You may be asking what this title has to do with study abroad. These two observations, the smell of diesel fuel and the the warm hot air of the Sahel were the first to things to hit me as I descended down the stairs onto the tarmac at the airport here in Dakar. Though the smell of jet fuel quickly went away the humidity and heat that accompanies it has become a consistent and slightly more tolerable part of my life.
Due to flight delays I did not make it to my host family’s home until around 4am. Jet lagged and frankly just exhausted, I collapsed into bed and did not wake until 4 that afternoon. I opened the door onto the courtyard of my house and was greeted by all 13 members of my household staring at me. I was given everyones name, but truth be told, it wouldn’t be until three weeks later that I would actually know all of their names. As I have settled into Dakar my family has been invaluable not only as a resource but also as a refuge from the craziness that is Dakar.
My first week in Dakar was orientation which gave me the opportunity to branch out in to the city. The first few days out and about gave me a bit of a panic as I came to realize how useless my french is here. Though french is the official language of the government and most business and higher education is educated in it, wolof is very much so the lingua franca of Senegal. On the streets, the majority of people are either unable, or unwilling to speak french with you. Having thought that the language barrier would be minimal, this led to some initial fear but as I have become better at wolof, the fears have begun to subside.
The city itself is a sprawling metropolis the likes I have never seen before. Dakar is home to about 25% of the population of Senegal and serves as the political and economic capital of the country. What this means in practical terms for me is traffic where each driver acts as if they are invincible, buses that are so crowded that you can not breath and vendors everywhere hawking everything from wash clothes to coconuts. At first the city seemed crazy to me but slowly the apparent chaos has become more familiar.
More updates to come as courses begin!