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SENEGAL | Saturday, 28 June 2014 | Views [212]

 After catching the ferry back from Goree (it was much less crowded this time. I also got to sit upstairs close to the edge of the boat. The breeze was so refreshing, and the sun wasn't in my eyes.) we checked in to the hotel. We had five minutes, and then we needed to meet back down in the lobby.

This time, Megan, Cynthia, and I were sharing a suite. They were still setting it up when we arrived, but the air conditioning was on (Cynthia and I had earlier noticed that when the maids came to clean the room, they always turned the air conditioning off.) and it was big. We went through the bare minimum of putting away bags and grabbing the necessary ones that we needed before heading out for the day, then went back down to the lobby.

Nathan had taken the key, gone to his room, and discovered that other people had their suitcases there. So he needed to go back down to the lobby to get a new room. Even with that detour, we still would have made it to our next lecture on time. However, the professor had left his bag behind, we believe on the ferry. So he needed to go get that.

We showed up at least 10 minutes late.

The lecture was from someone from Wallonie-Bruxelles, talking about all of the projects they have in Senegal. There were some neat projects, like making essential oils from local plants and “Phase 3 of the Development of Teaching Science and Technology.” One of the people in the room handed out sheets that described 18 different projects that they had for 2012-2014 (or 2015, as I believe he said) most of which had had significant steps taken.

The person talking was Belgian. This showed in his French (he did not roll his rs) his English (when he spoke in English, it was with a British-sounding accent. I've met relatively few people who have English as a non-primary language and speak with a British accent.) and his expectation that people during the lecture would actually be listening to him. I could hear his hesitation whenever something was going on in the room (papers being passed around, people passing around coffee or tea, cell phones going off, etc.) which was a relief. Senegalese lecturers, upon having a cell phone go off, nonchalantly raised their voices so they could be heard over it.

The lecture room was air conditioned, though it was clear that they were only air conditioning it for us, because they didn't turn it on until we arrived. They also brought out Nescafe, tea bags, and hot water i(instead of making us carry our own) in addition to water, bissap, pineapple juice (more of a pineapple juice medley, actually) orange juice, fruit juice cocktail, Sprite, and Coca Cola. (Fun fact gained from reading the Coke label: apparently their logo is called the “Magic Wave.”)

I took a tea bag and hot water and made myself a cup of tea. Then I added a sugar cube, because I didn't think it was sweet enough. /Which was terrible, since I've spent a fair amount of time trying to get myself to the point where I don't need to add sugar to my tea to enjoy the taste. A few weeks in Morocco, and I revert completely. (Side note: I saw two Japanese tourists in Fes. Only in retrospect did it occur to me to ask how they handled the cuisine, since the Japanese tend to think American candies are too sweet.)

After the lecture, we went to go see a group of women against illegal migration. I think we all kind of had the image in our heads of a PTA-type meeting where people discuss how they can cut down on the number of illegal migrants in Senegal. Instead, it turned out to be a school that was encouraging woman to stay in Senegal by teaching them the skills they'd need for a job.

Outside there was an herb garden, which was tended by the woman.

Inside, we went up to the kitchen. The cook there (male) had studied in Spain. He'd seen a lot of his countrymen either dying in the process of trying to immigrate or moving successfully, but, as illegal immigrants, having substandard rights. So he'd come back to Senegal to donate his time to encourage people to stay here. He also gave us cake.

Then we went to a room where a lot of women were gathered around learning how to braid hair. They had mannequin heads and hair, and were trying out different styles. Nisrine clearly wanted one of them to braid her hair, So she sat down, and one of the students gave her a tiny braid. Then their teacher started bustling around and got Natasha, Megan, Cynthia, and I sitting down with women braiding our hair. Even Erika, who's hair was too short to be braided, was given an extension and had the extension braided. The extension was black and Erika is blond, so it was especially obvious.

Nisrine getting her hair braided

Finally, there was just Nathan and the rest of us trying to peer pressure him into getting an extension like Erika's. He said no, then agreed if Oussama did, knowing Oussama never would. But he was won over when their teacher said they could put an extension braid in his beard. So they called over the woman who was especially skilled in beard-extension braids and had her give Nathan one. Nathan is also blond, so he got a blond beard with a thin black braid in the middle. It was impossible to take him seriously for the rest of the day.

 We went on a much briefer survey of the empty rooms where they learn sewing and computer skills. (Empty meaning there were no non-us people in there. They had sewing machines and computers, respectively) and heard a little bit about their schedules. They focus on hair, sewing, and computer skills, and are at the school for 3 years, after which they have the skills necessary to get a job.

We went down to the first floor again, and were served “tea.” It was herbal tea, and Nisrine, like any true tea snob, made point out of saying “it's not actually tea,” which confused several people I was with who just thought tea was plants that had been seeped in a hot liquid for some period of time. The herbs that were used to make the tea were the same kind of herbs we'd just seen in the garden outside.

Everyone there was so nice, and overall it was a wonderful visit. The center's run entirely by volunteers and the main costs are for things like electricity. It was inspiring to hear about people who were willing to give away their time to help other people build lives in Senegal, especially with the lecture after lunch, which was about Senegalese mgiration and how about 75% of Senegalese between 16 and 30 want to leave the country.

We had lunch at the Pink Lake. The food was pretty good, but my overall impression is best summed up by the man who greeted us when we arrived. “Welcome to the Pink Lake. Today it's not pink. It's green.” It wasn't even that green. Just standard lake greenish-blue,-bu-mostly-blue color. There were also no waves, and you could see all the way around the lake. I wasn't terribly impressed.

There was also a monkey in the parking lot.

One of the more normal pictures of the monkey

It was tied up, though we're not sure who it belonged to. We are pretty sure it needed a female companion, though.

After lunch, we drove back to the Wallonie-Bruxelles location to hear a report on Senegalese migration. I overheard the professor tell the person giving the lecture we'd be two minutes late. We were ten. And then the computer wasn't working, so that took another forty minutes to get that straightened out. By the time it was ready, we only had about half an hour to hear the lecture.

To my shock, we did not run late. It was obvious that he had a lot of information to cover, but he managed to condense it down to the amount of time we had left, which impressed me a lot. He was a pretty good speaker in other ways too. His powerpoint was full of graphs and charts, not just notes to be read.

In the bus, Oussama had expressed dissatisfaction about how not enough of us were asking questions. So we tried for that lecture, but, as we'd tried to explain to him, it was really hard to ask, as we'd explained to him.

First of all, none of us were that comfortable asking questions back in our colleges. Secondly, often times the only thin we know about the subject is what the lecturer has just said, which makes it hard to ask questions. (Oussama: “These people are experts in their fields.” Us: “We know that. We're complete amateurs. That's intimidating.”) Thirdly, it's not that we're necessarily uncomfortable with our French abilities naturally, but they make us feel uncomfortable. (Whenever people did have questions, they would usually write them down so they had a very clear idea of what to say. The lecturer would then ask them to repeat the question, or slow down, or just say “what?”Natasha at one point, after leaving the room where she'd been asked to slow down: “You're talking really quickly and then you want me to slow down? Either we both slow down, or neither of us do. And at least I don't always roll my rs. You know, next time someone asks me to repeat myself I should just say 'Parrrrrrrlez-vous francais?'”)

Finally, and most importantly, we did not feel like our questions were being valued. If we asked a clarification question (which were pretty much the only kind we could ask) we got back as a response “it was in my speech.” At one point, one of the lecturers asked us a question. Every single person answered it, and every single person had the perception that he didn't care to hear our answers. Oussama: “I'm sure he did care. It just doesn't come across in the way you're used to. That's not the Senegalese way.” Which is fine, but it gave us that extra little reason to keep our mouths shut when they ask “any questions?”

Regardless, we tried to come up with some semi-intelligent questions to ask during the Senegalese migration talk. And then it was time for us to go to the museum.

We'd eaten breakfast at 7:00, stopped at the hotel for five minutes that were too frantic to be relaxing, and it was now 5:00. I didn't really care that the museum contained the most historical artifacts of any museum in Africa. I wanted the day to be over.

And, eventually, it was. Since dinner was on us Oussama and Nisrine didn't show up, and we weren't entirely sure on what time we needed to leave the next day. But the rest of us met for dinner, waited the several hours for it to arrive, and tried to figure out the change we were owed. (“I give you back five hundred.” “You owe me three hundred.” “Right. I give you back five hundred. You give her 100 and her 100.” “But I don't have that much change.” “Give her a hundred and her a hundred.” “But...”)

After the bill was paid, we hung around until the lights went out. We were only there for a minute or two, but the hotel experienced the same kind of power flicker the hostel had. Only by this time it was pretty thoroughly dark. My eyes had just started to adjust when the lights came back on, and we all gathered our stuff and went to our rooms.

Later, the electricity would again flicker for a few seconds. In our room, it was just a minor inconvenience. In the restaurant, it had felt horror-movie scary. We were all startled, but none of the wait staff seemed bothered. It 's amazing how much the conception of normal can very.

Tags: accents, electricity, lectures, migration, money, monkey

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