Senses of Senegal

Emily Collins - Senegal

September 7, 2012

I see. I see a new world, like nothing I have experienced before. I see people all over the streets outside, or televisions on all day in the house. I’ve discovered women wearing intricate patterns for dresses, men hanging off the back of public transportation buses. I perceive trees with leaves of a brilliant green, and dirt on each unpaved road. I meet a family, welcoming me with “Taranga” (Hospitality) a state of mind Senegalese are known for. I see smiling faces of my family as my same 5 words of French and Wolof is repeated for every answer to the questions they ask. I see Ferraris and road rage, Futbol and horses on the highway. I envision I will become a part of this city.

I hear. I hear my family speaking only French back and forth. I catch laughter as we mimic a game of charades just to ask where the water is. I understand greetings in Wolof as every person on the street is interested in the “Toubab” (Foreigner). I listen to beeps of the taxis, and the Senegalese drumming music videos. I hear the fan rotating all night keeping me cool and mosquitos away. I listen to my teacher tell me of “Jom” or dedication and how fundamental it is to Senegalese mindsets. I hear my family give me my new name, Amy (Ah-Me) no longer Emily. I can hear in my head all the words I will soon be learning, and my American family’s support to my soon achievements.

I smell. I smell ”Ceeb e jen” (Rice and Fish) and more “Ceeb e jen”. The stench of cars in the city, and the odor of sweat as all the fellows walk through the streets of Dakar. I smell the humidity in the air, and the coffee on the table for breakfast. I smell my deodorant and say “Alxam Dulilay” (Thank the Lord) I packed it. I smell the city for now, and know within a month it will drastically change.

I Taste. I taste an endless amount of rice and couscous for the next 8 months. The aftertaste of Nutella with breakfast; something I did not think would cross my path while adventuring here. I taste the beauty of water as I gulp it down after being in the heat. The tang of mangos, sweeter than my mind could have ever imagined. I taste Attayya (Tea) one of the riches pleasures my taste buds could ever want.

I Touch. I touch the sand as it slips between my fingers on the other side of the Atlantic. I touch the food I eat with my hands, and the feel of Senegalese money. I touch my mother’s hand as she grabs mine when laughing. I relax onto my bed each night, hoping my American family well, and a bright day when I awaken. I touch leaves of a tree, wondering why I never felt it the same way before. I embrace the touch of the sunshine upon my skin. I trace the calluses on my toes from wearing the same shoes too many times. I rub my eyes endlessly when feeling anxious, preventing tears from when I feel uncertain of my meaning. I am touched by each soul I have met that has welcomed me into their world.

All of these senses are becoming a part of me. A collaboration of who I am and who I want to be is beginning to form. As I observe for now, the potential that Senegalese traditions have in store for me, I cannot wait to learn more. Knowing mistakes are always a part of the way, I take each day as it comes patiently. I learn to take from each experience that I have encountered thus far, growing into” Emily Amy”.

Emily Collins