So my last post was a bit rushed, lacking much detail at all and hindered by the fact that I was writing it in the presence of my programme coordinators. So... I thought I'd do a more thorough account of my week since Monday since I've found a relatively nice internet cafe to kill time in.
My Iberia flight from Madrid to Dakar was fine but longer than I expected as I forgot to change my watch back to GMT (Spain is GMT+1, Senegal is GMT). I was met at the airport by Moustapha who coordinates Real Gap's Senegal Volunteer placements through his company SYTO (Senegal Youth Travel Organisation), and he and his wife both took me in a taxi to my host family. Getting out of the airport was a bit of a mission though as one needs to hurry past the endless offers of help with your luggage from dodgy men (who will in turn demand money), and our cab also just happened to get stopped by a policeman to check the driver's documents. If I hadn't been so excited I probably would have been slightly unnerved by the size of the rifle the soldier/policeman was carrying. But anyway, the journey was fine.
On arriving at the host family's home I was greeted by Madame Dienne and her nephew Alaine (20 years old). I arrived in the middle of one of the final stages of the African Nations Cup. This was actually quite nice and familiar - coming in to sport on the television is definitely a recurring theme chez Gordon. Anyway, it gave me something to discuss in basic french before retiring to bed after a day's travelling.
I have a whole room to myself which is nice though potentially it would have been quite nice to share with another volunteer for company. I have a double bed (though I can't take advantage of it having only a single mosquito net!), a dresser and numerous crucifixes and pictures of Mary everywhere. Mme Dienne is Catholic which is quite rare as 80% of the population of Senegal are Muslim, 15% Catholic, and 5% 'other'. Still I think it makes it less of a culture shock than going into a Muslim home. Having said that however, the house is right next to a mosque that is part of a very dedicated brotherhood that chant at literally all hours of the day. You get used to it but it's quite bizarre to wake up to the sound. My window is right on the street as well so I can hear everything. People go to bed quite late in our neighbourhood and it can get quite rowdy - a bit unsettling when you don't know the language (Wolof). I have moments where I'm convinced there's going to be a riot but of course there aren't.
So yes, that's my living arrangements. Activity wise, it's been quite a busy week what with my orientation. I had hoped there would be other volunteers there but alas it was just me and another SYTO employee called Madiop. Madiop speaks quite good english so this eased things up a fair bit in terms of communication problems. Though his endless attempts at flattery and requests for an invitation to london have definitely begun to ware on me slightly. I was shown all the major sites here in Dakar and must have walked all over the city, which is surprisingly huge. Quite good to get the hang of things though. There are beggars everywhere - it's a serious problem here and is even more disturbing when coupled with the fact that most are children. Saying no is horrible but you'd have literally no money left if you gave to all of them.
The evenings have been quite difficult as there's not much to do and that's when it can feel most lonely. I had a short but severe bout of homesickness on Tuesday, prompted by brief conversations with my family and Barney. It's much better now though. My confidence in french is improving and so I can talk with my host family more. The last two evenings I've watched a postiviely dire soap with Mmee Dienne called 'Au couer de peche' or something; which is mildly amusing. I think it's spanish but dubbed in french. Last night after watching me play Solitaire for the hundredth time alone in the lounge, Alaine also stepped in and taught me some Senegalese card games. Here they don't use any cards below 9 which makes them a lot quicker but they have bloody complicated rules! Mme Dienne also has 4 children who are abroad: 2 in the US, 1 in Canada and 1 in France. Anyway, one who lives in Michigan rang and she made me talk to him in English which was quite nice. I'm not amazing in french by any means but attempting to speak it all the time means that you start thinking in French which is a bit weird - definitely a good thing re improving though I'm sure.
Can't think of anything else to post right now and I'm v conscious of the fact that I'm coming close to 2 hours on the net so probably best to get out exploring and absorb some culture! More soon, hopefully with details of my first few days as a teacher!