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I don’t know if i’ve written about this yet, but attaya is one of the wonders of Senegal. Its delicious, super sugary mint tea that is severed after meals, usually three times. It is a PROCESS to make attaya, usually a few hours, and often becomes an excuse to sit down and socialize and relax while doing nothing but making tea. It’s something we all lovingly wait for after a good lunch at WARC. 

Wolof Word of the Day! 23

W: kalaas bu mujj (kahLAHS boo mooj)

F: la dernière classe

E: the last class

Today was our last wolof class! I can’t say I’m a native speaker, but I definitely know more than when I came here. Occasionally I can make full sentences and even understand a phrase my family says! It definitely is such an interesting language to me and I would love to keep practice even after I’ve left. For now, I just have to worry about passing our oral exam next week!


I’m going to post something longer a little later, but I just had the best experience. I was walking out of an interview with a Senegalese storyteller, who is also a history teacher at the lycée next to his house. My departure coincided with that of an enormous group of 17 year old students…

This is a post from one of my friends in another program here in Dakar. I can honestly say that if you know wolof, even a little, you are golden. I’ve had similar experiences walking home and in downtown Dakar, tho I can’t say I was ever popular enough to be followed by a crowd of high-schoolers.

La Fête de Pâques!

This weekend was quite the party! Since my family is Catholic, Easter is a huge deal. But not just Easter, the party pretty much lasted all of the Easter Weekend! For those of you who don’t know, here’s what I remember from the halls of Holy Name: there’s Holy Thursday, Good Friday, then a random untitled Saturday, then Easter Sunday. Here’s a breakdown of what happened each of those days.

Holy Thursday: I came home from class in the evening and started helping my family break apart and clean up giant tubs of buy (see WOTD #22) that we would be using tomorrow. I kept asking what for. “Ngalla”. Well, cool, what’s ndalla? ” Oh you’ve never had it? You’ll see tomorrow.”

Good Friday: Woke up late because I didn’t have any classes. Walked into the kitchen/porch area of my house to find all the women in my family + some maids gathered together in old clothes making tubs on tubs on tubs of this brown liquidy stuff which, I was informed, was ngalla.


I sat down to eat my usual breakfast and Mère Vitou made Olga get me a coffee-mug full of ngalla to drink.

So here’s what it is: peanuts and buy and lots of sugar and other ingredients I don’t know all mixed together into this milk-like consistency with little chunks of oatmeal-like grains. I liked it a lot, and good thing too because we had about 10 gallons for our house alone. The rest of the ngalla was poured into several small buckets and passed out around the neighborhood to family and friends. I spent a good part of the afternoon delivering ndalla around SICAP Baobab with Mami and Michou. Good Friday marks the end of fasting for Lent, so that’s why my house became an ngalla factory. The evening was a big plate of ceebujën for dinner and visits from some relatives and friends.

Saturday: Laid around the house until 5pm, when we went to Easter Mass since none of us wanted to go at midnight or on Sunday morning. Afterwards I hung out with Zely, Olga’s 2-year-old daughter, and then went over and spent some time at Honorine’s house in the evening.

Easter Sunday: Had a huge lunch with my family, counsins and uncles and friends by the dozens piled into our house.


We danced and talked and watched soccer, and then Esther’s son Apo came and picked me up and we went to another party where I met two Senegalese guys who spoke English. One, Jacques, lives in Massachusetts and the other, Oumar, lives in Italy. We talked and drank and we were supposed to go dancing but I was a zombie and passed out in my bed as soon as I got home.

It was a long, fun weekend with my family. Each night was filled with drinks and great food and good fun. I only wish I knew more wolof!

Wolof Word of the Day! 22

W: buy (booee)

F: pain de singe

E: baobab fruit

The creative french call it “monkey bread” and the uninspired English just call it what it is. This common fruit is used to make ngalla (more about that coming up) as well as a variety of juices and other foods! My family says that when it falls off the tree it’s already dry and dusty inside, but moisten it up and mix it with some sugar (a lot of sugar if you are Senegalese) and you have a great drink! Don’t drink too much tho because it can work as a laxative, as Adam sadly found out one of our first weeks here.

Wedding bells are gonna chime!

So the rumor was true: my host mom is getting married!

I didn’t believe Michou and Mami at first when they told me, since they have a record of pranking me (e.g. telling me they’re going to New York next week, tricking me into eating spicy pimont, prank calling me with strange numbers, etc.).

Turns out this one wasn’t a joke! Suzanne is getting married to a Senegalese guy who lives in France, and after school is out for the kids, the four of them are hoping to move to France with him! Unfortunately for me, the wedding won’t be until the end of May, and I’ll already be back in the States.



I finally registered for classes yesterday! I am officially still a student at the University of Michigan. I waited for my specific sign-up time (12:45pm exactly), and raced to sign up for the classes I needed for the fall semester so that there would still be open spots in them for me.

The whole process got me thinking about how relaxed Senegal is from the US. I don’t mean that people are drinking daiquiris under coconut trees on a sunny beach all day. Practically no one is at the beach except for guys working out and the occasional toubab. What I mean is that in Senegal, everything happens according to the will of God. “Inchalla”. This can be both awesomely calming at incredibly frustrating. It’s a great point of view when my professor realized he forgot to give us our midterm exam two weeks after we were supposed to have done it, and it was not a big deal whatsoever. If the same thing ever happened in the US we would probably have to make it up A.S.A.P. or do a series of assignments to compensate. But not in Senegal, because that’s just what happens sometimes. It’s quite hard to get stressed when nothing is really urgent, because it will happen when God wants it to happen, and you can’t change that so why not just accept it? But it sucks sometimes too, such as when I hear stories about hospital nurses chatting with their friends instead of rushing to get the job done. It can be frustrating when we visit an organization for a class field trip and we just sit around for an hour before anything happens because people are taking their time. If someone gets hit by a speeding car in the middle of the crowded street, its because God meant for that to happen then.

It’s taken some adjusting on my part, coming from a culture that’s all about being on time and doing things quickly and doing a million things at once before everyone else without considering the mental toll it takes to do all of that. So registering for classes yesterday, a process that required me to meet all of those pressing expectations, was quite the eye-opener.