June 14, 2021
by Danielle Freshwaters
I made it through my first full week of classes and internship! It was enjoyable, fulfilling, and tiring. The hardest part about taking a class in a language that’s not your first is that you have to be 100% tuned in 100% of the time. If your attention lapses for just a moment, you miss something. By the end of the day, I often feel drained, but I’m learning a lot!
My internship is with an NGO called GAIA – Groupe d’Action et d’Initiatives pour un développement Alternatif. Their vision is to promote sustainable development in Senegal by supporting individuals and communities in finding local solutions to problems due to climate change through education, analysis, planning, and projects related to sustainability. They focus a lot on youth education as well, and every year host a camp called WeekEco, where kids learn about and problem solve a specific issue related to climate change and sustainability. Here is the website if you want to learn more (it’s in French): https://sunugaia.org/
In addition to settling into my academics, I’m also settling into my family. What I love the most is that there are so many people to talk to and eat with, so many people who are looking out for me. My immediate family in the US consists of me, my brother, and my parents. In my extended family, I have grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, but most of them live in different states and we don’t see each other very often. I think that’s pretty common in the US. In my host family here in Dakar however, there is no such thing as an “immediate” or “extended” family. Family is just family, and everyone is here together in one big loving community.
When I get up in the morning, I greet every person when I see them, as is custom. Bonjour! Ça va? Tu as bien dormi? La soirée était bien passée? If it’s an internship day, I won’t be home until the evening, but if it’s a day I have classes, I’ll probably be home for lunch with whoever else is at the house. Bonjour! Ça va? Tu vas bien? Les cours étaient bien? Viens manger! After lunch, I might go out with Yvanna do explore the city. When I come home at the end of the day, it’s no longer “Bonjour” but “Bonsoir.” Ça va? Ta journée était bien passée? Tu n’es pas trop fatigué? The evening is my favorite time to be at the house because I can change into comfy clothes, and everyone comes home to relax, socialize, and eat together. When the sun sets, the heat becomes less oppressive, and it’s the perfect temperature to be outside in the courtyard.
By dinner time, everyone is ready to eat, and I’ve discovered that there are few things more satisfying and comforting than eating “au bol.” As I described in my last post, a meal “au bol” means everyone sits close together in a circle and eats together from a big shared bowl. A lot of families have guarded this tradition, but instead of using your hand, many people use spoons. I probably eat more than I should when we eat au bol, but the phrase I hear more than anything is “Il faut bien manger,” which means “You must eat well,” so I’ve taken that to heart.
About the Author
Hello! My name is Danielle, I'm from Tacoma, WA, and I am very excited to be the student blogger (and only student) for APA in Dakar this summer. I enjoy reading, brain games and board games, cooking, and spending time outside. I'm also a runner, so I am looking forward to exploring Dakar on foot!