After being here for almost a month, I realize that I have not talked much about my host family or what my experience living in Dakar has been like this year.
The Baobab Center (or ACI, as many people now refer to it) arranged my homestay, just like WARC did for me last January. I did not receive the details about my family until 48 hours before I landed in Dakar, and a lot of the information in the homestay packets is either inaccurate or out of date for any number of reasons.
Currently, I am living in Sicap Mermoz (the Mermoz neighborhood), which is across the highway from the neighborhood I was in last year (Sicap Karak). Two of the other girls are staying in Sicap Karak, and I walk past it on my way to the Baobab Center each morning.
My days typically look something like this:
–7am: Wake up; do some writing/reading
–7:45am: Walk upstairs to have breakfast. Since it’s Ramadan, breakfast options are limited in the household. Most of my host family eats before early morning prayer, around 4:30am, before fasting begins for the day. My breakfast is typically a small piece of bread with something called “chocopain” on it. It’s a chocolate-y spread like Nutella, but made with peanuts.
–8:30am: Meet up with Emily and Sierra on my way out of Mermoz and walk to class. The walk is about 15 minutes, and we have to cross a major highway on foot to get there. The traffic/pollution/heat can make the walk a little tiring, but it’s normally not too bad. We also get honked at by almost every taxi that drives by (they assume that because we’re white, we want to be driven somewhere).
–9am: Wolof class begins at the Baobab Center. It’s customary to greet the security workers and anyone sitting outside the Center as we walk in, and it’s a good chance to practice Wolof greetings. We also take time to refill our water bottles because the kitchen has a water filter installed for the sink.
–1pm: Wolof class ends and we meet up with other students at the Center to make plans for the day/weekend, figure out lunch plans, swap host family stories, etc. Since it’s Ramadan, I don’t really eat lunch at my homestay. It makes extra work for Mariatou, the girl who works in the house. They also mostly cook two eggs for me if I eat there for lunch, and I don’t really like eggs. So I opt for bringing snacks to the Baobab Center and eating there instead. There is also a fruit stand just outside the mosque across the street, and it’s a great place to get cheap fruit for lunch instead of overpaying at Citydia or another supermarket (100CFA for an orange vs. 750CFA)
The afternoons are fairly flexible, and sometimes we all hang out at the Center to use wifi for research, calling home, etc. Sometimes we walk back to Mermoz and meet up at a local pool hall to hang out.
In the evening during Ramadan, many families break the fast (ndekki, in Wolof) around 7:30pm, but do not eat dinner until after returning from evening prayers at the mosque at 9pm. Essentially, dinner is served anywhere between 9pm and 10:30pm depending on the family.
My family serves dinner pretty consistently around 9:45pm, but it’s difficult for me to eat that late. Couple the late dinner time with the fact that I don’t eat much to begin with and trying to break the fast AND eat dinner with my family within three hours… Let’s just say that my host mom doesn’t think I eat enough at ALL and talks about it to me every single day.
It’s nice to have the afternoons free to explore Dakar, spend time with friends from the Center, schedule interviews (in my case – another post about that is coming soon), or spend time practicing Wolof with the staff or our host families.
A few other notes about my homestay:
– I have a mosquito net over the bed in my room, and a fan (the fan was added during my second full week staying in Dakar). Rainy season in coming, which means bigger and meaner mosquitoes.
– My room has a lock and a key for when I leave during the day.
– The house where I’m staying has four floors; I will post more information and pictures of that later.
– There is a locked gate to get into the plot where my homestay is. Once inside the main gate, I must ring the doorbell and wait for someone to let me into the house. The door to the main house has 4 locks.
– There are supposed to be two new students coming to live in my homestay from the U.S. starting at the end of this week.
Weekends are typically reserved for day-trips to nearby landmarks and such. For example, this weekend we are all planning to take the ferry to Goree Island on Saturday to explore and shop for art.
It’s Jessica’s last full weekend in Dakar before she leaves, so we want to make sure to do everything we can together before people start finishing their language programs. In addition, two new people have come into our group at the Center: Nasta (from Sweden; learning French), and Kelly (from New Orleans; learning Wolof). Having a group of girls to do things with is really nice, and I think Avey, Kelly, and I will go to the Senegalese National Archives tomorrow for research.
Soon I will add a post about my research projects and progress, and what I am learning in my Wolof classes each day. I will also add some more pictures of my homestay, host family, walk to the Center, and people working at the Center.