Making New Friends
July 9, 2019
by Nakeshia Diop
Day at the Beach
Tuesdays are my day off, so my host sister invited me to go to the beach with a few of her cousins. There were five of us in total and we all squeezed in a taxi to go to Monoco Beach. Unfortunately on the way there, we got stopped by a police officer who fined us for fitting too many people in the backseat. Thankfully the fine was not too hefty, and our little run in with the law did not dampen our excitement. We had to pay 1500 francs each to enter the beach, but unlike Voile d’or, it seemed like a place that attracted more locals than tourists. While my host sister and the rest of the family was busy taking photos, I got comfortable under one of the straw umbrellas that are scattered throughout the beach and took out my sketchbook. Apart from improving my french, one of the goals I had for myself this summer was to do more art, which has always been a hobby of mine. While I was painting a coconut tree, these two guys came up to me and asked if I could paint them too. I had never done anything like that before but I agreed to make an attempt. The portraits didn’t come out that great, but it was still an interesting experience. The two guys seemed to appreciate their portraits, and I was content with having made a small connection with people outside of the program. After the beach, a few of us went to go get smoothies downtown and finished the day with a little bit of shopping.
My account of my time here in Senegal would not be complete if I did not mention soccer. Much like most other countries in the world, soccer is huge here, and there are always people playing soccer or watching matches. Our time in Senegal also happens to coincide with the African Cup of Nations. I was unaware of this fact until last week when I was downtown and noticed a sea of people decked out in red yellow and green flooding the streets. Senegal had just won 2-0 against Tanzania, and the whole city of Dakar was going wild. The next game did not go so well. On Thursday Senegal played against Algeria and lost 0-1. Despite the loss, people still had faith in the lions. On Monday, the Senegal team obliterated the Kenyan team by scoring 3 goals to Kenya’s 0. I watched the game with my host family, and we all crammed into one room with our eyes glued to the television. Whenever there was a goal everyone would go crazy, and the grandma would pop her head in and do a small celebratory dance.
All the hype of the African Cup of Nations must have gotten to me, because I finally played a game of soccer myself. On Friday, I went with three other students from the program to our dance class at the Blaise Senghor Cultural Center. We waited around for about 30 minutes but our dance instructor never showed up so we decided to head back home and grab something to eat on the way. While we were walking back, Melqui mentioned that he had brought a soccer ball with him from home, so after lunch we went to the piscine olympique and started kicking the ball around. Two guys who were playing soccer in a nearby field saw us and asked us if we wanted to join them. We split up into two teams of three and started playing. I hadn’t worked out since I arrived in Dakar so it really was a lot of exercise for me, and it was not long before I was completely drenched in sweat. For the first half of the game I did not even notice that there was an actual goal set up and was just kicking the ball in the general vicinity of where I thought the goal should be. That is just to show how rarely I play soccer, but by the end of the game I felt invigorated even though my body was exhausted. I was pulsing with heat and my whole face was red. But on the way home I could not stop smiling, it was unbelievable to me how easy it was to make friends and create connections even without the use of language.
Victoria, who is one of the APA students celebrated her 20th birthday on Saturday. To prepare for the big day, Siddakshi, Seneca and I went downtown to buy decorations and snacks the day before. We got everything ready at Siddakshi’s house, and Siddakshi made Chai for everyone before the party. It was a great opportunity for everyone to come together because it is really easy to go days without seeing someone you don’t have class with. We played a word game in French and ended the party with sparklers.
Those are the highlights of this week, until next time!