So much more than a travel blog.
(I was in Dakar, Senegal from January-May 2011.)

tonight, megan and ioana and i are going to make mafé in paris.

i figured out where my mind is

still somewhere in senegal

dropped in the sand

waiting for me to come back

I made ceebujën with Ioana and my Wolof tutor.  Some other friends stopped by too, because it was informally for my birthday.  The result wasn’t quite Senegalese but it was close enough, especially because I ate with my hands.

I made ceebujën with Ioana and my Wolof tutor. Some other friends stopped by too, because it was informally for my birthday. The result wasn’t quite Senegalese but it was close enough, especially because I ate with my hands.

déjà vu, déjà bu

while walking around on a silent campus on a cold-but-nice december morning,

i had a sudden recollection of the mornings in dakar almost a year ago—

hot, but nice in this same sort of way,

and for three seconds i could taste the powdered-coffee-and-boiled-water

that i would stir and drink with breakfast, sitting across from maman.

for those three seconds, i—or my taste buds—were back

and then, gone.

i just found these goals/reminders to myself in a sticky note on my computer from when i was in dakar, probably around february.  …. :)


1. say bonjour/soir AND nanga def or mangi fii to everyone you even vaguely know

2. stop saying “i don’t know”, in english and in french, instead say “pardon?” or “what?”

3. speak more Wolof

4. don’t chicken out of saying things!! it’s ok/normal to be wrong

the “some other things that happened” post [this was a draft written a while ago. better late than never.]

On my second spring-break day in the village, more time was spent saying short, familiar phrases in Wolof and generally either lying in the shade of the mango tree, cleaning lettuce (salat) or walking around visiting other compounds.  Moments that would become special to me mostly included kids, like when my host sister Yassin told me she’d missed me and I browsed through post cards of different places in the United States (part of the gifts I’d brought from “home”) with toddlers.  One of the kids, named Tapha, was from what I could observe mostly deaf, and used lipreading and hand signals to communicate.  I sat with him for quite a while outside under the tree browsing through a National Geographic magazine my mother had sent from the US. I recognized in myself a feeling of affinity with him, in that neither of us could really understand some of the more complicated events or conversations; it was more the little things (“Look at this dinosaur, it has wings!”/”I’m going to go now, bye!”/”Take a picture of me, now.”/”I scared the goat and when it was running away, it broke papa’s tea glasses…”).  Hand movements and facial expressions can say wonders, though, and I really felt a certain connection with him, a feeling of being with him on his plane of understanding, despite obvious stark differences.  

There was another event involving kids on that second day, though, that soured my time in the village almost entirely.  I had been eyeing my mothers’ and sisters’ intricate braids, which my mother probably noticed a bit, because she eventually persuaded me to let her put some in (as much as someone who’s taken occasional Wolof for no more than 6 months can negotiate getting her hair impromtu-ly braided in said language).  I agreed and offered to pay 8,000 f ($16) after kind of bargaining it down from 10,000.  So I sat on a stool between her knees with my hair under her eyes and at her disposal.  It was a bit painful but I could bear it, and I should have, considering what happened next.  There are two probably-4-year-olds at the village, twins I think.  The girl is named Awa Diata and the boy is named Mohammed.  

My mother had been cutting dead skin off her feet with a small razor knife.  Like I said, I was bearing with the discomfort of getting those tight braids put in, when suddenly Awa Diata began screaming and all the adults and kids jumped up in alarm—Awa's arm was bleeding profusely because of a deep cut about 1 inch long.  Evidently, Mohamed had picked up the knife and done it to her when nobody was paying attention.  I froze as my mother grabbed Mohamed and the knife and made an identical cut to Awa's in her son's arm.  Obviously both kids were screaming horribly and were in confused shock.  It was horrible to watch.  My host mother also started hitting Mohamed with a stick, holding him so he couldn't get away.  I didn't know what I could say, in any language, let alone in Wolof.  Everything cooled down pretty quickly after that.  I just couldn't understand why cutting one's own child so badly like that would make sense, even as a just punishment. They didn't even have proper band-aids, just some antibacterial medicine for the two kids. Then I had to sit and get my hair done for the next 2.5 hours to try to comprehend what'd happened. It's so dangerous for kids out there.  They all have scars, without exception, from something or other.  Even the little toddler has dozens of scars on her legs and arms from what looks like insect bites.  It seems there's just a different perception of pain there—adults slap the littler kids just for amusement, at times.  The same attitude is taken towards animals—smacking dogs with sticks, kicking chickens, etc.

That last part was copied from an email to my parents, sent from an internet cafe in Gambia.  


And that’s where I stopped writing.  I may never get to accounting the rest of my spring break (it’s kind of too far after-the-fact), but if you’re truly interested, I bet you can just talk to me in person :)  This post ended negatively, but I had some good times.

this is a post so that i never forget the guy with the purple shirt at the bus stop who proposed to me.  and the awkward bus ride that followed.  because i almost had.

african-ish-deactivated20111011 asked: OMG, are you in Senegal right now ? ghehehe Im from senegal !!! Senegal de fe nekh ke :)

waaw, neexoon ne! wante leegi - i’m back in Massachusetts… i’d like to go back!



See all my photos here at my flickr

This slide show is really making me cry. I wanna go HOME! I want to see my Mame Boye (Grandmother), I want her to hold me and make fun of my accent. I want some REAL Thiebou Dien and some Dibi From SENEGAL. I wanna take a swim in the CLEAN Salty water. I want to see my big brother, my home, the lake, the trees. I’ve been in America For Too Long !

:’) it’s hard for me to look at my photos too, because i miss it a lot, even though i was only there for 4 months.  where are you from??

877824 hours later (4th of july)

a lot of nutella

and bubble baths

and salads with more than 3 ingredients

and checking out 15 books at a time on Senegal/Africa

and dreams that forget airplanes and borders exist

and a sad, increasing distance from the four dry, foreign months that were like nothing i’d ever experienced