I am like a baby: I can’t eat without assistance, I can barely speak in complete sentences, I won’t sleep through the night, and for the first few days here in Dakar I couldn’t walk two blocks without my feet catching on a stray piece of concrete or rubbish. All of my senses were assaulted with new sights, sounds, tastes, textures, and, as any traveler to a developing country knows, those of sewage, spices, and goat meat.
Yes, it’s tough being a baby, but, also like a baby, I am excited by absolutley everything around me, as if I’m seeing it all for the first time. I’ll admit, it is a little difficult to form a ball of rice and fish in my hand and bring it up to my mouth in one swift motion, but once the scrumptious mixture enters my mouth it is all worth the effort. Yes, it is hard for a normally talkative person such as myself to be silenced by incomprehension and sometimes incompetence, but what is amazing what I can infer from tone, gestures, and facial expressions, and how great I’ve gotten at charades. Sure, the power outages at 2 am stop the fan, tearing me out of my peaceful slumber and into a sauna, but isn’t that what everyone wants? A sauna in their home? It truly is great for the pores. And of course, tearing my eyes away from the unbelievable sights of Dakar, both the amazing and the uncomfortable, so that I can focus on where I place my feet was a tad obnoxious in the beginning, I can now comfortably look up on my walk to school and say ‘Asalaa malekum’ to my neighbors, who always reply with the usual ‘malekum salaam.’ The unconditional hospitality of the Senegalese people, their ‘teranga’ as it’s called in Wolof, definitely makes Dakar a great place to be lost.
In just my short seventeen days here I have grown from newborn to toddler, finally able to slyly pick fishbones from my mouth and effectively bargain for a taxi. I can walk home by myself, greeting Kia, the woman who makes the most amazing ditax juice in the world. My baby steps have lead me to some great places so far, with surely more to come.