As the days march on in Senegal, I find myself looking at things a lot differently than I did during my first several weeks in Dakar. I remember stepping off of the airplane into what felt like a giant vat of pea soup (read: Dakar is hotter than hell), and within minutes feeling entirely overwhelmed. Cash and I were almost thrown out of the country before they ever let us through customs! (Note: the next time you fly into Senegal, make sure you have the address for where you’ll be staying in the city. If all else fails, make one up—thank goodness this worked for us on October 25th, 2009!) Once we DID get through customs, my bags were immediately grabbed by burly Senegalese men that proceeded to demand that I give them twenty dollars for spending thirty seconds grabbing bags that I never wanted them to touch. (Even then, I was aware enough to barter. More on my love of getting a deal in Senegal later!) I hesitantly stepped out of the decrepit airport into a world that was nothing like the one I had just come from. Pristine, preppy Chapel Hill was nothing like the city that suddenly surrounded me. Desperate hands eagerly shook refurbished odds and ends for sale in front of my very confused face, as cries of “Taxi? Taxi?” lingered in the air. And there, amidst the filth and refuse that I would soon find to be a hallmark of Dakar, I stood in my cowgirl boots, holding on to my royal blue, monogrammed duffle bag for dear life and desperately wishing I could find an iced caramel latte. We have a word for that girl in Senegal-natives would call her a “Toubob”-literally meaning “You’re white” in wolof. The past four months of my life have been a wildly entertaining and sometimes excruciatingly painful process of having the “Toubob” beaten out of me. And as the weeks have turned into months, the city has changed to me. Things that were once shocking and disgusting have become normal, and even fun.
Today, Christy and I took three of our girls to get Senegalese food at a Mom and Pop place that we probably hit three times a week. (If the pictures surprise you, you might be interested to learn that this is one of the nicer Senegalese places to eat in our neighborhood.) A sweet little old lady named Michelle spends every morning cooking up several enormous pots of food, and then serves it until it runs out. I don’t care how hard you try, you can’t spend more than $2.50 on your meal. My favorite Senegalese dish is called “Tiébou Yopp”-take a look.
If Michelle has made Tiébou Yopp, when she sees me walk in she brings it to me without ever taking my order. (Not that there are any menus available anyhow. :))
These sweet girls are new friends of mine-between them and another girl that Christy and I met with today, we got to share the gospel in three different languages! (English, Spanish and French.) The Spanish was all Christy-I can’t speak a word of it. I should note that the Spanish was a first–we work exclusively in English and French.
Not all of the toubob has been beaten out of me yet…I’d still kill for that iced caramel latte. ;)