RebeccaT's Travel Journals


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Living Routes Senegal Fall 2009

Living Routes study abroad program in Senegal, Fall 2009 (September-December 2009)

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Senegal Dakar, Senegal  |  Oct 11, 2009
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 I guess it's not hard for Westerners to come travel or live in Africa and yet avoid (or at least occasionally escape from) actual Africans and the realities of their lives... 

On Friday evening three of the other American students and I attended an English language club that is held at the EREV center.  (There are a lot of various language and cultural courses and programs based in that building.)  Two of the Senegalese students from the Living Routes program were there, as well as ten or so other Senegalese students.  The facilitator is a young American woman named Marika (who has also helped out some with the Living Routes program).  The topic of the discussion was divorce, and we also ended up discussing marriage and love more generally.  It was a very interesting subject to discuss in a multicultural group. 

Apparently running water is not very reliable in Senegal.  In the village, the tap water would often stop for some amount of time during the day.  Ruthanne said it went off a lot in Thies also.  We had never experienced this in Dakar before the trip to Guédé, but it has now happened three times in the few days since we returned.  The power also went out on Friday night for quite a while (it went out about 8pm, and Ruthanne says it was off until at least 2:30am).  I think I prefer power outages to water outages.  At least you can still take a shower (which people generally do two or three times per day here), wash your hands, fill up a water bottle (I am now drinking tap water in Dakar and have not had any major problems), etc.  But both are pretty annoying.  I'm very glad I brought my headlamp!  (And my Senegalese cell phone has a built-in flashlight, which comes in very handy.)

On Saturday night I went out in Dakar with all but one of the other American students.  First we went out to dinner.  We ate at a Thai restaurant called Le Jardin Thailandais (which is funny because there's a restaurant in Northampton - near Hampshire College - that's called Thai Garden).  The food was pretty good.  I got some bananes caramelisés avec glace (caramel bananas with ice cream) for dessert, which was pretty amazing.  It's the first time I've had real ice cream (meaning not the pre-packaged Drumstick-type ice cream products) since I've been here.  However, the restaurant was definitely a toubab (white person) type of place.  The prices were comparable to restaurant prices in the U.S., which is relatively expensive for here.  Almost all of the customers were white, and most (maybe even all) of the black customers were in groups that included white people.  There was toilet paper in the bathroom, and the waiter seemed confused when I asked for tap water.  It was an enjoyable experience, but I couldn't help feeling a little weird.  It was kind of uncomfortable for me to be in a place that seemed so elitist and made white/Western privilege and economic disparities so obvious.  I guess it's not hard for Westerners to come travel or live in Africa and yet avoid (or at least occasionally escape from) actual Africans and the realities of their lives...

After dinner we went to Just 4 U, a bar/restaurant place that is apparently very big on the Dakar music scene.  The customers weren't all white there, but there was still a high concentration of toubabs compared to the overall population of Dakar.  Baobab Orchestra was playing there.  They are a pretty well-known Senegalese band.  (Gabe had actually seen them before in Northampton, Mass when they did a U.S. tour.)  They started around midnight and played until 3:00am.  It was mostly a sit-down place, but there was some dancing also.  I had a good time.

It's hard to imagine that it's fall in New England now.  I hear it even snowed in the mountains in Vermont.  And yet I recently realized that I have yet to put on a sweatshirt, or even socks and sneakers, here in Senegal, and it's been over a month.  I don't think that's ever happened in Vermont, even in the summer.  When I go out with only a purse and/or some stuff in my pockets, I often feel like I'm forgetting something, like I ought to bring a warmer layer with me.  But there's never any need for it here.  (There have been some times when I've been cold, usually in the air-conditioned classroom in the EREV center, but each time I didn't have a sweatshirt with me and/or just enjoyed being cold for a change.)  I guess that may change since the weather is supposed to start getting cooler at some point, but so far I have yet to notice much cooling.

P.S.  I just discovered that MyShop sells Ben & Jerry's!  So I had a little container of Cookie Dough ice cream.  It was pretty expensive and a little freezer burned, but it was still really good...

P.P.S.  This stupid blog thing is really darned annoying.  Half the time it won't upload my photos right, and now I've tried like six times to post this entry and it hasn't worked so far.  Hopefully I'll get this up eventually...

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