Today was my first full day in Dakar. (I got in yesterday, but after two days of more-or-less nonstop plane travel punctuated by actually falling asleep without conscious input, I think that yesterday does not count.)
The day was filled with the sort of awkward smalltalk that punctuates any first-time gathering of college kids. It was like the first few weeks of college, except that everyone talked about wanting to go into development. I don’t, and have neglected to mention that I am in fact an anthropology major. Some of the folks seem to hold us in disfavor.
My new commute to school (at least for the moment) involves jaywalking across a large highway. It is every bit as fun as you can imagine. (ie, not really at all. It is mostly terrifying.)
The food has been great, and with lots of it my goal to lose weight here is unlikely to come to pass. I’ve given up being a vegetarian while I’m here on the grounds that it will just be inconvenient to my host family, and as a result, my dinner tonight included the first red meat I’ve consciously eaten in 8 years. So far, my stomach hasn’t exploded. It was meaty pasta sauce, and for the most part I was surprised by how much it really does taste like fake meaty pasta sauce. Fake meats have gotten the research money pancreatic cancer needs, apparently, because they are on point.
Before dinner, we did tours of our neighborhoods, where we were lead by a 25-year-old university student who lives in the neighborhood and who was incredibly patient with our varying-levels-of-terrible French. I’m staying in Sacré Cœur 3, which is apparently the local bougie neighborhood. It’s very pretty, and there are approximately 8 billion places to pay people to make you clothes, so it’s got pretty much all that I need. (Also a pizza place. So there’s that.)
The tour ended with an adventure on a car rapide, one of the city’s local buses. They’re painted colorfully and packed full of people like firewood speaking very rapid French (and occasionally Wolof, which is actually most folks’ first language, with French being acquired in school). This reinforced my belief that public transit in foreign countries is cool and completely terrifying.
After a long day of being told how not to get murdered during election season, the group went out to a nearby bar. (Thus walking and being American at night, which are actually great ways to get murdered during election season, from what I have been told.) We passed unaccosted and annoyed the 3 people who were in the bar by bringing in 35 very chatty Americans.
I had a beer called Flag. It came in two varieties (PM and GM), and since they were unexplained about half of us ordered PM and the other GM. It turns out that those are size designations (petite and grande being the P and G, presumably), and so half of us wound up with 40s. I was not in that half, sadly. The beer wound up costing about $4 for the 40s and $2 for the regular bottles, and was perfectly fine. It was the first beer that several girls in the group (the CIEE group is overwhelmingly female; of 53 students we have 5 males).
Tomorrow I have to be at school by 8-ish, blech. I’m not jetlagged, but every muscle in my body is sore from constantly carrying things through airports, so I’m really looking forward to not moving this weekend. And buying some sunscreen, because the sun here is brighter than anything I have ever seen. (Also, the birds are all at least a foot long, which is a story for another time. Freaky mutant birds.)