food is delicious, and familiar in the sense of fries and rice. But the meat seems to remain a mystery. Sometimes I’m able to identify a dish as being fish or chicken, otherwise I just eat and enjoy the intrigue.

Living in Dakar I must admit I’ve become more lazy then expected. I’m used to the convenience of the nearby Casino Supermarche, the many food vendors, restaurants, taxis to take you downtown and to the beaches, the modern clubs and nightlife, and people knowing English so you don’t need to practice Wolof as much. Village life is a whole different experience, and I’m ready to start living without these material things, being forced to learn the language, and rediscover my motivation working out in the field. In Dakar we have the luxury of fairly constant electricity, fans and running water, a fridge, a somewhat easy to use bathroom, and many other comforts of American life. So, this is not full on immersion, it is a transitioning bridge along the road towards it. Complete immersion is on its way, or more so we are heading towards it, and the excitement levels rise with each passing day.

We all leave for our villages for the 6 month stretch this coming Tuesday, and there, we will have a whole other experience that can’t even be imagined. We already got a taste of it, living out in our villages for a week. But one week and one month, let alone 6 months, are very different concepts. It’s hard to imagine being away from the other fellows for so long, and all the new friendships made. But at the same time I cannot wait to get back to Ross Bethio and start working on whatever it is I am to do. Hard work has been one thing we lacked living Dakar, and I am ready to exert some energy.

I am also eager to see my village family again, and be immersed in that sense of community. To them I am not Lily, but Coumba Diop a member of the family. It’s like entering a whole different world, and I have a whole new identity, which they are a huge part of. I miss the casual mornings with breakfast served on the floor right outside my room. I miss the long walks, the cleaner air, and of course the kids and the silly games we play.

Also in the village there was such a lack of judgement that I cannot wait to get back to. I would dance Youza for them, badly but to their great enjoyment, or sing Rihanna and Shakira with my sister with no embarrassment or reservations. I was intrigued by the way they sort rice and, giving it a try, I found it to be a surprisingly enjoyable and relaxing task.They were fascinated with my friendship bracelets and of course now I have a million orders to fill. Though being part of such a slow moving lifestyle, I think I will finish them in no time. Living back in Dakar I can’t clearly picture what life will be like these next months, or what kind of work I will be doing. So I’m just gonna let the ever pressing future remain a mystery. I’m leaving my assumptions behind and planning to start this new journey with an open mind, eager spirit, and smiley disposition.

Lily Goldberg