Last Week in Dakar
July 25, 2019
by Victoria Bergstrom
On Friday, Dakar’s streets were decorated for soccer because Senegal played against Algeria in the final match of the Africa Cup. All day, Senegalese soccer jerseys were worn everywhere, and taxis proudly displayed Senegalese flags. I wore my jersey and everyone I saw said “allez les lions” or “Senegal!” loudly. Supermarkets were busy before the game and as soon as the game started at 7PM, there was very little traffic to be seen. Some students went to Sea Plaza to watch the game. I went with Siddhakshi and Jacob to watch the game. The first 20 minutes had a lot of action and Algeria scored. Throughout the game, Senegal made some excellent shots on goal, yet it was not successful. Even though the French commentators spoke very fast, we could understand most of what was being said. The rest of the game was not successful for Senegal and sadly they lost 0 – 1. I walked back with Siddhakshi to my host family. It was surprising how quiet Dakar was, even more so when we saw some fans quietly weeping, outside of Jacob’s house. The Senegalese national soccer team played well, and it was the first time since 2002 that Senegal made it to the finals of the Africa Cup. The team was warmly welcomed back to Dakar and many fans believe that next year will be the year for a championship. Some sports commentators have said that both Senegal and Algeria’s coaches are the new faces of African coaching for the future and the future is bright for soccer in both countries. Another competition both countries will plan in will be the 2020 African Nations Championship of CHAN, hosted in Cameroon. The Africa Cup is held every other year, during odd years, while CHAN is held during even years. I hope Senegal will win next year, considering how talented and hardworking their team is, yet we will have to wait until then. Allez les lions!
I have had my Wolof course and one hour of Wolof conversation for over a week, and I have started to use Wolof to buy peanuts, coffee, and taxis. When I went with my professor to Place de Souvenirs and we stopped by a restaurant for bissap, we told the waitress that I was learning Wolof and she had a surprised, yet content look on her face. I have seen the same reaction when I try to get a taxi or buy a coffee using Wolof with as little as French as possible. Like many Dakarois, using French with Wolof is common. If I ask for the price of a taxi, usually the price will be given in French. I have made new friends through Wolof, including some ISM students, such as Aissatou who wants to enter the world of International Relations. It’s humbling to find someone that shares common interests and is kind enough to help me learn a language that is considered difficult by some. Wolof has allowed me to know taxi drivers who think Dakar is the Manhattan of West Africa, venders who enjoy seeing common and new faces, and many others who have answered my many questions. Aissatou, my professor, and my host family have asked me if I will come back to Senegal to practice Wolof or find Senegalese communities abroad. I hope to come back to Senegal when I can, but in the meantime, I have some friends in the United States who will smile when I speak to them in Wolof when I return. I am eager to learn more, however my Wolof final is this Friday. Senegal neex na ma! (I like Senegal!)
Tonight, I went with two students, Seneca and Ethan to a restaurant right by my host family. It’s conveniently hidden away from the main street a block from my house. It was enjoyable and surprisingly quiet, we thought that being hidden away explained it. One of my favorite experiences has been finding somewhere new – earlier today I found a row of stores near one of my favorite places to buy Café Touba. Everyday I try to find some place new, preferably during the day time. Around 10AM, 12PM, and 5PM are the busiest times and it can become difficult to explore when you’re focusing on crossing the road. Many Nescafe stands will change places for the nighttime, especially along busier roads for convenience. Other venders walk around Dakar all day long selling items and I have come across the same vender several times in one day! Even though I have found new sights in unexpected places, Dakar keeps me guessing what I will find next.
This weekend, everyone will leave Dakar and return to our families back home. Our last night together is this Friday. It’s sad to leave a city that we’ve gotten to learn and love in 8 weeks. Our host families will miss us, as we will miss them too! We will have fond memories looking back upon our stay in Dakar and hopefully some of us will return to Senegal in the future. Au revoir Dakar!