I can finally say I’m feeling settled here in Dakar, Senegal. All of my stuff arrived, including my consumables. So I have most of the creature comforts of home. Granted, running water sometimes disappears, and some mornings mid-shower my electricity will go out, and the Harmattan days make my lungs unhappy, but other than that, I’m living a pretty ‘normal’ life.
A couple of weekends ago, I got a real carpenter to come in and screen in three of the balconies so that my cats can spend more time “outdoors.” They absolutely love it, and I like being able to have some of my doors open without having to worry about mosquitos. My apartment compound is filled with flowers and birdsong most of the time, so it is quite pleasant.
I’ve been also getting settled in at work. It’s nice to feel useful again after 7 months of just learning a language in Virginia, where it was difficult to show demonstrable results on any given day. Here, I know how many passport applications I’ve processed, how many babies I’ve determined qualify as American citizens, etc. I have too much work, but it is better than too little. And the work days usually fly right by. I’m usually too tired after work (after interviewing anywhere from 3-6 hours at the consular windows) that I am not very social.
However, on the weekends I typically go out to eat with new-found friends, go to parties, host board game nights, or chill at the beach. The first couple of months were a struggle, but I am making friends gradually and getting invited out to do fun things.
There’s none of the drama of Bangladesh (knock on wood), where I think part of me always expected to get a phone call about another terrorist attack. I remember constantly checking my work phone to make sure we didn’t have any emergency messages, and just feeling slightly stressed at all times. When I first arrived in Dakar and ‘braved’ walking down the road, I was constantly on high alert. Looking around me to gauge potential threats, walking fast, clutching my bag. Over the past couple months, I have eased up on the constant vigilance. Now, I stroll down the street, enjoying the sea breeze and sound of birds in the palm trees. I sometimes even take the long way home from work to spend a little more time outdoors.
Also, I bought an SUV! I enjoy driving it around town, but still need to get up the courage to take it to one of the beaches, which are about an hour and a half away. So far the traffic is nowhere near as insane as Dhaka. Then again, what traffic could ever be that bad? Drivers are terrible here, but at least I don’t also have to contend with rickshaws, tuktuks, people crossing without looking in either direction, huge trucks and busses and all other manner of craziness. Here mostly I just have to worry about taxis staying in their lane, which so far has been ok. And the roundabouts everywhere, which I am not a fan of but am getting the hang of gradually.
While it is warm now, I am looking forward to a hotter season when I can swim in the ocean and outdoor pools. Maybe I should take up surfing?? Also looking forward to mango season! There are fruit and veggies stands within walking distance of me, and I can get pretty much any thing I want. So instead of ordering in (so expensive), I am finding joy in cooking for myself again.
In the next couple months, I have a trip to Cape Verde and to the St. Louis Jazz Festival planned. While Dakar is fun, it’s also nice to have trips further afield to look forward to. À tout à l’heure!