I’m in Dakar!!! For months I dreamed of letting these words fall from my lips and land in my lap like snowfall and it’s finally happened! We emerged from the plane around 6am and the black sky uncovered nothing of our new surroundings. The nightmare I had imagined customs would be was not even a mere fly on the wall. I attempted speaking Wolof to the guard and though I didn’t get far from “Nanga deff?”, he was quite nice and didn’t question me or my intentions for entering his country.
Surprisingly, retrieving baggage was also pretty easy, however I noticed the crowds of people surrounding the squeaking baggage claim was very ruthless about claiming their property before someone else claimed it as their own. As a group we were shuffled from the airport to our tour bus which awaited us with a flat screen t.v. in front, yet Kristen, a friend in the program, didn’t escape a proposal for marriage and many students had people offering to carry their baggage for them. Teranga (hospitality in Wolof) was already being felt by all.
Once separated in our given hotel rooms (3 person to a room which includes a full size bed, one blanket, and a mat on the floor-I opted for the mat, don’t ask me why), a group of us went on an exploration of the surroundings as the city was just beginning to awaken.
Already I have learned that exhaustion, hunger, thirst, and being a stranger, or Toubab (white person in Wolof), will bond any group of people together even if you have just met. The best way to learn about a city is to walk its streets-screw looking out a tour bus window. Our group found a cliff jutting out towards the beach and together we stood staring out across the ocean in silence; I was finally realizing I was on the other side of the world, on a new continent I knew little about and that knew little about me…
Throughout the day I took four, count them FOUR naps. Is that possible? Why yes, yes it is. That’s what I like to call jet lag. One nap had me back at home with my friends drinking Starbucks. The second nap, (after I ran down to the corner Telecenter to try to make a call home however inherently failing yet making friends with a man with a glass eye and no-teeth-no marriage proposals from him-Darn!) was spent in someone else’s bed because I was desperate and my room was locked. The third nap was right after I Skyped my mom (if you ask any mother, Skype is the best thing in the world!), so that I could fall asleep with an image of her. And the fourth and final nap came right before dinner, which for being a free meal (like all the meals would be during the Orientation week) from the Suffolk University cafeteria (not like any cafeteria you might imagine-think big room with tables, chairs, and a window you get your meal plate from) it was great-Fish!!! Just hope my stomach continues to agree with the food.
I’ve noticed that there is a heaviness sensation that hangs on you when entering a foreign experience (not necessarily a new country) where you will be staying for a long time there. Call it homesickness or depression, for me, it’s merely gravity weighing me down here to this country more than back home, when I realize by the time I leave here (whenever that is) I will be able to call Senegal my home.