Well, it is my 6th day in Senegal, but it feels like years since I left Tufts last Saturday. I've been spending my days in 70-80 degree weather and I barely remember what snow looks like! So far my experience has been wonderful. Our program spent the first week in a hotel and moved into our homestays yesterday. I'm living with my host parents, my host brothers, Mohammed and Papi, my parents' grandson (my nephew?), also named Papi, and the three maids, Odile, Aiou, and Ndiama. I also received my Senegalese name yesterday: I am now known as Hadija. I haven't quite gotten the hang of responding to it yet. The family is very welcoming and I'm sure it won't be long till I'm feeling at home.
The house is much bigger than I expected, it has 3 floors and lots of space. My room has two beds, as they usually have 2 students staying with them, but no one on the program got roommates so I have the room to myself (and extra closet space!). The family speaks mostly in Wolof, so I have a lot of learning to do. They all speak french as well, though, so communication isn't too hard. The younger Papi is just about the cutest thing I have EVER seen and I'm already planning how to take him home in my carry-on bag. He is two years old and basically runs the house. His parents live in Texas, where he was born, but they sent him back to Dakar to grow up here. The older Papi, who is 15, and I have been watching a lot of TV together, and I've seen some great music videos. The Senegalese ones have lots of cheesy shots of dancing in night clubs or singing in front of a green screen that changes between a map of Senegal, a picture of the president, and a scene at the beach, among other things. And there are some hilarious montages of American music videos set to Senegalese beats, so it looks like Destiny's Child and Missy Elliot are dancing along to a kora and sabar. The maids are very friendly and funny and I think I'll be spending a lot of time with them.
I'm living in the neighborhood Sacre Coeur Trois, which is to the north of the main city and about 25 minutes walking from school, and there are around 15 other students living around the quartier as well. It is one of the wealthier areas of Dakar, and very safe. Wealthy, of course, is relative, and there is a shantytown just across the highway, about 100 meters from my house. My family is quite well off, though; they have 2 sons living in America and my mom visits them pretty regularly.
There are about 45 other students on the program with me, and it has been really fun to get to know them. Somehow I keep winding up with the two other Tufts students, Hayley and Mark, but we're trying to branch out (haha). There are people from all sorts of schools and from all over the country, so its a really interesting mix of people. We've also made some friends with students at the school. Our program is based at the Suffolk University Dakar Campus (weird that that exists, I know), so students come from all over West Africa to study there. After 2 years in Dakar they transfer to the actual Suffolk campus in Boston, and there are posters in all the buildings with pictures of Bostonian landmarks--it's a little surreal. Oh, and by the way, you can see the ocean from our classrooms, no big deal.
Well I'm new to this whole blog thing, but I feel like my post is getting a little long. So as they say in Senegal, ba beneen yoon (till next time), and keep in touch!