Senegal: Week 1

This was written during my first week in Senegal. Due to craptastic wifi coverage, it hasn’t seen the light of day until now. Enjoy!

It is an interesting experience having everyone who comes into contact with you assume that you’re slightly retarded.

That’s been my major takeaway from my first week in Senegal, where—I swear to god—every time I interact with a new member of my host family they look at me and say (in very sympathetic French), “Oh, so you don’t know French?”

I’ve taken French since I was 12. I used to be good at it. I have given up trying to explain that my French used to be better back before I didn’t speak it for two years, both because a) I don’t think anyone believes me, and b) I no longer possess the knowledge of the appropriate tenses required to express this sentiment.

For the record, my French used to be better before I didn’t speak it for two years.

Other than that, this week has been full of the sorts of things one learns when one watches a lot of foreign TV with one’s elderly host parents. For example, when they score a goal, the Ghanan soccer team dances (I swear to god that this is true) the Soulja Boy. Also, at 8:30 tonight the local news station played 3 Brittany Spears videos from the mid-90’s without any explanation. They weren’t even the classics—this was like the b-sides of her first album.

It appears that this (along with the goddamn Nokia ringtone) is my country’s cultural legacy in the former French West Africa.

I tried baobab juice for the first time. It tastes like the Senegalese bottled liquid plant icing. It’s possibly my new favorite thing.

I thought that my body was adjusting to the reintroduction of meat to my diet with aplomb and that I was going to dodge that particularly disgusting digestive bullet. I was wrong.

I learned that there is no non-awkward way to ask how many bathrooms are in a house after the third day of you not hearing anyone use the one next to your room. I only know of one, but either there are other bathrooms (and I have been very kindly given my own) or no one in this house pees, ever.

I discovered that—as I had suspected—there are literally three kinds of outlet shapes in this country, all coexisting in a seemingly completely arbitrary setup. This may exist entirely to drive foreigners insane.

I realized that the day my parents fly in to visit me (February 26th) is the day of the elections. Given that the announcement this weekend that the current president can run for a third term resulted in multiple riots and some tires being set on fire (as well as a cop being killed), this seems like it may be a really awkward weekend. Whoops.

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