The first week of classes went really well, in my opinion. There was however, a problem with the Economics professor (I class that I do not take), but he was replaced after the first class. For my immigration course, the professor asked us to conduct five interviews for our final project. I had never really conducted interviews before and found the assignment really interesting. I conducted one interview during the week with my host sister, and learned a lot more than I expected. The assignment encouraged me to conduct my own personal interviews with my most talkative (and most lovable) host sister to learn more about Senegal. Even though five weeks in each country has opened my eyes to many realities that I was previously unaware of, there are still many nuances that seep through the cracks. As an outsider learning about a country I will never reach the same level of familiarity as a native, or someone who has been integrated into the system of education since a young age. Since I have not lived in Senegal, it was enlightening to hear about all the most important historical figures and stories from my host sister. Of course, there is still much, much more to learn, but the interview was definitely a start. The one world history class I took in high school glossed over African history and the process of colonisation. Learning more in-depth about Northern and Western Africa has only made me realize how little I know about the world.
This past Thursday was Thanksgiving, which is an especially hard time to be away from home. However, APA did its best to accommodate us, and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving at Sophie’s family’s house. We originally thought that Sophie would try to cook the classic American dishes served on Thanksgiving, but she ended up catering from an American restaurant (honestly, respect …it’s a lot of work to cook a whole Thanksgiving meal with little help). We ended up having turkey with gravy, mac n cheese, collard greens, mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams with marshmallows, biscuits, pumpkin soup, and even clam chowder for an East Coast twist. I scoffed down two plates and was almost immediately put into a food coma. I had also forgotten about desert (pies and ice-cream), so in the spirit of Thanksgiving I forced more food down my stomach even though it already looked like I was pregnant with triplets. I danced some of the carbs away before heading home, because like any Senegalise party, this party had some bomb music.
After Thanksgiving, however, was when everyone started to get sick. The crazy thing was that we all had different symptoms, so it definitely wasn’t a simple case of food poisoning. Last summer I was really sick in Dakar, and caught multiple different “diseases”. At the same time, I was also going through a roller-coaster of emotions due to personal reasons. Therefore, the second time in Dakar has been a piece of cake in comparison. However, the sentiment is definitely not shared by the rest of the group. In addition to all of our random illnesses, morale has been low as people have been encountering problems with their host families combined with sheer emotional and physical exhaustion. Many in the group are counting the days until they can finally be home with their families, even though they seem to be enjoying certain aspects of Senegal.
The weekend trip was to Goree so I did not participate, seeing as how I visited there three times over the summer. Instead, I planned on going to Mbour to see my family. However, due to a lack of communication, those plans fell through and I ended up staying in Dakar for the weekend. I visited my aunt on Saturday and hung out with my cousins all day. On Saturday night we went to the biweekly party, Fool Moon. We left the house around midnight and were still the first ones to arrive. The party did not even really start until 2am, meaning we did not get home until around 5 am. The next day was spent lounging around the house and recovering from dancing for 6 hours straight. The most exciting thing that happened on Sunday was a visit to Seaplaza (bougie, expensive mall).
I am ready for another week of classes…but time is going too fast. It is already DECEMBER! Help!
Until next week
A note from APA: While we tend to focus on recognizing and adapting to cultural differences relating to students, the same is experienced, albeit less-documented for host city professors, host families, and even passersby on the street. APA took swift action when it came to our attention that one of our professors would not be able to foster an open learning environment conducive to an exchange of ideas with the wealth of cultural diversity present in the classroom. Nakeshia’s remarks addressing moral and adaptation in Senegal are so helpful. Multi- site programs can be akin to a marathon as they have high’s and lows as one is constantly exposed to new cultures, new experiences and new conflicts. All the preparation in advance is needed to buoy moral during the low points and use the cohort as team to support each other through the various stages. Every day we are in admiration of the strength, curiosity and perseverance that this group has demonstrated over the past semester and have been humbled by their grace during the hardest moments. It is certain that their future paths will be of trailblazers as they have seen first-hand what they are capable of.