Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Senegal America Comparison

I am using a friends computer and can type what I have been experiencing here ahead of time, so I hope this post is helpful for those who are trying to stay updated on my experiences. I thought I would spend a little bit of time letting you all know what the daily Senegalese life is like. I am going to make comparisons of what you would see in the States as opposed to the everyday Senegalese sights, smells, tastes, etc.

The things you experience in Senegal that you don’t experience in the States (on a regular basis):

Charettes are a form of transportation found throughout Senegal but used primarily in smaller villages. Donkeys or horses are rigged with a carriage-like piece of wood (on average 3x5 feet) with wheels and 5-20 people fit themselves on at one time. The downside to this lovely form of road travel is drivers don’t always judge their passengers ability to hold on tightly when traveling at higher speeds!

Eating from the bowl
The bowl is usually a very large metal mixing bowl you would find in most commercial kitchens in the USA. The entire Senegalese family (ranging from 5-15+) sit and eat from this bowl at one time. It is definitely very intimidating when you first experience it, but I have grown to appreciate it! Eating from the bowl includes bowl manners, mothers scolding children who aren’t abiding the bowl rules, etc.

Daily Markets
In most larger cities, markets are held on a daily basis. You can get everything from fish, fruits, veggies, peanuts, and other food products to sandals, fabric, batteries, and the ultimate bucket purchases! (buckets are useful for everything here!) Markets are crowded often dirty places with people haggling for the best price and getting their veggies, meat, and grains for their meals that day.

The breast-feeding woman
Breast-feeding and breasts in general are viewed completely differently in Senegal than they are in the States. It is not uncommon for women to walk around topless doing house work, breastfeeding their children in public, etc. This has definitely been an adjustment and something that can still be shocking when meeting someone for the first time. You don’t really get used to seeing more of them than you are used to upon introduction.

Sheep and goats anywhere and everywhere
That’s basically all I need to say. They show up in your housing compound, school building, middle of the road, everywhere you go.

Bucket Baths
Move over modern shower appliances, the bucket bath is here to stay, and stay it will! Many might find it to be a bit disconcerting but I have come to appreciate the joys of a bucket bath after a sweaty walk through town. For those who are wondering, it is what it sounds like. Fill a bucket with water, add a small cup to scoop, traverse to your showering area, and indulge!

Three Cups of Tea
No ladies and gents, not the book, although I have seen a few copies floating throughout the training center, I am talking about the common mid-morning, afternoon, and evening three cups of tea. The Senegalese drink tea from what look like shot-glasses. Usually the youngest male child of the family makes the tea and you drink three cups that progressively get sweeter and more minty as you go! It is delicious!!

Jack Bauer
Yes, 24 has made it to Africa! Although its dubbed in French, Jack Bauer can be seen fighting crime and saving the world on a regular basis!

Call the Prayer
It happens 5 times a day, the first at 5am. Those living in larger cities do not fare as well because it seems as if many Senegalese own or share loudspeakers. The call is done in a type of singing/chanting way and its not uncommon to be woken up by this every-day experience!

White Bread
I have yet to see any whole wheat bread in all of Senegal. Almost every day breakfast will be white bread with coffee. If you are lucky you can get your white bread with beans, Senegalese mayo (its delicious trust me), chocolat, or maybe even tuna!! Major breakthrough: I recently got my family to try white bread with peanut butter (this is unheard of here).

Toubab and other racial slurs or seemingly inappropriate language
The Senegalese characterize one another by their differences! This means they point them out and make fun of one another all the time! As a Toubab (literally white person, or foreigner) you do not go for a walk out of your compound without being called Toubab. It is definitely NOT done in a menacing way, its simply observation and how many of the children have grown up! The fun part is turning it into a joke so they either learn your name or get to know you as a person rather than that label!

This is a goal of mine! The Senegalese have an uncharacteristic aim and force to their spitting I have yet been able to duplicate. Don’t worry I will continue to observe and practice this art!

Laundry-a workout here!
Needless to say, I give major props to Senegalese women! They work all day long preparing food and maintaining the house and it is hard work! Laundry here is not simply throwing clothes into a machine, sitting for an hour, and then throwing them into another to get them fluffy and warm. Its an all morning activity that includes lots of buckets, different liquids, lots of wear and tear, and finally lots of muscle!!

I hope to continue this list as I think of them. In every way I am sharing these things as just observations and out of love for the people of Senegal! I hope it helps you have a better idea of what life is like, and how it is different to the culture I was used to in America!


Tom Scates said...

It was sooooo good to talk to you yesterday (Sunday, Oct. 26). Your grandmother thoroughly enjoyed the chance to visit with you. We hope you get to feeling better soon.

I will start looking for that Husker hat you requested. I know I have seen them here somewhere (like in about every store).
I love you.

Shannon said...

I love reading your blog!! Brings back memories : )

You can find wheat bread (and other whole grain breads) in some of the bakeries in Dakar... fyi!

Uncle Paul said...

Hi Jessica,
Glad to hear you are doing so well. I enjoyed your comparisons between the two cultures. WOW...what a great experience. This will certainly be a live changing event for you. We will be so glad to hear the whole story when you return to the state in 2010. I'm proud of you and may God continue to bless you in this great adventure.