Friday, July 13, 2007

The real Senegalese experience

People have been asking me what the craziest culture shock I've experienced is, and I've telling them that nothing has really been that shocking. Until now. Thanks to my new living arrangements, I have a long list of things to comment on.

I decided to move in with a Senegalese family for a while. They live in this big house about halfway between my work and downtown Dakar. Some of the 15 or so rooms in the house are taken up by family members of this huge family, others by squatters like me (apparenly there's a young American guy living here, but I haven't seen him). So what's different about this place? For starters, the bathroom. The communal bathroom I might add. Its basically a hole in the wall, with some tiles on the ground, a toilet, and a small spout that drips out one string of cold water (there's no hot water). Only, the spout of water is directly beside the toilet, no curtains, no separation, nothing. If I had to pee in the middle of the shower, it might be convenient, but otherwise it means a very wet toilet seat... Then there's my room, which is relatively large. But there's only one outlet (which means choosing between the fan and my phone charger), and the windows don't close (which means listening to the beautiful African street noise which never stops - thank God for the earplugs Enam!). Meals are included in the monthly rate. Yesterday, at dinner time (9:30pm) the mother of the family said to me, "Have you ever eaten 'a la Senegalaise' before?"... then she stuck a communal plate on the table and sat me down with four Senegalese men who all dug in immediately. (like the Horn of Africa restaurant where you order one plate that everyone shares with their hands). In any case, if I was hungry, I would have died because there wasn't enough food to go around. Luckily, my stomach has gotten to the point that it doesn't expect much food anymore, so it doesn't complain as much. In the morning, breakfast consisted of one baguette (which I assume was to be divided among everyone who lives there) and a block of butter. Oh and I forgot to mention that there are mosquitos in this neighbourhood, and I have neither a mosquito net, nor my malaria pills - or even bug repellant, because they were all in my luggage. As for the neighbourhood, you walk around literally among the sheep, which if you recall, are also present on the roof of the house.

So there you have it. Why am I subjecting myself to this? That's a question I was seriously asking myself yesterday. But it's cheap, it's real, and other people I know have lived here and seemed to like it. So I guess this is real African living. I can't go six months in Africa working in air-conditioned rooms, eating in Western restaurants and showering in world-class bathrooms, now can I?


Still.Searching said...

Somehow the last two posts do not show up unless I click on the july 2007 link.. If I do not, it looks like In a sea of black is the last post.. it would be a shame because these were hilarious..

Natasha said...

ha oh no! i thought i had it bad here. i do have the lack of real bathroom (a showerhead beside the sink) and communal eating habits, but there are certainly no sheep on my roof!!!
embrace it hebster, embrace it.