So my past two weeks with my new family can be summarized by this Wolof word and command: “toogal” (the 2 oo‘s sound like the o in most), which means sit, sit down, take a seat. I am still somewhat of a guest in the family, so that means lots of sitting!
My days here so far are generally pretty slow. I eat meals with my family and occasionally cook dinner for myself. I laugh and coo with my 1 year-old cousin who is just so cute and pudgy. I meet with my Senegalese counterpart once or twice per week to visit her garden and meet new people around the city, and to eat all the good food she feeds me!
While I do sometimes feel unproductive and antsy, these first few weeks are intended to be slow, with lots of time to get adjusted to the culture and language. Ndank ndank! as they say, slowly slowly!
So since most of my days are full of strenuous sitting and taking it all in, here are a few things that I have observed:
- I am reminded every day of my introvert nature – which is very much opposite of the general Senegalese population and culture.
- Just existing – being – in a different culture, surrounded by a new language (or 3) is very tiring, and sometimes bewilderingly so as I watch my mom, aunts, and cousins do manual labor all day to take care of the household.
- Everyone I meet wants to know if I can cook, Senegalese dishes that is. To which I say, “I’m learning!”….. my answer to everything these days.
- Learning to cook, or helping out around the house, requires quite a bit of effort and persistence on my part. I am usually considered on the same level of a toddler, in terms of my knowledge and skills when it comes to Senegalese language, culture, and way of life. This is honestly quite accurate some days!
- Palm oil is my least favorite part of Senegalese cuisine.
- The low 80s and below are cold around here – which means puffy coats and woolly hats.
- Having my own room and place to permanently unpack is such a wonderful thing after 2 months of living out of various suitcases.
- I think Senegalese fabric is going to be the biggest drain on my bank account!
- Terranga, or hospitality, is really the defining characteristic of Senegal, in my opinion. From lunch and attaya to your host’s bed on which to take a nap, I have been welcomed by this country and its people many times over. I can only hope to repay this hospitality over the next 2 years.
So I’ve been at site for two weeks and some days that feels like a long time and other days like no time at all. There have been ups and downs, as with every phase of my Peace Corps journey so far. But overall, I am very happy with my placement and the life I’m living!