In preparing for your six-week trip to Senegal, I tried to plan as much as possible so that your arrival and acclimation would go smoothly. (And, selfishly, so you’ll love it here as much as we do.)
I planned this first day especially carefully, knowing you’d be tired and jet-lagged but wanting you to at least get a taste of life here rather than just resting at the house.
We called our taxi driver friend to schedule the trip to the airport to pick you up. We got your room ready and made space in the closet for your clothes. I tried to buy a couple snacks I thought you’d like, but the last time I really got to spend time with you, you were still eating sliced grapes and Cheerios from a ziploc baggie, all washed down with Juicy Juice. I moved from the US when you were about 10, so I’ve missed being around for your growing into the beautiful, sweet college student who got off the plane in Dakar this morning.
I did my best to make your first day here as good an experience as possible. But as you’ll soon learn, Africa takes one look at your carefully made plans and says, “Hey y’all – watch this.”
When we arrived at the house, still before sunrise, the power was off so you got the Senegal Special: a tour by flashlight.
I took you to meet Demba, one of our best friends and your emergency contact. He welcomed you to Senegal, asked how our families in the US are doing and assured you that he would help if you needed anything during your stay here. Then he gave you your Senegalese name. So you are now Aminata Dione, named after Demba’s sister.
This afternoon, the water went out…a cut that’s still going five hours later. So we pointed you to the big basin of water in the bathroom. Day 1: bucket bath. You’re already on the fast-track to understanding life in Senegal.
We ran into my friend Patricia this afternoon. She welcomed you to Senegal, encouraged you to keep practicing your French and then asked when we were going to bring you to her house for a meal. Also on day 1: your first invitation to a Senegalese home.
At the store we picked up some American snacks (Oreos, Cheerios!) to have on hand for you, but you also assured me that you are up for trying new things (papaya and Lebanese – yum), so we will do that too.
So even though I did my best to plan out this day, Senegal showed itself to you better than I could have – power cuts, wonderful people, dust, car horns and all.