Ree ci Agg – Laughter on Arrival

I made it to Dakar, and today I am at the Baobab Center acclimating to my new environment.
Even though I have been in Dakar before, yesterday was full of its own adventures.

(I need to point out that I cannot use the special character necessary for some Wolof words I will be using this summer. Some of my translations will be approximations to the best of my abilities without special characters from Word.)

I arrived yesterday and my driver and I walked around for 10 minutes to find my host family’s house, asking for directions of people sitting on the sidewalk. Once we arrived, my host mom (yaay in Wolof) showed me my room and some parts of the house. I will take some photos with her permission over the next few days, and perhaps provide a video walkthrough of where I will be staying the next several weeks.

A major struggle for me was communicating with yaay, because she spoke exclusively in a mixture of French and Wolof and I was getting used to answering in Wolof. After settling in my room, which I share with one of yaay’s daughters, Xadi, I went up to take a shower.

A few notes:
  • I do not actually know if Xadi is yaay’s daughter. She may be a niece or cousin, or some other relation. However, Xadi refers to me as her sister and yaay refers to me as her daughter
  • I do not know how many people are permanent residents of the house. It is culturally inappropriate to inquire about the number of people residing in a household for mystic reasons.
  • So far, there are several women around the house, another man, and two other American guys from Michigan who are leaving in a couple of weeks. But these people will be on rotation for the next several weeks.
  • I do not know the names or relations of everyone in the house for the above reasons.
Some other notes about my house:
  • The water has one temperature: tap.
  • The toilets in my current homestay must be filled with buckets.
  • There is no sink to use for brushing teeth.
  • There is a goat on my roof. No joke.
As I was watching them play a dice game and continuing to struggle through my Wolof dialogues with my host family, a guy walked upstairs and started speaking English! We introduced ourselves (his name is Theo and he’s here studying abroad), and he invited me to study with some of the people in his program.

He then proceeds to talk to yaay in ENGLISH, and she understood and spoke back with him in English! At this point, I realize that because I was trying so hard to communicate in Wolof, yaay was testing me instead of giving me the easy way out of things – a true believer in language immersion.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel absolutely ridiculous for not trying to use more English earlier on. However, both yaay and Theo were able to use me to translate some things as they talked with each other last night. So I have that going for me, which is nice.

And here are a few pictures from today, which are views from the second and third floor of the Baobab Center in Dakar. I will be studying Wolof here starting on Monday!

View from the second floor terrace:
Views from the third floor terrace: 

1 Comment on “Ree ci Agg – Laughter on Arrival

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