Goodbye (for now) Senegal!
July 27, 2021
by Danielle Freshwaters
After eight busy, exciting, interesting, adventure-filled (and exhausting) weeks, here I am at the end of my time in Dakar. A lot of people have been asking me what I enjoyed the most, and while there are so many cool things I got to see and do, what’s really stood out to me is the kindness and hospitality – teranga. And this last week, it’s been on full display!
Tabaski, the Wolof name for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, was celebrated, well, all week, but officially on Wednesday. My host family is Christian, but as I talked about in one of my previous posts, everyone is included in the party! One of my colleagues at GAIA, Marieme, invited me to her house on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate. What exactly does it mean to celebrate Tabaski? Mostly eating, drinking, talking, and more eating – it’s a chance to gather with family and friends. When I arrived at Marieme’s house, I helped out a little in the kitchen, but lunch was mostly already prepared: sheep cooked in a gazillion different ways, potatoes, salads, sauces, and of course bread. We ate together on the floor in the living room on a colorful mat, and even though I was surrounded by people I’d only just met, I felt like part of the family! It was a wonderful experience, and of course I ate way too much. After lunch, we sat in the living room and had lots of lively
conversations about all the major events going on in the world – rising coronavirus cases, vaccines, wildfires and floods, the Olympics…and munched on freshly roasted peanuts and fruit. In the evening I was given a ride home, and on the way, we dropped off food at Marieme’s mom’s house, where we were of course invited in for drinks. I loved passing through the neighborhoods and seeing all of the people dressed up, going out as is tradition to greet friends and neighbors. Dakar is a highly populated and dense city, but it feels like a small community at the same time – people truly know and take care of each other.
The next day, after a good night’s sleep and digestion, I was invited to Astou’s house for lunch. Big events and celebrations are always fun, but it’s the casual get-togethers like this one that I often enjoy the most. Everyone is at ease, doing what they normally do. Astou’s family was very welcoming, and her aunt sent me home with a big sack of roasted nuts!
Thursday evening, my host family met up with their circle of friends for a trip to Gorée, which I’ve now visited several times. We arrived just as the sun was setting, and it was nice to see the island at a different time of day, when things are quiet. I went for a stroll with some of the adults while the kids played on the beach, and then enjoyed a dip myself. With the moon reflecting on the water and the salt kept me afloat with barely any effort, it was a perfect swim. We ate a late dinner at a restaurant next to the water, all 20 ish of us at the same table, the only people there. It felt like we had the whole island to ourselves!
The rest of the weekend I spent a lot of time relaxing at the house, making some last-minute purchases, and finalizing my various projects and reports. On Saturday, I joined Astou and Yvanna for a farewell dinner at the lighthouse, Phare des Mamelles, which overlooks the coast and the city. We talked about my experiences in Senegal and as part of APA, what I liked and didn’t like, and what it was like to be the only student.
As I said in my first post, part of the value of a study abroad experience is sharing it with other students. But even if I had the choice, I wouldn’t change my circumstances. As the only student, I met more people, developed closer relationships, did more exploring on my own, and really got to know the city of Dakar and its inhabitants.
On Tuesday, Marie Hélène and I will be going to La Petite Côte for our last day and night together. We’ll be staying at her friend’s house which was kindly offered to us and is very close to the airport. So it’s one last day at the beach, and then Wednesday morning I’ll be homeward bound! But it’s not really goodbye – more like see you later. À plus tard, Dakar!
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!