Naanga def, or how are you, is one of the few phrases in Wolof that I have picked up in my two weeks here. To say the past two weeks have flown by is an understatement; I feel like I haven’t had time (or made time) to sit and reflect on all that’s happened. From starting my internship and getting to know coworkers to finding a place and trying to explore Dakar, everything has gone a 100 miles a minute.
My journey began about a week and a half before leaving for internship when I was still finding flights and had made no progress/effort on finding a place to stay. Some might find this stressful, but I’ve come to accept that I function best under pressure. Anyway, I my book flights a week before my departure date, which is exactly 2 days before my first day of internship, and begin looking for a place to stay in a facebook group recommended to me by my internship supervisor. Hundreds of messages later and a day before my departure date, I had narrowed my search to two possibilities. I decided the best way to choose between the two would be to visit both places so I booked a hotel and taxi transfer for the night I landed in Dakar and made plans to visit both apartments on the Sunday before the start of my internship.
I landed on Saturday evening at 8:30 pm, after having had an 8 hour layover in Paris, which allowed me to see my grandparents. Long layovers can be really nice, especially when it means spending time with family and a home-cooked meal. I passed customs, picked up my luggage, found my taxi driver and we made our way to Ngor, the neighborhood in Dakar where I would be staying for the night. The night air was cool and breezy as we listened to Senegalese music. I remember thinking to myself with excitement, “I made it, here we go!”
The next morning, after a delicious breakfast at the hotel, I decided to locate where I’d be working for the next three months before meeting up with the owner of the first apartment at 11. It turned out to be a short, 10 minute walk from the hotel and so I returned to the hotel to pass some time and read a guide book left for guests. I had thought of purchasing a SIM card this day but, on Sundays, most businesses are closed in Dakar.
When it came time to leave, I walked back to the main road to take a taxi and try out my bargaining skills. Taxis in Dakar are one of the many forms of transportation and do not run on a meter. Instead, the price is negotiated between the driver and the person looking for a taxi.
That Sunday, I visited both apartments, met with both of my potential roommates and decided on a place to stay. What stands out most about this day is that, during one of the visits, I was invited to join for a traditional Senegalese meal for lunch. As you can see from the picture, we all sat on the floor and ate from the same dish. I truly enjoy learning about different food cultures and to be able to experience that on my first day in Senegal was truly special. The hospitality was so kind and the food so delicious (I guarantee most of my blogs will talk about food adventures)
Living situation decided, I picked up my suitcase and traveler backpack I’d left at the hotel and took them to my new home for the next three months. I unpacked, put up the pictures of family and friends I’d brought (I like to make every new place I go have a little bit of home) and got ready for bed, excited and, let’s be honest, nervous, about my first day.
My first week was full of introductions. I met the staff and the other interns and attempted to wrap my head around the organization and the work I would be doing. My role is in the education sector as an intern for what is called the coordination task team. I work to analyze and support the different existing communication strategies between 27 different organizations that together make up the Regional Coordination Group for SDG 4 in West and Central Africa (RCG4-WCA). I’m now two weeks in and have attended about 5 meetings, written meeting reports in both French and English, and was able to help moderate the education sector meeting this past week. The work is vast and I hope to write about it in more detail in later posts.
Admist moving and adjusting to my internship, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people who have made me feel very welcome and made the transition very smooth. I’ve also been able to explore the beaches and different cultural events that Dakar has to offer. The pictures below summarize some of the amazing experiences I’ve had. Starting from top left, an intern’s going away dinners that I was invited to my first week in Dakar. It’s a Lebanese restaurant and we ordered a lot of small dishes to share. The next picture, bottom left, is from a farmer’s market held in Ouakam sector of Dakar. There are a lot of artisans there and fresh food to enjoy. The center picture is from a live painting event where a Senegalese grafitti and urban artist created this mural in the span of 5 hours. It was incredible watching him move from one end of the mural to the other and watching him work. The picture on the right is from my second weekend in Dakar at a fellow intern’s house where she prepared Thiebou dieunne for two other interns, one of which had ended their internship before my getting there, and me. It was great to share the meal and be able to engage in rich conversations surrounding politics, faith, and societal norms. There were debates and disagreements and we left talking about the next time we’d meet, and who would be cooking what. Like I said, food is important, and I’m glad I’ve found people who value meals the way that I do.
That’s all for now! Until next time everyone!