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Salaam Maaleekum

Salaam Maaleekum -- Peace be with you.

Welcome to the MSID Senegal blog! We safely arrived in Dakar, Senegal, this morning after a short and comfortable flight from DC and were immediately swept up in a whirlwind of orientation, en francais bien sur. As I lie here in my hotel room, my stomach full of Senegalese hospitality and my head anxiously awaiting tomorrow afternoon when I will meet my host family, I can hear the sounds of people being called to evening prayers. The electricity just went out through the entire city, an occurrence almost as regular as the call to prayers, apparently.
No worries though! The warmness of the people and their laughter and sense of humor makes up for trifles like power outages (and it just came back on anyway). Earlier today before both lunch and dinner we were all at a momentary loss as to what we should do with the few minutes before the food arrived. So, naturally, we had a dance party! People just seem to be sincerely joyous and light-hearted here, and so full of life. Even after one day here I can see why this country is so well-loved by all who visit.
For the rest of the week we will have a thoroughly busy orientation (aka not a lot of time for the interwebs), touring the city, learning more about the culture, and visiting Ile de Goree. Next week when classes start we'll learn more Wolof, so of course I'll share some of the knowledge as we go along.
Speaking of knowledge, did you know that the meal-time culture here includes eating with your right hand directly from the communal dish? It's a far more intimate and sharing way of eating, plus there are less dishes to wash in the end. After meals families often do ataya, a type of tea consumed in three rounds that goes from strong to strong/sweet to very sweet. Ataya can take hours because people use that time to sit around and discuss anything and everything.
This has been the quick run-down of a simplified version of what one can learn about Senegalese and Wolof culture in one day. There is so much more to discover :)
Until next time,

Maaleekum Salaam -- Peace only.

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