In the beginning of my spring semester in Senegal, I opened up my blog with a entry called “10 facts about Senegal,” but I actually only wrote four of them. I planned to write the six other ones along the semester, which I will be doing in this entry. Now that I am thinking about it, I could have just entitled my blog entry “4 facts about Senegal” and stopped there.
5. Marriage proposals do not go unnoticed. I got more than three marriage proposals from taxi drivers and another one from a firefighter in Goree Island. I got more marriage proposals in four months in Senegal than in sixteen years of my life in Madagascar or three years in the USA. It is not that I am popular, it is just very common in Senegal. And this does not apply for toubabs (foreigners) only but too Senegalese woman as well. My host sister got asked for marriage because she held a cake. I guess she looked cute. And of course we know that it is a joke most of the time and it creates a “different” conversation. If you knew me personally, you would know that I am not the type of person who would take things personally. I actually will not say no to having an interesting conversation.
6. Guerte is vital. Peanuts. It is hard to survive in Senegal if you have a peanut allergy. Peanuts are everywhere. French people introduced the culture of peanuts in Senegal during colonization and now it very hard to picture life in Senegal without them. There are a lot of great Senegalese dishes made out of peanuts, such as Souloukhou mbalakh, nieleng, couscous millet, of course mafé and so many more.
7. Family is a really hard notion to translate in English. Almost everyone is family. There are a lot of brothers, aunts, sisters… who are not biologically related. It was very confusing in the beginning of the semester to try to discern who is who. Also something to understand about Senegal is that they do not like to count how many people there are in the house. For example, when I was surveying people in the suburban area of Pikine, instead of asking how many people there were in the house, I had to ask, how many sticks are there? There are ways to circle around regarding understanding relations in Senegal, but the only way for me was to observe for a longer period and as one of my professors in Senegal always said, “When in doubt, ASK”
8. Many languages. There are many languages spoken in Senegal, but the most spoken languages are French and Wolof. I see that there are similarities with Madagascar in this. In Madagascar, the most spoken languages are the Malagasy official or dialect of the Merina and French. However, Madagascar and Senegal have many other languages and dialects. In Senegal there are pular, serer, Jola… and for Madagascar there are seventeen other dialects such as Sakalava, Antandroy, Tsimihety…
9. Donkeys are very practical in rural areas. I was really thankful there were donkeys and a chariot when I visited Guade Bauffe, 800 km from Dakar. It was 5 km far from the main road; it was 110 F out and I had my suitcase with me. I just could not walk with the heat and heaviness of the suitcase. Sometimes it is hard, however, to look at how the master of those donkeys treat them. The animals were bleeding and some were very skinny and still had to work really hard.
10. Bread is life. Tapalapa is better life. Bread is very important and is present for almost every meal. Tapalapa is handmade bread in the villages in Senegal, and it is so much better than the industrial bread eaten in the urban areas.
Yes, a lot of the facts that I chose in this blog are about food. I gained about 23 pounds in Senegal.