Summary of Final Days in Dakar… :(

I haven’t been updating as much as I wanted to, so I guess at this point I should probably work backwards.  Today I went to WARC because I had a meeting with our archivist but he just never showed up so I went over to the archives by myself. I got to use a card catalogue, everyone! It was pretty exciting. And I think I have some good material to go on. I’ll be spending tomorrow and all next week taking pictures of pages.

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Fun, Fun, Fun, and Project, Project, Project

Last night the four of us went to a concert at the French Institute.  The concert was Darra J Family and they were INCREDIBLE. The message of their music was really uplifting and inclusive and I really enjoyed the style.  The concert was funded my the French Development Agency (aide pour l’avenir durable) and therefore I definitely consider my concert going experience to be part of my research!  I’d be quite interested to see what kind of support, if any, the French government gives to groups such as this.  France has always had a reputation for being extremely focused on the preservation of the arts, and DJF’s positive message is something that I would expect French cultural agencies here would want to encourage.  This will be an interesting avenue to pursue – luckily, the French foreign service agencies in general do a really good job documenting all of their projects so I shouldn’t have any problems finding out more.

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More Updates!

Wow, so much has happened in the past few days it’s difficult to try to piece it all together for a blog entry! The reason why I haven’t posted since Friday even though so much has been going on is partly because I’ve been busy but also partly because the power has been off so much lately and the internet connection has been really weak. It’s really not that bad to not have power during the day, but I just wish that they would block out specific times of the day when they are going to cut power so that people could plan accordingly…I feel like this would reduce the justifiable sense of indignation that people have regarding all the cuts. They pay to have electricity, after all – they should have it reliably! Abhit, James, and I went out in search of dinner and music. Even though Christine (UPenn PhD student who also lives in my house) told us that we can’t hope to start hearing any good live music until at least midnight, we decided to go out and try our luck anyway. Plus, Friday night is the day that everyone goes to the mosque and fasts so dinner would have been some kind of porridge. I don’t have anything against porridge, but what we ended up with was so much better. We get to Just4U which is a pretty famous music club and it turns out that it was closed for renovations. One of the men outside told our cab driver that the guy who was supposed to play at Just4U that night was playing at another place nearby called Le Must. We headed over to Le Must but the music hadn’t started yet (predictably). We find out that there’s a restaurant attached and go check it out. It’s beautiful. It was kind of like an open air Japanese garden. The food was reasonably priced, especially for the quality that we got! James and I got “yassa poulet” – a traditional Senegalese dish that involves caramelized onions, carrots, savory sauce, rice, and of course, chicken (poulet). Abhit got the prix fix menu which included an appetizer, dinner, and dessert which he also enjoyed immensely! It was an extremely enjoyable evening but we had to cut it short before we got to see the concert because James had to be home at 11 (he had his first day of work the next day).

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Oh my goodness the BEST thing happened to me today but to put it in context I have to tell you something else.  So yesterday in our Wolof lesson we learned the HUGE importance of the salutation in Senegalese culture.  A good salutation takes approximately 15 minutes!!! This is because there are many parts to any appropriate one.  You start off by saying salaam maalekum or “peace be with you.”  This first part is Arabic which comes from Muslim tradition and is the standard greeting for every situation.  Then, depending on what time of day it is, you ask someone if they slept well or if they are having a good day.  Then you ask how they are doing specifically and move on to questions about the health of spouses and pets and children (not even necessarily your own children but the children that make up your whole extended family).  You aren’t expected to talk about anything really serious in this part of the conversation – even if your husband has cancer, you’re not actually supposed to get into that until the salutation is over.  You would then move on to talking about lighter topics of conversation and finally begin to talk about what you came there to say specifically. If you are meeting someone for the first time, it takes a particularly long time because in between all these salutation topics you will constantly be repeating the person’s last name back to him.  This is because it is GRAVELY important to remember someone’s last name after being introduced.  The Senegalese are very laid back about first names but if you forget someone’s last name it is a serious faux pas.  They even have a specific expression to use in this situation. I’m not sure how to spell it but “rai ma” which literally translates to “kill me!”  I think that this form of formal salutation is actually a really great technique that would truly be useful in remembering people’s names. I’m always that person who blanks out immediately when someone introduces themselves to me – maybe I should start doing this.  Our professor or “jàngalekat” Sidy also explained to us that the proper salutation, even an abbreviated one, is a foreigner’s one way ticket into the arms of Senegalese society.  The Senegalese have a reputation for being extremely hospitable – something that has not been disproved in my experience – and therefore often make exceptions for and are understanding of those who aren’t familiar with the culture; however, if you are Senegalese, don’t expect to get any help if you don’t greet someone properly.  As a foreigner, one or two polite expressions in Wolof are extremely well received.  This is where my story comes in.

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A Message from the U.S. State Department:

“This warden message is to inform U.S. citizens about possible demonstrations surrounding the meeting of the National Assembly on Thursday, June 23rd.  Likely locations for possible demonstrations include the National Assembly, Place d’Independence, the University of Cheikh Anta Diop, the Ministry of the Interior and the Presidential Palace. [Read more…]