Toubab Diallo

These past three days I’ve spent in Bodo Sabé an art resort located in Toubab Diallo and it was absolutely amazing. It won’t be anything like what someone from the US might think when they hear the word “resort” but a Senegalese person would consider it luxury. The hotel is located by the fishing village so there are tons of boats on one section of the shore. The beach is absolutely beautiful and reminds me why I dislike NY beaches so much.

The art resort was full of so much culture everywhere you turned, it was amazing. Unfortunately I’ll have to post pictures individually so please bare with me and the wifi out here. I was able to participate in 3 different art classes. One was a Batiki class, it is an art form where you draw an image and use wax and dye to create the design you want on fabric, this was definitely my favorite. We also had a drumming class, the sound of the group was beautiful but it did hurt my hands quite a bit. It was interesting to see the drummers play all day and for all performances with such ease no matter how hard they were hitting the drums with their hands. One of the drummers mentioned how accustomed they were to playing it’s like their hands were numb to it. The final class was a Senegalese dancing class for an hour. The instructor had moves like I’ve never seen. The dance for myself was definitely a lot of trial and error but I wasn’t the only one and the teacher had lots of patience, thankfully. The last time I went also happened to be the time I made the least amount of mistakes which felt great. During all of these classes it was amazing to see people who were able to work doing art forms they love and teaching them to others.

To give a little history: the resort was built by a Hatian born man who was a painter, sculptor, etc. in the 1970s. His goal was to give back to the community and promote education in the area by educating in the traditional arts based on natural resources. It is safe to say his goal has successfully been met and the community truly benefits from the hotel and tourism it has brought to the area. First off, it allows those working with the art forms to be employed in doing something they love; I spoke a little to the man who helped us make Batikis and he informed me he made all the curtains and sheets in the rooms (I should’ve photographed that too, they were beautiful). Vendors also heavily benefit from the tourism because foreigners are their best customers. At this point in time the hotel of the arts is the towns biggest source of income for all the ones that live in and around it.

Sobo Badé is located right by the beach front so I was able to spend a lot of my time there, the water and waves were great (again a reminder why I hate how dirty NY beaches are). I’m still intrigued by the fact that there are no trash cans in Senegal and so much trash on the grounds but the beach was extremely clean, both the water and the sand. On Monday and today we had our meal by the beach, relaxing and delicious food. The night life was very interesting, the area is majority baayfalls (pronounced bi-falls), a Muslim group I will write a more in depth post about later on and I spent both nights at a Reggae club with them. For the most part they were both great nights and I met some great dancers. Turns out Senegalese men are also great Salsa dancers 🙃. Our dancing instructor also happened to be at the club the 2nd night and Djibril (the program coordinator’s husband and a Senegalese man) informed us that there would be no one there if we weren’t all visiting.

I wish this blog post could really describe how rich with culture this experience was but I hope at least the photographs to come help illustrate it.

My wifi in Toubab Diallo was terrible and when I got home my wifi wasn’t so great either so although I wasn’t able to post this blog then I was there from January 3rd-5th.

Not what we were suppose to be doing on this Friday afternoon but I’m not complaining ☺️

Le Marché

On Thursday I experienced a marché (market) in Dakar for the first time. It was interesting to say the very least…

One of the first things we were taught in our class was how to bargain in both Wolof and in French, it wasn’t until I arrived to Dakar Plateau, one of the areas with many market that I realized how valuable this was going to be. A tour had been arranged for us so that we were split in groups of 3 students (2 females and 1 male) with a male tour guide; this was so we’d look like paired couples and wouldn’t be bothered as much by men downtown. The tour was provided by Senegalese mean so we wouldn’t be so overwhelmed at our first visit to the market…another thing I didn’t realize was important until we arrived downtown.

How the market works:
The moment you start looking inside any store/stand the people working it are asking you to enter. When you enter you greet and speak for a little and this is the vendors way of feeling the customers out; they can immediately tell where you’re from, what language you speak, etc. and this will most likely determine your starting bargain price. It helps to introduce yourself with your Senegalese name because they can identify your ethnic group which can help with these bargaining prices. At first glance anyone of fairer skin they believe to be European, the moment you begin speaking French and indicate you don’t know Wolof you’ve assured them that that’s the case. However, you cannot allow that to intimidate you, you need to walk in with all the confidence in the world and act like you know exactly what you’re doing.

Shopping at the market is like a game, you need to be willing to negotiate with the vendors and walk away if you want a good price. It gets extremely overwhelming, which led me to almost giving up (turns out that got me the best deal). The vendors first start off by attempting to get you to buy things in pack, it’s very difficult to go anywhere and just purchase one thing. They always try to push a packaged deal or convince you that your family members need things too; I learned it comes out more beneficial to go with packaged deals. Then once they’ve gotten you to look at and choose several things they give you an absurd price (when I say they I mean every vendor working at that location which can be up to 5 people all at once). Then you have to inform them it’s way too expensive and cut the price at least in half, you have to start with an even lower price than you’re willing to pay so that you have some wiggle room to go up while bargaining.

My bargain:
Of course those who speak Wolof bargain best, then the French and then others so our Senegalese tour guide helped me bargain my items. I had 2 shirts and 2 dresses for my nephews and niece. The starting price was 32,500 which my tour guide said was absurd; as he spoke to the guy after bargaining the prices for them items the other 2 students in our group got the man brought it down to 20,000 CFA. I still knew that was too expensive and with all the talking (which felt like yelling to me but that’s just how Senegalese tend to speak to one another) and the hunger I felt I was ready to go. As I started walking out one of the vendors informed me to hold on, that they were bargaining that that’s what the Senegalese do and walked me back into the store. While this is going on there’s also a vendor from a different location in the store trying to sell me a wooden turtle souvenir and knocking down the price (I never even showed interest in this item) I made sure to show little interest in my items like Madame Ba had advised and got the price down to 15,000. I decided that still was too expensive and walked out the store to look elsewhere. As I was looking around at first I thought it was over and I wasn’t getting my items but the man came back outside after me and whispered in my ear that for me it would be 10,000CFA. I rummaged through my bag a bit but was so fed up I said it was fine and continued to walk out. A minute later the man comes outside with another vendor and tells me that for me he will give it to me for 8000CFA, 4 great buys for just a bit under $15 sounded like a great buy to me and I was sold. Although not all my bargaining was intentional it did teach me that walking away in Senegal is the best way to get the prices you want, it might be a bit frustrating and sure does take a lot of patience but it can lead to great deals.

Tips for Bargaining
1. Greet in Wolof or French
2. Introduce yourself with your Senegalese name
3. Buy in packs
4. Show little interest in the items you want
5. Do not ask the price if you aren’t committed to buying it
6. Cut the quoted price at least in half
7. Allow yourself wiggle room with your starting price (if you don’t budge vendors won’t budge)
8. Be patient
9. Do not be afraid to walk away!

January 2nd, 9:54PM

Saturday, January 2nd at 9:54PM, it finally hit me. As I was sitting outside playing and conversing with the kids who live with me it finally hit me; I’m in Dakar, Senegal. As I said when I started this blog I couldn’t believe I was really coming here and although I still can’t believe I was really able to make it happen the fact that I’m here living what was a dream for so long has hit me full force.

I’ve been here for such a short amount of time but I already have so many amazing things to share. I’ve made sure to make the most of every day even when it’s a day I don’t do much. I’m in the mindset of trying to do everything available because I don’t know when I’ll have the opportunity to come back to Dakar and experience these things again.

It’s been a bit more difficult than I expected to post for several reasons. First off, although I do have wifi sometimes it better than others so posting pictures is always difficult and sometimes I have nights like tonight when I have no wifi at all. Also, I’ve been immersing myself and enjoying the moments so much I haven’t even been thinking about sitting and writing to reflect a bit on my trip the way I usually like to do; I’m barely home and when I am home I try to spend as much as my time as possible talking to and sitting with my family (I adore them)! However, with that said I know there are certain things I want to be able to share with everyone and let out of my own system so I will continue to post whenever I do have a chance, pictures might come a bit less often than I’d like.

Chilean Food Diary

Things to note:

  • Empanadas are everywhere
  • Typically they only use salt to season (especially during BBQs)tumblr_niq4i8xqdt1u68674o6_1280.jpg
  • Fresh fruits are always offered
  • The first plate was delicious (wish I couldn’t remember the name of) was one of the best, my host mom was a great cook and always had us try different Chilean meals
  • It is typical to be served rice AND fries (weird)
  • Their juice is extremely sugary – you can water it down and not lose the flavor
  • It isn’t typical to drink water with your meal, fresh juices only
  • Meals are much cheaper
  • Guacamole is popular – even the McDonald’s menu includes options with guac
  • I often forgot to photograph my food for the blog and memories

My last night out was a great night out and this picture is all I have to show for it.

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