Monday, February 9, 2009

First Weekend and Class

video This was my first weekend in Senegal with my host family. I went to a Sabaar which had a lot of drummers and there was dancing. They had a guy limbo under fire and spit fire. Then I shared a cab home with two other people and we got totally lost. I felt a little stupid, but now I definitely know where I live. I helped cook the most well known dish, cebujen, by cutting up a bunch of vegetables. Cebujen is basically fish, veggies, and rice, with a red sauce on it. I spent the rest of the day talking to my "brother" practicing my french. We also made Senegalese tea which is very sugary and strong. Yesterday was our first day of class, and I am glad to have some kind of schedule now. We had a demonstration on Friday of music and dance and we will be having workshops on music and dance next week. I really want to do the workshop on the kora. I hope to spend the four weeks of the independent study project doing an intensive study on playing the kora. I am really excited about that. I think the only thing that I will have trouble with is eating and sleeping. I don't eat a whole lot, since I am a vegetarian, mainly just bread and lettuce, although lunch we have more options. My family eats supper after 10 at night which is ridiculous for me, because I am ready to go to bed by then. They all stay up really late and they are so noisy. Luckily I have an ipod that works here or else I would never sleep. I haven't communicated a whole lot with my family, they mainly just speak in Wolof unless they are addressing me directly. I generally spend most of my time at home playing with the grandchildren. My homestay "parents" have around 8 children and I think 6 or 7 live with us right now and then there are 6 grandchildren and a cousin who lives there sometimes. I really enjoy the kids a lot. Yesterday we played on the roof where they also keep a goat. I can't wait for our workshops on music and dance. After that we have our first village excursion. It is so wonderful here and I am having the best time!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tongue-Tied and Exhausted

It has been exhausting. I still do not have my bag, but am going back yet again to the airport tonight. I feel like going to the airport every night makes me miss a lot of the getting to know people time. I also come back late and exhausted and disappointed every time. I met my homestay father yesterday. It was very strange and awkward but he seemed nice and has a lot of kids, older than me, and some with children. I think that most live with him. I move in tomorrow. I feel that the only thing I can say properly is "oui." Today was our first day in downtown Dakar. It was so overwhelming. I have had very little experience in big cities, and this seemed pretty big to me. It was also my second taxi ride ever. We had to kind out a lot of information about the area we were in and also ask a bunch of other questions. We were in groups of three. We mostly talked to security guards and they were all very helpful and nice to us and our Wolof greetings impressed them. If we stood still for one moment we were swarmed with street sellers and begging children, called Talibe. Some people would follow us for blocks. It gets really annoying, and you just have to walk swiftly and with a purpose. We ate at a small restaurant and it was nice to get away from the street for awhile. I am still not sure what I am going to do about this eating situation. All they had at the restaurant was meat with rice. I just ate leftover rice from other people's meals. I could not read the menu either, so that did not help either. I just need to remember to ask for du riz naturel (without meat). I am also afraid of not getting any vegetables. Vegetables are not popular here. Tomorrow we have our first french class and an introduction the the different arts and music that we have the option of studying. I am excited to get started. I think that once I move in with my homestay, I will have more of a chance to practice speaking and then I will be more comfortable speaking in class as well. Tonight, people might be going dancing or getting together to do something, but I will be at the airport. Hopefully, all will go well and I will be able to change my clothes and wash my hair before leaving the hotel and going to my homestay where there may not be hot water and things that I may be used to. Though, it is not that big a deal for me not to have regular American comforts. I find it rather exciting. I'll be so glad to start getting integrated into my family and starting classes. No pictures yet, but tomorrow I will definitely get out my camera for the artists and musicians.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Arrival

I have arrived in Senegal. The plane rides were long and I had a bad cold which makes it all the more worse. On my flight from Charlotte to NY, I sat next to a woman from Morocco with a young boy on her lap. He was the most beautiful child. We ended up talking most of the way and her inviting me to visit her in Morocco and stay with her while I am in Africa. If there were a way to get there I would definitely go. She said she has a beautiful home and farm and a lot of friends who speak french and would help me speak. Sounds great. I met up with the other students at the JFK airport. They are all friendly and even though I had a hard time socializing with them, feeling so awful, they were nice about it and made sure I was doing ok. We arrived around 9:30 pm here and four of our bags did not make it, including mine. But we are going to pick them up tonight. We had a welcome at our hotel and some pizza and went to bed. I have a roommate from NY, though we are completely different, I am enjoying getting to know her. I think I am a lot different from most of the other students, but it is fun getting to know them and appreciate the differences. They are all just so nice. We move into our homestays on Friday. I live close to another student who is from California, so we will ride together to and from school. I had hoped to be within walking distance, but at least I will be close to another student. I know orientation is necessary, but I am so ready to start classes! I know it is going to be a lot of work, but I am ready to learn. I just had my first meal here. It was delicious. There are three vegetarians, so at least I am not the only one. I also had bissap juice, which is hibiscus and mint and a lot of sugar. Now we are going to have more orientation. Classes start next week!