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5 things you learn right away

  • ‘That sound’ is the call to prayer. Five times a day. It will become the background music to this stage of your life.
  • ‘That smell’ is incense. Or garbage. Or fish market. But probably all three.
  • ‘That hand gesture’ means slow down, I’m going to cross the street here in front of your moving vehicle.
  • ‘That feeling’ is your skin frying in the sun.
  • ‘That thing’ in his mouth is a chew stick, a traditional toothbrush.

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5 things you figure out quickly

  • The going rate is probably half the first price given. Bargaining is expected.
  • Making balls of rice to pop in your mouth as the oil runs downs your arm.
  • Power cuts happen.
  • How to say, “I have a husband.” in Wolof.
  • Attaya packs a mean caffeine punch.

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5 things you pick up along the way

  • Tying a wrap skirt so that it stays on, but loose enough to walk in.
  • The urge to shake people’s hand every time you walk into a room.
  • Dressing more modestly.
  • A more relaxed attitude about being on time, but higher value on time spent with people.
  • Giarrdia.

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5 things you never fully master

  • Walking with the elegance and fluidity of a Senegalese person.
  • Fluency in four local languages, like everyone else.
  • Dancing like THAT.
  • Making ceebu jenn as wonderfully as the woman who taught you.
  • Explaining life in Senegal to someone who’s never been here.