Thursday, February 26, 2009


The Baobab Center is a non profit company that teaches languages lessons, can arrange for other classes and is basically a cultural center for orientation into Senegal and other parts of West Africa. By arriving in September there were few other people already here given the heat and the start of the school year. Having passed through a New Year here though I have met Rotary Scholars, American Military personnel, students from other schools and independent travelers. Several people have asked me as the anxiously stare at their empty calendars and days left “What is the most interesting thing you’ve done here? What is the not to miss activity?”

I’ve been standing in groups with other Kalamazoo students when asked this and I always feel rather sorry for the person who asked the question. With the answers we give them Senegal must seem like the most boring place in the world. We stand with our mouths hanging open looking at one another hoping that someone else will chime in first.

Senegal does not have a Great Wall, Eiffel Tower, Running of the Bulls, Large Scale Tomato Fights, Big Ben, Castles or impressive parliament buildings. The beaches are nice, but not something I would ever travel farther than Florida to search out. There have been many activities that I have enjoyed here. SCUBA diving was a really cool experience, as was seeing Mar Lodj and attending a lutte (Senegalese Wrestling Match). But the majority of what has made my time in senegal bearable/enjoyable/awesome has been random experiences, jokes with friends, ridiculous sights, relationships I’ve built and accomplishments. It’s hard to describe how one can search them out themselves. It is likely however that the kind of person who ends of coming here will find them though, because they certainly didn’t sign up for the glamour of coming to Senegal.

So here is my list of accomplishments and great moments in Senegal, which is as close to a Senegalese Great Wall as I got.

SCUBA diving off Ile de Goree

Watching that Goat face plant in the street

My host family telling me I chose good mangoes

Seeing a monkey riding on top of a Car Rapide

Alex making a “nyum,nyum,nyum” noise for the goats and sheep’s, thereby scaring both the children nearby and the sheep.

Marie dancing

Marie calling me “bébé Anna”

Marie giving me a pagne

Being allowed to wash dishes (apparently I was no longer just an imcompetant Toubab at this point)

Obama being elected

Senegalese people congratulating us for Obama being elected, and feeling good will towards America for once.

Everyone clapping for me at UCAD for speaking well (in French!) about what Obama’s election meant for America.

Taking a Car Rapide for the first time

Someone asking what the word “berger” meant and I was the first to respond (the first time I knew the answer to a random vocab question- it means shepard by the way)

Adja calling me sai-sai after I called Ahmed bu nuul. (Ahmed is my host brother and he was giving me crap and teasing me by calling me “xonx nopp” (red ears) so I responded by calling him “bu nuul” (of black) [side not: this is not a derogatory thing to say at all, Senegalese people call a spade a spade. The will frequently say things like “he’s light,” “she’s dark,” or “oh, your sister is prettier than you,” which is quite upsetting to the host students when showing pictures of their American families to their host family {sorry Kate, that wasn’t said to me, it was said to another student}] Anyway, Adja basically called me a rascal for saying that.

Watching the stars on the way back from Touba

Ndeye telling me how to properly hit Ahmed (ie, harder)

Everytime I walk in the door and Butterball runs up to me with outstretched arms

When Butterball wiped out holding that HUGE container of water

Helping to prepare Tabaski food

Singing songs on the back of the bus with Steve and the African students from our CESTI class

Writing a 4 page paper on Talibés in Senegal in French and getting a 14/20 on it (for those unfamiliar with the French grading system that is a pretty decent grade)

Taking the bus to my internship for the first time, having no clue what I was doing and still making it there on time- and all by myself

Hanging out with Senegalese and Americans in mostly French, some English and some Wolof, feeling comfortable and knowing what was going on

Braving a squat toilet at the bus station in Dakar (not a great moment, but an accomplishment)

Ndeye defending me to the family, that although I can’t speak Wolof I do understand it.

And of course- Butterball licking shoes. 

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