To be perfectly honest, I was most looking forward to the Senegal portion of the trip, so it is definitely great to be back. While I was going through immigration, I received my first “How come you don’t speak Wolof?”, which was the welcome that I expected, and the familiarity was comforting. However, after Rabat, the thing I was most looking forward to (sorry fam) was the HEAT and the SUN! I felt so betrayed by the cold and rain in Rabat that I was actually looking forward to 30C weather. As soon as I stepped out of the airport, it was pure bliss… I can’t stress enough how much I missed the sun and how happy I am to have missed the weather back home.
From the airport, we went directly to Casa Mara and got settled in. We were all exhausted, and thankfully had some time to take a nap before we went out to dinner with Sophie and Cecilia. Dinner was amazing, we were right on the beach and the food was great. Cecilia got to know the group better, and everyone shared what they were most nervous/ excited about for the last leg of the trip. Since this is the end of the semester, most of us have just been feeling burnt out. Even back home when it gets to the second half of the semester, it is really hard to stay motivated and not feel a little homesick. I do think that the emotional burden is less for me than for the other girls though, considering that I have been here before and know what to expect. I also have family here as well, which makes me less homesick.
The next day was the start of orientation. In my opinion, the orientation in Dakar was the most informative and least repetitive. For lunch, we had our first shared plate of thieboudienne (rice and fish). The other APA students also got a chance to try Bissap and Bouye (the unofficial national drinks of Senegal). At night, we took a cab to the lighthouse and got to see Dakar light up at night. There was an afro-jazz group playing, and it was great to be able to lounge around and enjoy the music with a drink.
The following day, [we went] on a tour of the city in a van, which was very conviennent because I was not about to walk for more than an hour. I learned for the first time that Point E, the neighborhood that we were going to live in, stood for Point Européen, because during colonial times it was where all the Europeans lived. We had the classic yassa poulet for lunch, and met some of their students based in Dakar. After all of our orientation classes, I decided to stop by at my old host family’s house, since it was a mere 10 minute walk away. It was a great reunion, I had missed them all so much! I also introduced my host family to the other girls in APA, and the connections were immediate. We all planned to hang out soon as a group. Despite my meeting with my host sisters, there was a lot of confusion as to whether or not I was going to be staying with them this time or not. My host mom over the summer, who I called “Grandmere”, went to France and will not be back in Senegal until January. I emailed her and got the impression that she was not hosting any students this semester. However APA reassured me that I would be staying with the same family, considering what a good fit they were for me last summer. Host family placements were the next day, so I told my host family that I would be moving in soon, regardless of whatever preconceptions both sides had.
On the way back to the hotel, [someone] got her purse stolen by two guys on a motorcycle. It was ironic because we just had a safety talk in the morning. She was taking all the necessary precautions, but they were able to snatch her purse because they sped up on the scooter and broke the strap. Thankfully her phone did not get stolen, but it was still a very unfortunate incident. It was however, a good warning for the rest of us, and I have been clutching my purse everytime I walk on a road where there are no sidewalks since.
On Friday, we had our first Wolof class, then went back to the hotel to meet our host families. I took a taxi by myself to my host family. Surprisingly, many people’s first meal was pizza, including mine. I got settled in really fast, and caught up with my host sisters. Over the weekend, we had an impromptu photoshoot and on Sunday we went to the beach. At the beach, we played volleyball with some Guineans, and got home around 7. It really felt like a vacation, and it was unfathomable that we all had classes on Monday. Regardless, I am still really excited to start classes again!
Until next week!