Riding African Sand Dunes, Seeking Medical Attention, and Meeting My Dad’s Second Wife… Oh My!

It has been a little over a month since arriving here in Senegal. Here is a
list of things that I did not expect coming here:
– how every kid will call you tubbab (Westerner in Wolof) and go up to you
and stroke your hair and skin (now I am fine with kids calling me that and
I usually imitate their annoyingness to make them shut up if they don’t
– saying you are full or you wish not to sit down will be frowned down upon
– how everyone asks if you have a wife and having potential “bachelorettes”
show up at your front door
– everyone shows up late! i.e your appointment is at 4 pm but they show up
at 4:45 pm casually
– a personal annoyance — explaining why you are not Chinese and why you do
not speak Chinese
– personal annoyance #2 — when my dad takes me to these random places and
shows me off in front of his friends when it is midnight (don’t mess with
my sleep)
More will come in future blog posts… but let’s move on what has been up
with me!

To give you the tl;dr version: I landed in Dakar -> Went to host family #1
-> Visited Lac Rose -> began developing some health issues -> had to go to
Thies (the hub city) to find a doctor and medicine -> switched host
families -> sister bit my finger (there’s still a scar) -> met my dad
second’s wife (top 10 most awkward times of my life)

Here is the long, more-detailed version:

Arriving in Dakar was like a dream come true. All these months of
preparation led to the very moment I touched down in this mystical land.
When I first went outside the plane and tried to soak in the environment,
the overwhelming humidity slapped my face. This shock kinda made me realize
that I am not home anymore. But oh well — this is my new reality. Dakar is
seriously one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to. Seeing the African
Renaissance Monument and the Mamalles Lighthouse from my hotel rooftop made
me appreciate the beauty of this new land and contradicted Trump, saying
Africa is a shithole land. Going on gelato runs and running on the beach
with my newly-formed friends made me never want to leave.

Before I knew it, it was time to go to our respective host families. My
initial placement was in a little village called Keur Sa Daro (or Sa Darou
Fam to the locals). There, I lived with two host parents, 11 host siblings,
and countless farm animals (you name it — that animal was living behind my
room). Transitioning from the metropolis of Los Angeles to a village with a
little under 300 individuals was daunting, I admit. In addition, I came to
the conclusion that some of my siblings did not approve of my host parent’s
decision to host a foreigner in their compound. Nonetheless, I tried to
make it work by spending time in the secluded mangrove near my home and
playing with the neighborhood children. I wanted to convince my siblings
that they were wrong and that I would bring an optimistic and open-minded

A week passed and one of the most anticipated events was right around the
corner: Catch 1. Being in a location where the only time I got to see
fellows was during language class, I made sure that my ass was in the van
the second they arrived. Blinking for just a moment, that van came soon
enough and I was reunited with my friends. Lac Rose has to be one of the
world’s most underappreciated natural wonders. Fun fact: the salt
concentration in the water is higher than the salt concentration in the
Dead Sea. There, I floated casually with my best friends and went on a
Senegalese boat ride to conclude an eventful day. The next day, however,
was probably the most fun time of my life. After touring the salt banks
near the lake, we were taken to the sand dunes. The drive over the
sandbanks and riding parallel to the Atlantic Ocean took my breath away.
And to do all of that with your best friends makes everything even better.
Once again, it was time to say goodbye and go back to the families we only
escaped for two days.

This is the part of the blog where things go a little downhill… A couple
of days after catch, I developed some dizziness + my body basically
rejected all the food I was eating. This period reminded me of my troubles
in the Philippines with pneumonia, so I basically thought I was going to
die in Senegal and have my body shipped back to the U.S. I called my team
leader what was happening and I went to the hub city to find some medical
treatment. I went to the clinic/hospital to get checked out, and it was
concluded that I just had really severe food poisoning and possibly a
parasite or typhoid (later confirmed negative). With combinations of health
problems linked to my host family, I said enough was enough and I wanted to
switch host families. And so it happened.

After living with another fellow for a couple of days (s/o to Piero), I
loaded all my luggage in the taxi and regained the jitters of going to a
new family. Now this family is located in the Southeast part of the city —
Diagamguene. Here, I live with two host parents, two maids, and four
younger siblings (one of them is one year old). It was then renamed after
the Moorit (a Muslim Brotherhood) prophet Baay Fall. Life here has been
better and it is evident by the fact that my health problems have
disappeared. What made this family different from my first one was that
they were grateful for me living with them and always included me in their
attaya (tea) social gatherings and did not judge my Western ideas. And my
baby sister is the cutest yet devilish individual ever! Just two days ago,
she bit my finger while I fed her peanuts and laughed hysterically. Moments
like this made me appreciate how innocence still existed in the world
where every
time I walked down my street, I would get called vulgar words in Wolof and
English. Also, for anyone who lives in Thies, my host brother told me that
I am his only friend in the neighborhood so please come and make friends
with him!

Now to one of the most awkward moments of my life… raised in a society
where polygamy is illegal, I was never fond of the idea that a man can have
an open affair and then marry again. The same day my sister bit my finger,
my father told me to get in the cab and I reluctantly did. He told me that
he had a surprise for me (he said that in broken English so this is
serious). After sitting in the taxi for what seemed like hours, I arrived
at this big house with a woman standing in front. He hugged her as soon as
he got out and presented her to me as his second wife. I stood petrified as
this was one of the exploitations of reality I never saw coming. As they
bonded in the bedroom, I stood outside the house wondering a) how there was
no jealousy between the two wives; b) how can one man take advantage of
several women supported by a whole religion; c) how would I address both
moms (I later came up calling my moms mom #1 and mom #2).

As you can see, my life so far has had some interesting twists and turns. I
cannot absorb the chaos that happened — and that’s okay. Always stay
strong and never let adversity deter you. Also, fun fact #2: I cannot say
my real last name in public because it is considered a really bad saying in
Wolof (so I say I am Peter Jones in the U.S). Okay the waiters in Big Faim
(the internet hangout place all the fellows in Thies goes to) are kicking
me out because I spent too much time there. Until next time!

– Peter Dull wait… Ndyasse Thiaw wait… Baay Fall