Photo de la Semaine: Week 7

Photo of the Week


Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! This is the Monument of the African Renaissance, finished in 2010 as commissioned by the former president, Abdoulaye Wade. It is 49 meters tall (about 147 feet!) made out of bronze. The inside is hollow, and tourists come from all over to climb the steps and take an elevator up to the head of the giant bronze man. It is the tallest statue in all of Africa! I have some friends who run up and down those steps every morning for exercise. Think you could run up these stairs every morning? Would you try?

Léegi léegi, insh’allah!



Photo de la Semaine: Week 6

Photo of the Week

The dress of my darling friend/teacher Simone

Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! Did you know? Senegal is famous for it’s abundance of African wax print fabric. It’s called ‘wax’ because of the waxy texture, which is more or less shiny/stiff depending on the quality. Wax fabric comes in any color/pattern combination you could possibly think of. Things I have seen printed on African wax fabric include spray paint (with hand attached), toothpaste, electric fans, bathtubs with showers attached, shrimp, lightbulbs, flashing camera (with hand attached), dismembered fingers, and dinner plates with whole fish. If you look in the ‘About Rheanna’ section of the blog, you can see me wearing a dress my host aunt made out of of wax I picked out at HLM, the biggest wax fabric market in West Africa! What kind of wax fabric would you want?

And now to get to all those awesome questions!

Emily: Yes I did like [the finger henna]. Thanks, Emily! So do I!

Rayne: In the city, do they have bathrooms for both genders or just one? Most of the bathrooms I see are single-stall bathrooms designated by ‘male’ or ‘female’, or else as gender neutral if there is only one.

Samantha: Do they have clothing stores like Ross? Not really, no! Some people get their clothes from used clothing markets where clothes are sold in little market stalls at low prices, but most people get their clothes hand-made by tailors out of wax fabric! I’ve had four dresses made while being here – none of them cost more than $14 each.

Grace: Do you see tumble weeds in the desert? No, Lompoul was not a desert with tumble weeds.

Connor: Was it difficult adapting to Africa? Well, that’s hard to say, as Africa is HUGE with many countries, many climates and many, many different cultures. I’m not sure if I would be able to easily adapt to any other African country besides Senegal. As for adapting to Senegal – many things were very hard. The first month I was here, I was constantly sick from the change in food. And even though I speak a pretty decent level of French, it was really hard to adjust to everyone mostly speaking Wolof all the time. There are dozens of cultural things that were difficult to adjust to completely, which I’d love to talk about sometime. Thanks for the question!

Jacky: Was that snapchat for the picture of the fingers? Ha! Yep, you got me. 🙂

Emma: That [slavery] is terrible. I completely agree, Emma.

Does slavery still happen in Senegal? Do the English come take people away? Legal slavery was abolished (ended) by France in 1794, as well as Senegal since it was under the rule of the French. However, legal slavery in Mauritania, the country just north of Senegal (which I posted about last week), was not abolished until 1981! That’s only 35 years ago. It is very probable that even though slavery was ended in Senegal, there were still people from Senegal enslaved in Mauritania. Unfortunately, although slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world, illegal slavery still exists everywhere, including the United States. It is simply harder to see because of how hidden it is.

William: I never actually knew that slavery was going on in West Africa. Well, it technically isn’t anymore, at least not legally. Had you learned about the trans-atlantic slave trade and slavery in the U.S. in school before?

Reuben: I do not like slavery especially because I am Black. I saw the movie Django. Dang, I haven’t even seen Django yet! I hear you, Reuben. I don’t like it either. As a white person, it is hard for me to imagine what Black people must feel when reading about things like this.

Ayan: That’s sad. I agree, Ayan.

Thanks for all the great questions this week. I can’t wait to interview my sister with your great interview questions, as well!

Ba ayu bès bii di ñew, insh’allah! (See you next week, God willing!)





Photo de la Semaine: Week 5

Photo of the Week


Taking my morning Nescafé at school.

Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! I know this is just supposed to be a one photo post, but I felt like the three together were essential this week. Last night I had the honor of having my host mom, Yaayboy, help me do my nails the Senegalese way. Yaayboy entered my life a little later than everyone else, which makes little bonding moments like these feel especially important to us building a relationship. She was supposed to be in Italy for three weeks, but ended up being gone three months – there is a superstition in Senegal to never tell people when you’re coming home, as telling people when you’re returning might bring about bad luck on your journey. Two months into my stay I came home as usual and – BOOM – there she was in the living room!

Anyways, back to the nails – Many women here choose to color their nails with henna (fuddën, in Wolof), a reddish-brown dye powder made out of a local plant. You mix the powdered henna with water and carefully mold the paste onto each finger, making surely to tightly secure each fingertip with a strip of plastic. I kept the henna on all night long (you wouldn’t believe how hard it was to try to scratch your back in the middle of the night with plastic baggies on each finger!!) and washed it out in the morning. The dye on my fingers will wear off in a few days, but my nails will stay stained orange until the nail grows out! I keep getting stopped in the street by Senegalese people telling me how beautiful my hands look. What do you think of this beauty trend? Would you try it out?

I’m so excited you found time to write some questions this week!

  • Reuben – Do you like the color of the water (of the Lace Rose)? Yes! I felt lucky it was so pink when I went to visit, I’ve heard that depending on the day the pink doesn’t show up very well.
  • Ayan – Why do you guys play in the dunes? Why WOULDN’T we? Wouldn’t you? It was so fun!
  • Mrs. Blackwell – Aren’t the dunes hot sand? The thing about the desert is that while it can get very hot during the day, it can get equally as cold at night. When we arrived in the early evening, the sand had already cooled down enough to feel refreshing. When we left the following day around 11, it had just started to heat up enough to feel unpleasant on my feet.
  • Grace – Why is the color of the sand the way it is? Ha! Actually, I edit my photos to make the colors a little brighter and more fun depending on the photo. The sand was a solid, goldeny beige color.
  • Rueben – Lots of people when I think of Africa. Does this mean you think more of cities than of deserts, when you think of Africa?
  • Danny – I rode an ostrich in Vietnam. That sounds awesome, dude.

    What a beautiful backdrop for using the bathroom. (This is also a more accurate picture of the sand).

  • Kalab – When you slept in that tent on your trip, where did you go to the bathroom? Excellent question. Luckily, a friend of mine took a photo! There were little square enclosures made out of leaves and branches woven together that surrounded a toilet and a bucket of water to wipe your bottom with. I suspect the toilet water went into a bucket buried underneath in the sand, as there’s certainly no plumbing out there.
  • Justin – Why is the sand cool? Read my response to Mrs. Blackwell above!
  • Rayne – Do you have to show your passport every time you go to a new country in Africa? Another great question! Usually, yes, you have to show your passport just like you would have to for any other country. However, since we literally just put one foot into Mauritania, they didn’t make us show any ID.
  • Grace – In a cafeteria at school, do the students have to offer their food to other students? You know, I’m not sure! I’ve never been in a cafeteria setting. What I do know is that most students and adults that work actually go all the way home to eat lunch, or else buy lunch at a pop-up restaurant on the road selling ceebu jën. It’s normal for lunch breaks to be 2 hours long so that everyone can go home from work to eat. In those cases, since you are either eating around a big plate with your family or everyone has their own plate, it’s not necessary to share.
  • Emma – Have you ever heard of the book Long Walk to Water? You know, the first time I heard about that book was from you all! I can’t wait to read it some day. Did you like it?

Thanks for all the excellent questions this week! Can’t wait to Skype this Friday.

Ba àjjuma, insh’allah! (See you on Friday, God willing!)



Photo de la Semaine: Week 4

Weekly Post


This photo was taken at the Lac Rose (literally: the Pink Lake) just north of Dakar. The algae in the water attracted to the salt makes the water look strawberry pink in the sunshine. The water is so salinated that if you scrape the bottom of the lake, you’ll come up with a handful of pure salt! My friends and I took this pirogue across and back to have lunch at the little restaurant on the other side for 1500CFA.

Looking forward to hearing from y’all!

Ba altine, Insh’allah! (See you Monday, God willing!)


Photo de la Semaine: Week 3

Photo of the Week


As I promised, this is what the inside of a boutik looks like! This is my neighborhood boutiquier, who was too kind to pose for a photo in exchange for me buying a few coconut-covered beignets. As you can see, one can buy all sorts of things at a boutik – snacks, juice, canned goods, flip flops, super glue, spicy Café Touba (a local sweet drink, essentially instant coffee with spices), cleaning supplies.. anything!

What do you think of the boutik? Do we have any equivalents in the US?

I know you’ve had a busy week, and I asked some big questions on Monday. Whenever you have the chance to answer them, I’ll add them on to this post or just wait until next week!

A lundi, insh’allah! (See you Monday, God willing!)


Photo de la Semaine: Week 1

Photo of the Week


This photo was taken during my week-long stay in the rural village of Teyel, in the region of Kolda in Senegal. The ladies there were preparing big batches of rice and meat for the naming ceremony  of a newborn baby. The tree in the background is called a baobab. Baobabs play an important role in Senegalese life and culture. They are absolutely everywhere, and their fruit makes a delicious white juice called buy (boowee). I can’t wait to talk more about baobabs in the future!

Thank you so much for all your wonderful questions!

  • Grace: Do you have a cat? – No, I do not have a cat. Cats are mostly feral (wild) here in Dakar, they roam the streets like rats or mice. People generally do not own them like pets in the same way we do in the U.S.
  • Ayan: Is it fun there? – It is SO fun here! Sometimes I get overwhelmed with homework and such because of school, but even riding the bus here feels like an adventure. I can talk about the brightly colored buses called Car Rapides in another post 🙂
  • Emma: Are there any fast food restaurants like McDonald’s or Burger King there? – So far, I haven’t seen any McDonald’s or Burger Kings here. However, there are a LOT of fast food restaurants that sell burgers, fries, fataaya (fried dough stuffed with spiced fish), nems (fried, Asian-inspired spring rolls), and shawarma (grilled meat and veggies wrapped up in a pita-type bread).
  • Jacky: Are there any carnival fairs there? – No, there are no travelling carnival fairs here as far as I know, but there is one big run-down carnival called Magic Land near me that I can go take pictures of to show you sometime.
  • Grace: Is there TV? – Yes. Almost every family has a TV here. In fact, watching TV is my family’s favorite thing to do! My dad, Pa Sarr, loves to watch the soccer games and the whole family sits together after dinner to watch soap operas in Wolof (one of the local languages).
  • Emma: Do you have chess or checkers challenges? – Hmm. I don’t know about chess or checkers challenges – do you mean like competitions? I have seen some old Senegalese men playing checkers on the street. Next time I see anyone playing, I’ll ask them.
  • Kalab: Do you like the food? – Yes, I LOVE the food! For the first few weeks here, I got pretty sick because my body was adjusting to the diet, but now I feel a lot better and I love all the meals my family makes. Mostly, it’s a lot of rice or couscous with fish and vegetables. Yum!
  • Emma: Do you have a Rubiks Cube there? – No, I have never seen a Rubiks Cube here. Most kids that I see don’t have that many toys (my little sisters have just a few, pretty worn dolls even though my family could afford more), but play outside together a lot instead! There are kids outside my house playing marbles every single day.
  • Ayan: Have you ever seen a lion in the wild? – No, I have never seen a lion in the wild. Have you? There are some lions in Senegal but they all live in enclosed reservations, for their safety.
  • Grace: What is your favorite kind of pie? – My favorite kind of pie is definitely rhubarb.

The ideas you all came up with about Dakar and Portland were great. I was very interested to hear you say that you think the welfare systems would be different here. How do you think they would be different?

With the schools and animals, I think you are mostly correct – they are very similar to at home. Schools can be pretty different, though, which I’d be happy to talk about sometime. Transportation, however, is VERY different from in Portland! I’ll try to take pictures of all the different kinds of transportation here to show you next week.

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask away!

Ba beneen yoon, insh’allah! (Until next time, God willing!)

– Rheanna