Neighborhood Sortie

Alec Yeh - Senegal


October 5, 2009

I couldn’t sleep last night. The terror of not being able to communicate with the Senegalese, the fear of being alone, kept me up most of the night. I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and didn’t sleep the rest of the night. Perhaps it was the jet-lag. Who knows. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. There are three million people in Dakar. I’m surrounded by people, yet somehow, I can barely communicate with any of them. How frightening is that? My language-speaking insecurities scare me. What if I can’t learn French fast enough?

Being cooped up in this apartment doesn’t help either. The apartment is quite nice, much nicer than anything we’ll ever stay in again. But who cares? I live with all the other fellows, which is fun and all, but there’s no new interaction. The first two days have hardly been cultural immersion. So we started our French classes today (except Gaya who’s going straight to Wolof class), but I still talk to all the other fellows in English. I still talk to the teachers in English. But the staff needs to set up for our move in, so I can’t really complain. We move in tomorrow morning at 10, and I can’t tell you how excited I am. I’m terrified, but I’m more excited than terrified. Even if I can’t communicate with them, just the interaction between the family and me will give me something to work on; it’ll give me something to look forward to every day. I’m hoping I will want to go home every day, just to talk to the people, to learn the language, to make friends with the community.

We actually visited our homestay neighborhoods today. I visited Ananda’s and Mat’s first. They both live pretty close together, in the neighborhood of Liberte. Ananda lives in a quaint house situated in a narrow alleyway. Mat lives in a massive house, next to even a move massive house. He seems pretty lucky. I didn’t get to visit Gaya’s, Victoria’s, or Hilary’s. But they’re all pretty nice, and Gaya’s is suppose to be extremely nice. She said hers had little children in it. The only problem is she’s the farthest away. It’s quite a hike for her. Gaya lives in Mermoz, and Hilary and Victoria live in the Karak neighborhood. My homestay is one of the closest. It’s located in a wide alleyway in the neighborhood of Baobob. It’s a brown, two-story building, with a tree (might be a mango tree) right at the entrance. The building doesn’t seem like it’s in the greatest condition, but it’s large and it looks very clean. The neighborhood is cute. It was built in the 50s and 60s and so it was made mainly for middle-folk. There are some super nice houses around it as well. A few blocks away is this HUGE baobob tree. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I love it, and I can’t wait to hang around there.

Seeing the homestays made me nervous to just step into somebody’s home, but I guess they’re use to having foreigners stay with them. I’m just super anxious. Wonder how much sleep I’ll get tonight.

Alec Yeh