October 15, 2016 was the one year anniversary of my Senegalese adventure. While it has not been a crazy wild adventure fueled with alcohol, drugs ( unnecessary), partying, jumping out of planes and surfing ( yes, this is what some people do here), it has definitely been an adventure.
I look back to where I was personally and professionally a year ago, and I know I have grown. My move here was 70% career-related and probably 30% personal. I believe I am on track career-wise and despite a hiccup on the personal side, I have boarded a train and started a new journey…I am however still waiting for my job offer from the Travel Channel…
To sum it up,
I have made acquaintances, friends and everything in-between.
I have stayed safe and will hopefully remain this way.
I have learnt to expect to eat rice for lunch everyday and the Senegalese are the original creators of red rice (thiedounne) however we Nigerians have taken it up a notch with Jollof rice (and it is better).
I have learnt a few words in Wolof but nearly not enough.
I have learnt that you have to make the best out of every situation. Yes, it may be a shitty day or week but don’t let it become a shitty month, year, or experience. Shit happens but the difference is how you deal with it.
I have scratched the surface of Senegalese society and I have began to better understand people’s reactions and attitudes.
I have learnt that some people just don’t know their level. This is especially true for men.
I have learnt that is someone tells you that they are being pressured to marry someone ( cousin or not cousin), wish them good luck and keep it moving.
I have pretty much be asked to be the “side chick” and told that if things worked out, I could become the “main chick” WTF? Apparently with it being legal to have 4 wives in Senegal, this is not such a big deal.
I have gone on a 6-hour drive in 40+ degree weather and not put out a bush fire (as the driver described it). My bladder and doctor were not pleased.
I have learnt, that no matter how polite you want to be, when offered food and drink in the field, find an excuse to say no. Your stomach will thank you later.
I have learnt, that if you are young (and a woman) people will doubt your skills and may question your authority. Do not react negatively and get upset. Make it clear that ultimately you have a job to do and it should be respected. If they choose not to respect it, that is their problem and not yours. Look past it as long as it does not affect the work.
I have learnt, that in Africa sexual harassment towards women in the workplace happens all the time and people just look the other way. If you are not married or pregnant, for some reason some men think they can hit on you. As such, women end up pretending to have a partner or are generally not friendly to avoid these situations or rumors. We also sometimes dress like bums…
Most of all, I have learned that moving to a different city, state or country is hard. It is even harder when you are faced with a different culture and different language. There will be highs and lows and you will miss your family and friends, but the most important thing is to keep busy and remain optimistic. It usually improves and right now, there is even a small part of me thinking about staying longer….
Last weekend was a long weekend and a friend of mine invited me to tag along on a group trip to Saly for the weekend. Excited by the prospect of just showing up with my bikini and snacks, I said yes. However, being the planner that I am, as the days rolled by, I asked for updates and the answer was “still waiting to hear back“. Eventually Thursday rolled by and the group plans fell through. I really wanted go to the beach and it was clear that if I wanted to go, I needed to plan it. With all hotels, motels, guesthouses and rental properties being fully booked, a day trip was the only option.
Toubab Dialow located 50km outside Dakar was chosen. According to local legend, this village on the Petite-Cote used to be visited by spirits who brought with them a fresh water source with mystic powers. Let’s hope that whatever mystic powers are in the water were positive as I swam in it.
We set up at Espace Sobo Bade, a hotel and cultural centre for artists located on a cliff overlooking the beach. The pictures below visually display what a beautiful and relaxing place it is.
Across the hotel is the “Espace Culturel” which includes several workshops for different forms of art as well as accommodation for travelling artists.
All in all, this was a perfect Sunday Beach Day. An excellent way escape the city for a few hours and take in some vitamin D. The only thing I would change is the large number of stray cats that seem to live on the hotel grounds. But then again, I can’t really blame them. It is a very relaxing place to be.
One of the most exciting things that can happen when living abroad is having visitors. I was more that thrilled when my good friend from DC announced that she had just bought a ticket and was coming over. Being the planner I am, I developed a kick-ass itinerary and my friend’s response was ” I am not planner so I just go with the flow”. Nonetheless, I thought we will still need a plan and at least a day trip much needed.
So, I took the day off, rented a taxi and went to Lac Rose. Lac Rose is officially known as Lake Retba. It is about an hour’s drive from Dakar and is named for its pink water caused by an algae (Dunaliella Salina) and it’s high salt content.
One of the best ways of seeing the lake is to take a tour. Options include a camel ride, horseback riding, a four wheel drive or going around on an ATV. My friend aka “Ms. Adventurous” convinced me to go with the ATV option which included a ride through sand dunes. At the cost of 25,000 FCFA individually or 30,000 FCFA to share.
Mid October 2015, I packed my bags ( well more like two-thirds of my apartment in DC) and moved a couple thousand of miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Senegal. I wish there was some awesome story attached to my move, for example moving to be an international superstar ( but I probably would have moved to New York, LA or perhaps even Lagos ), start my own fabulous food business or to be with my lover/boyfriend/husband and backpack across Africa with no money but relying on the generosity of strangers for food and shelter, however NOPE, I moved to continue working for an NGO but now in a Senegal-based position. Tres dry but I guess nonetheless exciting ( at least career-wise).
In moving here, I had a lot of fears and concerns ( to be discussed later) and a few hopes and dreams. For example, I had a wonderful idea of creating an amazing social media presence to the extent that I would become so popular, I would be offered a job with the Travel Channel to travel around the world to learn about different cultures, try local eats and learn how to cook them while wearing modern versions of the traditional outfit. Unfortunately, 6 months in, I am nowhere near that and I have just gotten around to starting my blog. I guess that means, I have 6 months worth of material to write?