“Everything you’re sure is right can be wrong in another place”
Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
So, I’m a little late with the whole blog thing. But in Senegal, you’re never late so we can go with that. People here are on average 1-2 hours late to everything, and more often people don’t set specific times for things and just use general terms like in the afternoon, evening, etc. It’s nice to have two cultures so I can conveniently pick and choose what I want to embrace, and be ‘right,’ more of the time. As a chronically late person even in the States, I’m happy to embrace what we westerners call Senegalese time.
I have been in Senegal for three months now, and things are going well. I’m learning Pulaar, which is a musical language spoken in the southern part of Senegal as well as in Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, and parts of Mali. About three weeks ago I moved to my permanent site in Kolda which is in the southern part of Senegal. Compared to the North, (where we had two and a half months of training) the South is less developed, poor, and far from Dakar, which is such a westernized city it feels like a different world than the rest of Senegal. Kolda is beautiful, with a long rainy season and the most delicious mangoes I’ve ever tasted. Things are more laid back down here, and the people are welcoming and generous with what little they have.
From pulling my water out of a well, to greeting every single person I see on the street, to eating my meals around communal bowls with my 15 person family, every aspect of my life is different here in Senegal. I even go by a different name. The people here don’t even know my real name, let alone anything about my past life. Even if I wanted to tell people more about myself, I couldn’t get very far with my limited language skills. As far as most people think, I’m an American, I have a lot of money, and I’m a Peace Corps volunteer. Apparently these qualities make me the town celebrity. Despite the fact that my town is pretty large by Senegalese standards with roughly 10,000 people, and the fact that I’ve only been here three weeks, I’m pretty sure every child already knows my (Senegalese) name. So, if any of you Americans out there want to achieve (relative) fame and fortune, look no further than a plane ticket to Senegal! You’ll have to learn some basic greetings, but after that you’re golden.