It’s now the end of week six and, to be honest, I have trouble organizing my thoughts and all that has happened into a succinct blog post so please bear with me. As you can see from the title though, using the AZERTY keyboard at work has made using my personal laptop a little difficult. I guess you could say I’m adjusting well.
Finding a routine in Dakar
Since the last post, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a little bit more of Dakar and attend some of the events organized by the French Institute. I’ve also, more importantly, settled into a routine which helps keep me grounded and has made the transition much smoother.
One such routine and, probably very similar for many of my cohort members, is getting to work at a certain time. Here in Dakar, I am expected to be at work between 8-9 am which, in the beginning, meant that I wouldn’t always leave my house at the same time every morning. Since then, I’ve met someone at the office who is also my neighbor and we now split the taxi to work every morning. Not only does it hold each of us accountable, but it also allows for some company on the 20+ minute taxi ride. In case I forgot to mention, I live pretty far from the office but, as I mentioned in my last post, I started looking for a place to stay very close to my departure date which limited the number of options that were within my budget. That being said, I’m extremely happy with my choice since I am close to the center city ‘Plateau’ (5-10 minute taxi).
I feel it’s important to mention here that, although I only talk about taxis, there are other forms of transportation such as Car rapide, TATA buses, and Dem Dikk. Unfortunately, because of where I live, which is on the Corniche, taxis are the most convenient for me and I have yet to use these other modes of transportation. However, many who live in the Mermoz, Ouakam, or Ngor (map below) area have said these are a great option.
Another thing that has helped me settle into my life here is EXERCISE! For me, it’s important not only for physical health but also for my mental health. It’s also a way to hold yourself accountable to yourself. It’s often so easy to say, not today and then stop for a week. During my time here, I’ve made it a point to workout at least three times a week using Kayla Itsines pdf workout guide which includes 12 weeks of workouts, each week consisting of 3 different workouts. If you ask me, it’s pretty great. What makes this easier to do is that 1) there is a small gym just to the side of our building which is designed for staff to use and 2) Over the last week, I’ve managed to get some of my coworkers to join which allows me to push myself more and allows us to focus on our health.
Speaking of activities, the office organized a trip to the Museum of Black Civilizations located in Plateau (reference map above). It was a great way to get to know some of the staff and, with the help of our guide, gain a deeper understanding of African art and culture. The picture on the left below is the museum itself and on the right is a piece in the “Maintenant l’Afrique” exhibit which is filled with contemporary African art.
In addition, the education sector, after its bi-weekly (read: every two weeks) meeting has a little get together in the “Bureau du Bonheur et du Bien-être” (BBB) where the staff of the education sector can eat, talk and get to know one another. Since these sector meetings are scheduled on Fridays, which happen to be half days, it is a great way to close out the week. A bonus is that staff who were on mission bring back delicacies from the country they were in. The person in charge of organizing these get togethers is truly incredible and goes above and beyond to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable time!
Apart from work events and finding a routine, on weekends I like to make the most of the events offered by the French Institute which in the last weeks of June included a film screening of Sembène Ousmane’s “La Noire de..”, a recital put on by l’Ecole des Sables (photo on the left), which brings together dancers from over 10 African countries for a program of 3 years where the dancers meet for 3 months every year, a ‘Street Food’ event (top right) which featured street food typically found in the different regions of Senegal, and an exhibit by a Senegalese artist Docta (bottom right).
While all of these events have been incredible, I’ve become very aware of my positionality (thank you Lauren and Dr.GK) at all of them and also aware of who attends events such as these. It can sometimes be unsettling to be surrounded by mostly expats at these events and this is not lost on me. On one hand, it is easy to run toward what we ‘know’ and be ‘comfortable’ in this space but that does not mean I should stay there. I think in order for me to grow, I should branch out more, and be more open minded in some respects. For anyone out there also feeling this way, self-reflection is good and so is understanding positionality. How we respond to it, is important.
I’ll leave it here for today, I’ll dedicate a whole post to work next time. For now, SENEGAL IS IN THE FINAL FOR THE 2019 AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS and everyone here is celebrating!!