Thursday, January 31, 2008

Asalaam maalekum!
Here's a quick update on things that have been happening around here before the weekend gets started:

I have a slight change in my class schedule. I have dropped History of the Atlantic Slave Trade and am now taking "l'Histoire de l'Islam" (The History of Islam). It is at the same time as the other class was.

I also bartered with the taximan in WOLOF for the first time yesterday! I got a really good price too (600 CFA) to go from my home to school. (It's usually between 800-1000 CFA).
*CFA is the currency here - $1 is between 450-500 CFA. (So my taxi cost a little over a doller in US terms).

Yesterday I also ate the most amazing hamburger I've ever had in my entire life. Not only was the normal hamburger patty there, but they also put an egg (omlette) and french fries on it. Amazing, I know. :-)

Tomorrow they're having an icecream social (mmm ice cream)for the students who are attending Suffolk University (as well as for us CIEE students). So that should be a nice fun way to meet some people.

Also, I think I'm either a) getting sick or b) becoming senegalese because I woke up this morning and I was freezing. I know I have no business complaning about it being cold considering that it was about 76 degrees F when I woke up and it's snowing back in the states... but nevertheless I was COLD.
I wore a sweater on my way to school.
Yes, it's true. I wear sweaters and skirts at the same time and I'm in AFRICA.

Oh, and I think a group of us students are going to get together to watch the superbowl - so that should be exciting.

That's it for now. Please feel free to send me an e-mail or leave me a comment and let me know what's going on back in the states. I like hearing from you all.

Ba beneen yoon!


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My hair is braided!

My sisters worked on it over the weekend and I must say that considering how hard it is to braid my hair they did a wonderful job.

The trip to Goree Island was really interesting.
There are two very contradicting parts that go along with Goree:
On the one hand you have a very sad and horrific history that belongs there, but at the same time the Island is absolutely beautiful (probably the prettiest thing I've seen in Senegal so far)and there are craftsmen everywhere selling everything imaginable from towels to bracelets to art.

Vising the slave house had more of an impact on me once I had left the Island and started reflecting on what actually happened there. For me personally it was too chaotic (there were TONS of French tourists everywhere) to really comprehend what I was looking at while I was there.

By far the most profound thing I saw there was the "door of no return."
For the slaves leaving on the ships, this was literally the last bit of their continent that they ever saw.

There really isn't much to say after that, so I think I'll end here for now.
I'll try to get more pictures up soon.

Ba beneen yoon,

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hey everyone!
Naka nga def? (How's it going?)

Today we went to downtown Dakar and saw the African Art Museum there. It's actually an ethnography/art musuem so it had lots of displays set up with the art pieces (like masks for example) being used in a traditional setting. It was pretty interesting - though I think it would have been more enjoyable if we had been allowed to look around on our own instead of staying with one big group.

It's a really small musuem compared to most others in the US. It's only two rooms on the ground floor and then there's an upstairs with more art displays.

After the art musuem some of my friends and I walked around the city for a while. It was quite an interesting adventure. Megan, Katie, and I ended up eating at some little restaurant that had some really good food. Megan and I had fattaya - it's sort of like an Indian somosa (fried dough with meat stuff inside.) Katie had a schwarma (which is kind of like a gyro).

Then we walked around the market for a little while Megan ended up buying a little toy car rapide. At one point I thought someone had stolen my wallet, but then I realized I'd just put it in a different pocket.

I (of all people!) bartered for our taxi ride home today. It was quite an interesting experience, but I think I'm getting the hang of bartering.

Dakar is such an interesting place - I'm not really sure how to describe it. I love it though, and I'm glad to be here for the time being.

We're going to Goree Island this weekend. (My group is going on Sunday). Goree Island is one of the places where slaves were held before being shipped to the Americas. You can read more about it here:

Here's a picture for you:

I'll be sure to take lots of pictures while I'm there.

That's it for now. Ba beneen yoon!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Asalaa maalekum!

So much has happened over the weekend! I moved in with my family, took a car rapide for the first time, and went into the actual city of Dakar.

My family is wonderful - they are VERY nice and I already feel very at home.
They've even given me a Senegalese name - I am now Astou.

Senegalese homes are VERY open, which means that lots of people come and go all of the time. As a result, I am still trying to figure out who exactly lives in this house. This is my family as far as I can tell:

The head of the family: Papa Sow - works for US AID and speaks English very well.

Then there's my mom, who does some sort of secretary work (I forget what exactly) and she also runs a boutique (which is connected to the house).

She has 4 children:
Isaa - 20 years old (male)
Mama - 15 years old (female)
Dame - 11 years old (male)
Rose - 8 years old (female)

My mom's sister also lives in the house, and she has 3 children, but one of the girls is currently studying abroad in Fance. The two living in the house are:
Habib - 18 years old (male)
Mimi - 18 years old (female)

There's another cousin who lives with us her name is:
Bijous - 22 years old (female)

There are also 3 maids that live with us:
Saly - I think she's about 18 years old
Coumbua - She's around the age of 15 or 16
Seynabou - She's only 13 years old

The house is huge: it's at least 4 stories high and I have a bedroom that is about as big as my room back at home. I also have my own bathroom (which includes a toilet and a shower and a sink).

On Saturday all of the students went downtown. We were split into groups of about 4 students and we each had our own guide. Ours was named Oscar and he took us through the crowded market, and showed us some important sites - like the president's palace, the national assembly, and the art museum. We also saw the Catholic Cathedral, and the Melinnium monument.

I'm working on posting pictures to facebook (for those of you that have it) and I will work on finding a way to put the link on here so that everyone can see my pictures.

I have to say so long for now though, because I start classes in a few minuets.

Ba Beneen Yoon,

Friday, January 18, 2008

Asalaa maalekum!

Before I go any further I would just like to say "jerejef" (Thank you) to everyone who has been praying for me. I can't tell you how blessed I am to know that I am being lifted up in prayer - thank you.

Yesterday was quite an interesting day. Half of our group registered for classes, and the other half went to the Baobab Center. I went to the Baobob Center where we learned all sorts of useful things.
For example:

We learned how to eat with only our right hands out of a big communal bowl. (We had ceebu jen - the national dish which consists of rice and fish and various vegetables... it was really good but VERY oily).
We also learned that there are certain questions you just don't ask here due to superstitious reasons. (IE you can't ask a pregnant woman when the baby is due. You are not supposed to comment about a persons physical characteristics (such as you have very pretty eyes). You are not supposed to ask how many children someone has or whether or not someone is dating someone else, etc...)

It was a really fun day and (as promised in the other posts) I WILL be posting pictures asap. I plan on putting them onto my computer tonight, so the next time I'm online I should theoretically be able to post them.

Today I got to register for classes - I've changed my mind a bit about which classes I'm going to take, so here are the classes that I am signed up for:

Senegalese Society and Culture
Education and Culture in Senegal
History of the Atlantic Slave Trade

My schedule looks a little something like this:


11:00am-1:00pm (6:00am-8:00am EST) Wolof
1:00pm-2:30pm (8:00am-9:30am EST) Lunch Break
2:30pm-4:30pm (9:30am-11:30am EST) French
4:30pm-6:30pm (11:30am-1:00pm EST) Senegalese Society and Culture


9:00am-11:00am (4:00am-6:00am EST) Education and Culture
11:00am-1:00pm (6:00am-8:00am EST) History of the Atlantic Slave Trade

No Friday Classes (again!) But that's due to the fact that Friday is a religious day of rest here. No one has class on Friday.

Today around 4:00pm (11am EST) our families are supposed to come to the hotel we've been staying at and pick us up.
I am living with Papa Sow and his family.
This is all that I know about them at the moment: The dad works for US AID and apparently speaks fluent English. It is a big family with lots of brothers and sisters supposedly around my age.

I'll be sure to have more updates on them and what living in a Senegalese family is like later on, but for now Ba beneen yoon!


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Asalaa maalekum!(Peace be with you!)

We started Wolof classes today and it was really intense, but it was also really amazing. For those of you who may not know, Wolof is the local language. YES, French IS the national language, but most of the people on the street speak Wolof.

My goal is to really focus on learning Wolof - especially since I found out that I will have to barter for a car rapide or a taxi to get to class every day.

Speaking of which, I discovered that I am not actually living (or going to school) in downtown Dakar. I will be living on the outskirts of the city in a residential neighborhood called "Sacre Coeur III". The CIEE study center (where my classes are) is in another neighborhood called Marmoz. CIEE is renting rooms from Suffolk University (which is an American University but has a campus in Dakar?) which is part of a larger building that the locals know as E.N.E.A. (confusing I know).

So I am living in Sacre Coeur III, where I will catch a taxi or a car rapide to Marmoz (about a 10 min drive if traffic is good - which it never is, so I have to plan for 30 min.), where I will walk to classes at CIEE which is really a part of Suffolk University, which is really a part of E.N.E.A. (phew!)

Today's lunch was REALLY interesting. Everyone was given a whole fish (grilled, but you could still see the head, fins, eyes, and teeth -yes teeth!) along with a heap of rice and some sauce.
I took a picture of it which I will eventually upload. It was actually pretty tasty once you got past the fact that it still looked like a fish.

After lunch we took the longest French evaluation test on the face of the planet. (Okay so that might be a slight exaggeration, but it was really long). I'm pretty sure I did horribly on the grammar part, but the reading comprehension, the essays, and the speaking parts went pretty well. I'm hoping to test into an advanced French class, but we'll see what happens.

That's it for now. We're supposed to find out who are families are tomorrow and I am very anxious to learn about mine.

Thanks for all of your comments too - I enjoy reading them.

Ba beneen yoon (until next time),

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I am officially in Dakar! I made it in (with all of my luggage!) sometime around 5am local time (midnight for you folks back home).

Senegal is beautiful - there are lots of pretty colours and flowers everywhere. It's great weather here too - in the 70s with a really nice breeze.

Our program coordinator (I think that's her title anyway), Elizabeth met us (Rebecka and I) at the airport. We waited in the bus until another flight with more CIEE students came in around 6am. Then we crammed all 21 of us (17 students plus Elizabeth plus our bus driver) and all of our luggage into this little bus (kind of like a hippie van actually...). I'll try to upload a picture later.

We are all staying at a hotel for the week. I think there's something like 47 students total... all girls except for 5 guys.

There are goats on the roofs of the houses next to the hotel. I can see them from our room and they are VERY LOUD. They like to talk a lot.

We had to carry all of our luggage up 2 flights of steps.

Some of us went exploring a bit and walked to where our classes are going to be. We also went to the ATM and got some CFAs (the local currency here). Their money is colourful and very beautiful unlike the plain green American dollars.

It's not even noon here yet but I'm already exhausted. We're going to head off to get some lunch soon and then probably crash for the rest of the evening.

Oh, and we managed to find a wireless connection on the top floor of the hotel, which is how I'm writing to you now.

Sorry this was so random - I'll try to be more structured in the future.

Jam Ak Jam,

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Trying this out

Hello Everyone!
This is my first time keeping a blog, so bear with me as I'm trying to figure this out.

I'm leaving for Dakar in exactly one week. It's hard to believe that I'm already leaving.
I'm going to try to update this as much as possible, but I won't have any idea what sort of internet access I will have until I get there.

In case you're at all interested, you can send me letters/packages at the following address:

Kelly Riegel
c/o CIEE Study Center
Km 6, Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop
BP 16423
Dakar, Fann

For those of you wandering where exactly I'm going to be, I will try to upload a map for you.

I will be in Dakar, which is the capital city of Senegal. It's right on the coast with lots of beaches. :-)

I think that's it for now. Feel free to share this blog with anyone who might be interested.

Jam Ak Jam,