My Final exams have come to a close and though I’m grateful for the painlessness and lack of late nights spent at the library with a Big Gulp cup of 7/11 coffee like customary semester crunches, I step away from my French and Wolof oral exams, not only tearing myself sadly away from my amazing professors by mumbling a solitary “Ba beneen yoon, in shalla” (until next time, God willing), but I feel a lack of satisfaction. Do I miss the nights of only 4hours of sleep? The time crunch of deadlines as you think you’re heart is about to explode? The communal bond approaching a vending machine that has run out of Red Bull during Exam week? Hardly. However, it’s almost as if I don’t warrant this “freedom” from classes and commencement of summer. Everyone back home stresses the awaiting summer-dreams of sleeping until eternity, walking around barefoot, and road trips to undiscovered destinations. After all of their hard work they deserve the relaxation. Me. I’ve been sleeping solid 7-8 hour nights (unheard of in college world), finishing homework before dinner so that I can enjoy a petit soiree before bed, and the unimaginable ability to take 2 hour lunch breaks in between classes to try out a Senegalese dish I’ve heard students rave about. I guess I shouldn’t complain: this is partly what studying abroad is about. If I were stressed, there is no way I would have been able to enjoy the newness of each day, the cultural unearthing around each Mermoz corner, or the customary salutations to each peanut and sandwich lady I pass. Though I still have a week of time here in Dakar before I pack up and proclaim another “Ba beneen yoon” to my new found love, I’m taking in each moment here with a look at is finality.
As a farewell to the program and to Senegal, last Wednesday, we enjoyed a CIEE banquet featuring Senegalese dishes, drumming, dancing, extraordinary clothing, and talent from fellow students. Capturing the relationship between us students and the Dakar we’ve grown to love, Kristen Bryant did a reading from an original: a letter addressed to her lover, Dakar himself. We all nodded in agreement and laughed at the truthfulness and hopefully her poem below gives light into my last 4 months here. If not, just ask the next time you seem me, because I guarantee you it will warrant a more invigorating conversation rather than the standard, “How was Africa?” would do.
“Me and language used to have a thing going on. In fact, it was pretty damn serious. But then, I met Dakar and well, me and my language started to go our separate ways because Dakar is one charming a** motherf#^@&. When I first met him I didn’t know what to think. My first thought was damn this dude is dusty as shit and loud as hell. But he was so mysterious. He didn’t make sense. He was like a 6 foot tall 6 year old or a pubescent boy he just couldn’t handle his own body. But at the same time he was at ease. He was speaking a new language to me and I was excited to learn any and everything he could teach me. He was full of surprises. Always taking me new places. Pushing me to the edge but never letting me fall. At first, he had seemed so backwards so broken. But then I danced with Dakar. Down the streets. Along the beach. All around town. And if it had rained we would have dance in the rain. And though things weren’t always perfect I felt like we fit together like a lock and a key. And after a few months I was comfortable with him. It was like we had known each other our whole lives. But Dakar is not always nice. He smells bad. He steals things. He loses track of time. He is never done with his projects. He eats way too much rice, oil, and sugar. He is not a good study buddy. He doesn’t really know how to treat women. He is frivolous with his xaalis(money). He is in no way shape or form politically correct. And he doesn’t have the best group of friends, I mean have you met Pikine and Rufisque? It never surprised me when people told me they didn’t like him. So, for a while we decided to see other people. First I met Mbour. And he was fun. In fact he was fabulous. But he wasn’t Dakar. Then I met Kolda and I thought he was the one. When I saw him it was like seeing the most beautiful starry night but we didn’t really speak the same language. So I had to let him go. Then I met Saly. And Saly was so easy. Saly was different. And I kept hanging out with him but I was with him and thinking about Dakar so I had to move on. Then I met Sine Saloum and he was too quiet. He made me miss Dakar’s voice. So I decided to hang out with Saint Louis. And boy was he beautiful. He was an island to himself. But I didn’t stay with him long. And there were all these other people I kept hearing about like Kedagou and Ziguinchor, who is apparently quite the rebel, but before I could even give them a chance. Dakar called me. So of course, I ran back to him. And when I came back he breathed a new life into me. Nights. Parties. Music. Poetry. People. All new. So fresh. Just when I thought I knew who he was I found out I knew nothing about him. For someone who is so rough on the surface, once you get to know him, he is kind. He is hospitable. He is family. And he became the only semblance of home I knew. Dakar would rock me to sleep. Comforting me, whispering as a low flying plane. Now I can’t sleep because Dakar won’t let me. He keeps me up with his thoughts and his plans for the future. But all good things must come to an end and even this love affair will…He wants me to stay but I have to go and well I don’t like goodbyes so I think am just going to leave him one day before he wakes up. Slip out from under his arms and give him one last gros bissou while looking down at him. But I will not say good bye. I will simply dit au revoir.
Kristen Bryant- Spring 2011