Thursday, August 2, 2012

Greetings from...Senegal

 Mai Mona Balde, 12

I moved to Dakar, Senegal, about a month ago. I hope to write more about the Arab Spring, but so much has happened in the past 18 months, I feel a little overwhelmed just thinking about it.

So I decided to begin again. From here. Africa.


Almost exactly ten years ago, I gave up a Peace Corps assignment in Eastern Africa for a job on the photography staff at The Spokesman-Review newspaper. My first day of work at the paper was July 29, 2002. I never regretted taking that job, but I am happy to have ended up here in Africa after all, albeit under totally different circumstances.

Senegal is a regional hub for West Africa and a jumping-off point for Mali, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, and points further east and south. I am not sure how long I will be here, but for now, I am excited to learn more about this region.

Quick observations: it's hot. It's Ramadan. Senegalese call white people "tubaabs" in Wolof, the predominant indigenous language. (In Egypt, we were the khawaggas. Tubaab is more fun to say, in my opinion.) People in Dakar don't particularly like having their photograph taken by a tubaab. Living here is not cheap. Due to lagging infrastructure, travel in the region comes at a premium, if at all. There are daily power outages.

And language. Ha. In Egypt, there was one language to learn: Arabic. Senegal has 37 spoken languages. 37! (This according to Ethnologue.) I've begun studying French in earnest, but have also managed to pick up a few Wolof and Pulaar words.

More pictures coming soon...