Sweat, Sheep, and Independence. My first few weeks outside of Europe.

As I find myself approaching my third week in Dakar, I realise I should’ve started this blog earlier! I know there were certain people who I promised regular updates, so here goes!

The weather

Being British, this has to be the first thing I mention. I have never been one to outwardly sweat but here it’s a whole new story. It was drizzling as we left England, and Madrid wasn’t anything special, but as soon as we stepped off the plane at some time after 9pm at Dakar airport I was hit with a humid heat I have never experienced before, and it hasn’t relented since! Senegalese people we’ve met have informed us that it gets ‘really cold’ in January when it will be 25 degrees but I think then we’ll be loving life!

Due to the heat my old hair and make up routine has gone out the window (think Monica from friends on holiday), and has been replaced with my brand new sun cream and insect repellent routine, which takes much longer! I must admit I’m a little disappointed with myself as Ive always dreamed of living in a hot country (see previous post- oops!)  but seeing as even Senegalese natives are commenting how hot it is, I think it’s ok to moan a little bit 🙂

Tabaski

Sunday was the festival of Tabaski, a muslim celebration which acknowledges the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Ultimately due to Abraham being obedient God tells him to sacrifice a sheep instead. Basically the importance surrounding this day and preparations are the same as Christmas in the UK. The centre of Dakar was a ghost town! From when we arrived until Sunday evening every available road side or roundabout were full of sheep for sale, however I thought they were goats for a long time! Each family would buy a sheep or two for Tabaski and then either the head of the house or one of the males would kill the sheep in the morning. Then the rest of the day is filled with eating more and more meat! When night falls, everyone would then put on their Bou Bou’s (traditional dress, the fabric in my opinion is not dissimilar to some tablecloths!) and venture out and visit neighbours and friends.

We were very kindly invited to a colleagues at the BSI, Wagane, who lives on the outskirts of Dakar. Apart from being picked up about 4 hours later than planned (welcome to ‘African time’, not that I’m not grateful for being picked up) and the fact that below our living room window they were killing what must’ve been the entire buildings supply of sheep (it was fine if you didn’t look down), they were so welcoming and hospitable. We ate sheep liver and prawns, had a rest, drank,  then seemed to eat the rest of the sheep. The pictures do not do it justice, it was delicious!

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After showing us around his massive half finished house (it was a bit like grand designs) he took us back to the centre where we went to a friend of a friends, Malick. Then we got to wear our new Bou Bou’s!

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It was an amazing experience going to a tailors, being measured and then returning a few days later to these perfectly fitting outfits! We had no idea what style to go for, but I think we chose well. Then, thinking we were going to visit some of his friends, we ended up at the beach! Not just any beach, but this was the most westerly point of Africa, and even in the dark it was beautiful.

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It was great to meet new people, who gave us our Senegalese names. You can now refer to me as Maimouna Ndieye 🙂 I think it translates as Mary.

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Day of Independence

Today was rather exciting, as although I technically moved away from home 4 years ago, and have been back and forward ever since, I dont always feel completely independent. Don’t get me wrong I am now proudly able to feed and dress myself, but I’ve always had those ‘special’ moments which any old uni house mate or family member can testify to.  But today I got my first taxi on my own in senegal and went to visit a church here in Dakar! Its called the International Christian Fellowship of Dakar and although there are marked differences, I’ve got a feeling it could become my church family while I’m here. During the worship a little boy next to me gave me this drawing! So cute!

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At the church I met a lovely couple from Wigan, a family from Northern Ireland, many Americans amongst lots of other nationalities!

The next stage of independence day marked the first day of private tutoring. I was very blessed to be referred by a friend, then chosen by this student who is very keen to practice his English. Another first, I walked on my own to the students house, a 15 minute walk with my head held high! I know this must sound small but after some of the stories we’ve been told, today was the first day that I had something to be afraid of. However, to quote one of the lovely women I met today, ‘the only thing to fear is fear itself’. I believe these private lessons are, and will be a massive blessing regarding money and experience.

In the words Frankie Henderson, I AM a strong independent woman!

This whole day I have just felt so protected. I think this is the first time I’ve put ALL my trust in God.

Just a few things I’ve noticed so far:

  • Lots of people ask after the queen
  • The value of the common household fan is MASSIVE here!
  • There is a very prominent threat of fleas!

Tomorrow is the first day of term, which means I’m finally getting back into the teaching game…. so excited! Overall, things are going well. Its so strange seeing everyone complaining how cold it is in the UK. It’s always about the weather…

I hope to write again soon.

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