Senegalese Sunday

Madelaine Guss - Senegal

September 28, 2012

Since my arrival in Dakar only three weeks ago, I have noticed myself adapting to certain cultural tendencies. My left hand no longer carries the brunt of my work, my walking pace has decreased significantly, and my pallet has been greatly widened by the various meals I consume each day. Though of the cultural normalities I have come to know and love, my favorite has to be the Senegalese Sunday.

My first week within the limits of Dakar was overwhelming and made my discovery as to why Sunday in Dakar was going to be the highlight of each passing week obvious. The majority of youth in Dakar stay in bed until 12 pm, only six hours after they retired to their rooms and removed their dancing shoes from the previous night. The not-so-youth don’t rush for their morning coffee either, but rather ease their way into the day, rising when they feel like it (as we all should do). After finally making their way to the breakfast table — which consists of a hot pot of water, instant coffee, baguettes, and various toppings — most return to bed for a post-breakfast snooze. Those less inclined find their way around the city, visiting friends and drinking tea.

Not knowing of this routine on my first Sunday, I awoke promptly at 9 am, tired but hungry, and hoping to accomplish a long list of sights to see and things to do. Walking out of my room I was confused as to why no one else was sitting in the compound taking their breakfast as they had the following mornings. I walked around and attempted to quietly peek into the rooms of my family members, surprised at the sight of each of them deep in slumber. Not sure what to do I retired back to my own room and laid back in bed for what had to have been around 2 and ½ hours. Finally awaking around 11:30 am, I took my breakfast with the family, who sat quietly enjoying their meals. I attempted to continue conversation with various questions about the surrounding area, but found each question was answered with a smile and sip of Nescafe instant coffee.

Two weeks later, and now being semi-adjusted to the Senegalese Sunday culture, my third Sunday in Dakar felt natural. I slept until 11:30 am, woke up, and took breakfast without showering or changing my clothing. After finishing, I thought of certain ways to spend my day all revolving around the same concept of tea and conversation, though in different homes. I felt comfortable walking around the neighborhood of Sicap Karack and Baobab, where I now spent my days after school, visiting new friends and sharing meals.

As I get ready to spend my final Sunday within the limits of Dakar, I feel sad knowing that I will be leaving new friends and family for an environment as unfamiliar as Dakar was only 3 weeks ago.  Though I do feel excited to acclimate to new cultural norms, and be re-introduced to ones with which I am already familiar.

Madelaine Guss