Play time in Addis

Addis is the political heart of Africa. It is the home to the African Union and a place where new business and investments are thriving. Now, while this is fascinating, it also means that the city is geared towards entertaining diplomats and businessmen. So, at night my options were the bar, the club,  get a massage or my hotel room. As a single lady who doesn’t really understand the language, I opted for my hotel room most of the time (You are welcome Mom and Dad). I wandered around and found some good places to eat, but otherwise my nights mainly consisted of working out, reading and playing Pokemon.

Lucy at the National Museum

Lucy at the National Museum

When I did have plans, they were AWESOME. The second night I was there the country director, Genet, took me to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant with her husband and we saw traditional dances and music. I tried the traditional alcoholic drink, a honey mead, and it was pretty good! The dancing was astounding. During one of the performances, a dance from the Benishangul- Gamuz region Genet turned to me and said “This is where Beyoncé stole her dance moves”. Water nearly came out my nose, because it was EXACTLY what I was thinking while I was watching it.

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Coffee Ceremony at the traditional Ethiopian resturant.

Another night a few of the girls from work to me to 7-D. 7-D is something I had never heard of before coming to Ethiopia. They said it was an interactive movie. I was expecting an hour or more in a strange advanced 3-D world. The “film” was 7 minutes long and more like a virtual roller coaster. We went to the Lost World attraction where we were almost eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex! If you ever have been to the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids ride a Disney Land, you’ve experience the world of 7-D. Though it was not what I expected, it was a ton of fun.  I then taught them how to play air hockey and we finished the night with Addis’s best cinnamon roll and a long talk about the different religions around the world.

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Getting ready for my first 7-D experience!

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The adoption and sponsorship staff at the Holt Office

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Macchiato. Had at least one of these a day!

During my weekend I spent all my money buying gifts and souvenirs, went to the national museum and was hosed down with Holy Water.

Gold Lion made for Halie Sallasie at the National Museum

Gold Lion made at the National Museum

Sunday, January 19th was the day of the second largest Ethiopian Orthodox Holidays. It is called the Epiphany and it celebrates the fact that Ethiopians believe the Arc of the Covenant is located in Ethiopia. The Saturday before I happened to be wandering around when I came across a massive parade to the national Cathedral. There were troops of performers, everyone was wearing traditional clothes and there were covered litters that carried faux arcs that represent the one true arc. These faux arcs are only moved once a year, the day before the Epiphany and then back to their resting place the day after the Epiphany.

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Arriving at the Epiphany

Arriving at the Epiphany

The next morning, Sunday, I met with Miruk from work. She was dressed to the nines and we went to what is usually a giant soccer field. One the Epiphany, the field is turned into a Holy fair ground. The social aspect of the Epiphany is awesome. I was told girls dress their best on this day, and if single, find themselves a boy friend. There are games people play, much like the kind of games we play at county fairs. I saw one kid squatting over a small hole in the ground, charging people to try to toss a coin into the hole from a distance. There were pony rides. Boys attempting to make a soccer goal on the goalie/ game runner. These of course are as not as extravagant as the types of games at US fairs, but very similar in spirit. There were also booths set up, though most of them were political, informational or religious. The social aspect of the Epiphany is not supported by the church. I was told very serious religious followers disapprove of the whole thing. If you are really serious you head straight for the ceremony.

Behind all the festivities there was a massive crowd of people. Thousands, at least, were there. The pope (actually called something with like 20 names that no one really bothers to remember) said some prayers, blessed the Holy water and sang some religious songs. The whole crowd sang along and it was absolutely beautiful. Once he was done, everyone went to be ‘sprinkled’ with Holy water. Miruk and I hung back to check out the crowd of religious leaders and see some youth groups perform some religious songs. Then, she decided we needed to get sprinkled too. So we followed the crowd.

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After being “sprinkled”

What happened next I can only relate to being at a major concert. Everyone was squeezed together, trying to push their way towards the water. When I got close enough, I noticed that there were five men sitting spread out on a fence with massive hoses spraying the crowd with water. The system was, that you get sprayed, then turn around and leave so the group behind you can get their turn. The police loosely monitored the crowd but for the most part the young children and old people were protected by the people who surrounded them. When we made our way to the Holy water ground, the person on the fence must have seen me (I mean, I certainly stood out) and I got the hose straight to the face. I was drenched from the rib cage up. My definition and the Orthodox church’s definition of “sprinkle” is a little bit different. We waded our way out of the eager, happy crowd with all of our sins utterly drowned.IMG_1366

From there we went to Miruk’s house where I learned to make Shiro! It’s a super tasty Ethiopian dish that is ridiculously easy. I will be making a separate recipe post. She bought decorative grasses and laid them on the floor. We had a lunch of Shiro, tips (kind of like Ethiopian fajitas), tomato and avocado salad and injera. Afterwards, Miruk roasted some coffee beans and we had coffee and popcorn while watching From Justin to Kelly on TV… you’ve got to love what American media makes it over seas…

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Festive grasses that are displayed on Holidays.

It was an amazing day. I feel so incredibly luck to have been there and for the hospitality Miruk showed me. The religions of the world are incredibly interesting, in both their similarities and their differences. To be able to attend a major religious holiday was an honor.

More to come. Thanks for reading! IMG_1364

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Business time in Ethiopia

Hi! I am so pleased to be posting in this blog again! I have not stepped foot off US soil since I came home from Senegal. Let me quickly catch you up on the last few years: I graduated college, moved to California and hated it (sorry family, just not a Cali girl!), moved back to Oregon wallowed around for the year after learning the promise of “Go to college, get a degree and then you’ll get a good job in your field of study!” is not in fact true, convinced my education was useless and I was bound to be a Batista for the rest of my life, stumbled upon an event planning job through a temp agency at an NGO and hated it, saw a job posting in the same organization for “Africa Programs Coordinator”, applied and got the job!!!

I am incredibly fortunate to be working in my field of study. I currently am employed at Holt International Children’s Services (the largest and oldest international adoption agency in the United State) and their Africa Programs Coordinator for adoption programs. I work primarily with our Ethiopia program.

My job mainly involved processing paperwork, leading perspective adoptive parents through the Ethiopian adoption system, navigating the ever changing bureaucratic requirements and more often than not, problem solving and calming down adoptive parents when things do not go according to plan. Because, in international adoption, things NEVER go according to plan.

Though this job is not what I originally set out to do when obtaining my degree in International Comparative Development and African studies, it is a marvelous step in the right direction. I am the main point of contact between our office in Eugene and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital city) and the main point of contact for the 150 something families currently in the adoption process. This job is incredibly stressful, but rewarding and I am learning so much about nonprofit work, international relations, office politics, ect. You know, all those practical and important things that college somehow neglects to mention.

I work with a wonderful group of people who are very supportive of one another. This is something I cannot overstate the importance of. My team keeps me sane when my work becomes insane and I know I can confide and rely on them. My two supervisors are two of the most supportive people I have ever worked for. I have a feeling that I am currently working for the best bosses I will ever have (No, by the way, they are not subscribers to this blog. Not looking for brownie points here, just being honest). This fact is clearly demonstrated in the fact that I am writing in this blog again. They sent me to Ethiopia for two weeks!!!

Going to Ethiopia is very important for my work. I am the travel coordinator for the families and it has been challenging to answer their many detailed questioned about what to expect having never been here. I was able to pull from my Senegalese experience and read enough about Ethiopia to get by, but being here and seeing everything is going to make my job easier and information better.

Being sent to Ethiopia for two weeks on a business trip is surreal. I am just barely 24 years old, working in my desired field of study, on my desired continent, living in a 4 star hotel with all expenses paid by my employer. How did I get here!? I occasionally find myself playing down what I do and how awesome it is. I almost feel guilty for how fortunate I am. Only a very small handful of my college friends are in a similar situation. One of which happened to be my roommate for three of my four college years. Maybe we rubbed off on one another? My situation feels unreal. How can normal be so incredibly close to what I wanted it to be? Sure, I am not a fan of sitting in a cubical 40 hours a week, but I’m not sure that will ever be entirely avoidable.

So I already was having a hard time grappling with my good fortune and then I got to go on this long promised business trip. I have been told since I was hired in June that they wanted to send me but my trip kept being put off for one reason or another. I was beginning to doubt I would ever actually go; but then finally, the time was right and away I went! The time I have spent in Ethiopia has been so fruitful for me. I am one week into my two week trip and already I have cultivated wonderful relationships with my Ethiopian co-workers, learned about the adoption process from their side, gained a much richer understanding of the challenges the staff here faces, the reality of living in Addis Ababa, and the difficulties of working with both the Ethiopian and US governments. I can now speak with confidence and actual firsthand knowledge when adoptive families ask me questions about what to expect when they travel. I feel all around more confident in my ability to do my job.

It is a pretty damn empowering feeling and yet is also filling me with anxiety. I have my first career. Am I professional now? Does this mean I am a grown up? How? I’m still a kid that goes home and plays ping pong and binge watches Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Everyone I talk to seems so impressed with me, but I do not feel impressive. I just worked hard and got lucky. What’s so impressive about luck?

Sometimes I worry that I jumped into a “real job” too soon as there have been days where the stress of work is flat out crushing. Days when I spent the whole eight hours on the phone delivering bad news, being yelled at, having adoptive mothers break down in tears, told that my organization is incompetent and untrustworthy and all with a sympathetic tone and supportive responses.  It’s exhausting to be so kind and understanding all the time.  There have been weeks where we are knee deep in a crisis that does not seem as though it will ever be resolved. Parents who ask me the same questions every week despite me telling them that I will give them new when I have it, forcing me to consistently disappoint them. I have great sympathy for adoptive parents, this process is rough; yet, sometimes this job seems impossible to handle emotionally. This feeling was confirmed for me when I found out we had a team therapist. She is actually a social worker consultant but our monthly sessions with her often feel like therapy from the stress of our jobs. Work therapy!?! I’m just a kid fresh off the turnip truck. What the hell did I get myself into?

Then there are the good days. The days where I get to call a family that has been waiting two years to see their future child’s face  to tell them that I am holding a photo  in my hands of a little boy or girl that we think would be a good fit for their family. The day I get to call a family to tell them the time has come to book their tickets to meet their child for the first time, or to bring their child home. The days where I get long emails that are supportive and appreciative of the work we do, or photos in the mail of little ones now home in the states with their forever families smiling and happy. There was even a day, in a particularly dark week, when a family sent me flowers! I cannot express how touching that moment was for me.  These good days, even though they seem fewer in number than the bad days, remind me that I am very lucky to do what I do.

That being said, I am not sure if I am totally supportive of international adoption. It is, like all international issues, very complicated. I will not go into details here as it would be exhausting to write and exhausting for you to read. However, politics and nuance aside, I know that the children that we take from orphanages in Ethiopia and put in American homes will have better lives than they would have if they stayed in an orphanage. One day I want to be apart of the work that keeps children with their families and their cultures . I want to be an instrument that prevents a child from ever needing to step foot into institutionalized care. Adoption is not the solution for the orphaned and poor. But it is a good thing- a wonderful thing-  for those who would waste away in a care center without the love of a family otherwise.

Now, for the stuff that may actually be interesting to someone else! I cannot talk about Ethiopia in general, as I have only been in Addis Ababa. A capital city is never a real representation of any country. But I will tell you about my adventures in this lovely capital.

The trip to get here was an adventure in itself. It took two days, four airports, three planes and a night in Dubai before I finally arrived in Addis Ababa. Once I got here  I paid for my visa, went through immigration, got my bags, stood in line and was cut 5 times to exchange money and then went off to find my ride. However, by the time I got out of the airport it was three and a half hours later than I was scheduled to arrive. I did not assume anyone was there for me. So, I found a taxi and shared it with an American English teacher who did not seem to care much for Ethiopia and found my hotel.

The Saro Maria Hotel is the nicest hotel I’ve stayed in. It is a four star establishment in the Bole area. There are little quirks I have experience there (Fish sticks served at breakfast, a puddle on the bathroom floor after I shower no matter what I try, a broken hair dryer, unreliable internet) but nothing that I could possibly complain about. Everyone is so kind there and they have their own pool and gym so I’ve been slimming down in all of my free time at night! All in all, the hotel is enjoyable but I sometimes feel out of place there. I come from a poorer family who would never spring for such a place in the US or otherwise (we rock the La Quintas). All guests that stay there are dressed in business suits and beautiful dresses. They are here for UN or African Union Conferences, to start their own investment company, ect. It is hard to imagine I belong among these people. Yet here I am! Living it up!

I walk to work each morning and it takes me about 15 minutes. I walk down the four star hotel strip, through a busy round about filled with people on their way to work, women selling vegetables, grains, coffee beans, ect. Children and the disabled begging, a sheep lot, a road side car wash, a number of shoe shiners, young children in school uniforms on their way to school… everything is so lively, full of sounds, colors, smells (I’m usually not a huge fan of the smells). The streets are alive here.

At work I am working on improved communications between the offices, establishing processing systems, learning about their side of the adoption process, and getting to know what wonderful people I work with. In the states, I only communicate with the staff here in Ethiopia once a day through an email. At the end of our day we send the staff an email with a list of questions we have for them about particular cases and then in the morning we receive a response to that email, which may also include questions the staff here has for us. As you can imagine, this is a HIGHLY inefficient way to communicate. Sometimes the responsive we receive only spark more questions and it can take 2 days or more to get the full answer one inquiry. Occasionally, I will come into the office early to call one of the staff members when the situation we are asking about is too complex to write in an email or the matter too time sensitive. However, the telecommunications in Ethiopia are some of the worst in the world, so I get through on the phone only about half the time. Before coming to Ethiopia I only had spoken to two of the staff members and knew only the names of a handful more. Spending quality time with these co workers will vastly improve our communication as we have a sense of one another’s personalities.

There are five women on the adoption staff, two in sponsorship, the director, the accountant, one office assistant, a photographer, at least three drivers, two cooks/office and grounds keepers (they all pay in and have lunch cooked her in the office… best food I’ve had in Ethiopia!) and at least three rotating guards. It is possible I’m missing some people but as far as I understand it, that’s the staff. All 18 of them are wonderful people. Everyone seems to get along and work well together. Knowing who I work with is extremely helpful.

I work from 830- 5 and have seen a lot. This post is already nearing 4 pages so I will describe the orphanages, my US Embassy experience and other business related things in my next post. I also attended a religious ceremony last weekend, went shopping and have some other adventures to tell. Also, I will include photos next time!

Thanks for reading!

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Top 5 Summary

So I have less than a week left in Senegal and i can’t believe it is over. I feel as though I have made great personal changes and frankly, I am nervous to go home. I have read “Reverse Culture Shock” tips and they only seem to make me more nervous than help.

So to sum up my time here I have decided to write down the top 5 things I will miss about Senegal. The top five things I won’t miss about Senegal. And finally, the 5 things I have a love-hate relationship with: I both am excited and sad to leave behind. I wanted to write about so much more. Recap my favorite stories, write reflections of how I think I’ve grown, etc. but i find this all so overwhelming that these 15 themes will have to do.

Things I WILL miss about Senegal.

1. Food.

Ceeb bu Jën bu xonq

MAFE!

O.M.G. If all of my food posts didn’t get your mouth-watering, then you have no imagination of taste buds. Though I will enjoy taking a very long break from eating fish, I will miss ceeb bu jën bu xonq and Mafé  and laax and and and and…. It is all sooo good.

Ceeb bu Ginaaw

I have also consumed more juice in my time here than ever before. There is Bissap, Boué, Gingembré, Ditah, Mangue, Madd, Orange, and cocktail…to name a few. They are all so incredibly tasty and most don’t exist in the US.

Bissap!

I did find powder used to make two of the juices and am VERY excited to share with friends and family. Sorry for everyone else, you’ll just have to wonder.

Yassa!

Dolima! The thing that introduced me to the concept of sucking things out of bags... I will miss sucking my food and drinks out of bags...

And of course, it was all so fresh... yummm

2. Music and Dancing.

YUZA! YUZA! YUZA! YUZA! The chant of Senegalese, young and old, that has driven me to wave my hands and stomp a foot with all the sass I can muster dozens of times since my stay here began.

At concerts people definitely broke it down.

Senegal has a rich tradition of music and dance. Djembe’s are a percussion signature of the country but there are also so many other ways the Senegalese get you movin’. Mbalax is a favorite here, and I assume most of you have heard of Youssou N’dour. Of course, the hip-hop scene is also off the chain.

Going to night clubs, concerts, drum circles, etc I have got to see how amazingly well people can move here. It’s like they don’t have joints, bones or have to obey the laws of gravity. I am lucky the national dance fad doesn’t require too much skill because I can always default to that when put on the spot.

Everyone dances. Music is everywhere. What isn’t to love about that?

3. Field Work/ Being Important

As I have mentioned in blogs before I am doing side research in Senegal for my undergraduate thesis on the relationship between Senegalese hip-hop and politics. When I arrived I thought I could talk to some low-level rappers and maybe some political interns but nothing too spectacular.

I quickly realized that one of the very few times being an American would work in my favor was being a researcher. Everyone was willing to talk to me. I got to speak to some of the most important current and past hip hop artists in the Nation. I talked to people who would be the US equivalent of Public Enemy to Kanye West. I felt like I could be the Oprah of Senegalese hip hop.

AWADI! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! *giggle*

I was giddy as a school girl EVERY time. Especially with some of the bigger names. Awadi made me feel like every 7th grade girl must feel at a Justin Beeber concert. I learned SOooo much.

I also had the privilege of being involved in a few international conferences here and was able to talk to many world renowned labor historians, literary professors, and other impressive and intimidating people. I was able to bounce ideas off of them, gain some contacts, and get a guide to how/what/where the archives were. I learned way more about researching here than I ever could have in the states. Now for bragging rights, here are some videos of musicians I interviewed….

He’s basically the biggest name in Senegalese hip-hop. I felt like a 13 year old girl meeting Justin Beeber. ❤

Nix isn’t a political rapper, but he is damn good. It was interesting talking to a politically detached artist. He raps only in French but samples a LOT of American artists. Ignore the hey-ho’s in the beginning and it is a catchy song, even if you don’t understand it.

Xuman was by far the most helpful and informative person I interviewed. He’s a reggae/rapper. This is definitely a song meant for the international scene and not like his political work, but I thought I’d treat you in a catch fun song in English.

4. Living in a Religious Country

Living in America unless you are a white Christian, I haven’t really come across you in the PNW. Islam is something I have very little exposure to and I know I made my parents and relatives very nervous when I said I was going to a country composed of 90% muslims. I have found it so incredibly interesting how religion is such a large part of Senegalese society.

I experience Ramadan and even attempted fasting for a day. I have so much respect for those who do that for a month EVERY year. During the hottest part of the year.

Me outside the biggest mosque in Senegal

Rachel and I were walking downtown on a friday afternoon and noticed ourselves in a swarm of men all going in the same direction. We then found ourselves weaving between men lined up on prayer rugs in the middle of the street waiting for friday prayer. We felt awkward and hurried to our destination but also found the experience incredibly powerful and moving.

Living in a society that is also so tolerant of other religions was refreshing. The Christian population lives among the Islam populations. They even intermarry. There is an understanding and peace between the religious sectors that you do not see in many places.

America, for example, is a sad, sad excuse for a religiously tolerant nation, especially, after 9-11. Our population on a whole is so incredibly ill-informed when it comes different religions and living amongst them. People would stop mid conversation with me to pray, right in front of me. At first this was almost too awkward to handle but I began to appreciate and enjoy a constant feeling of devotion around me.

I mean, it wasn’t all majestic and beautiful… I could do without all chanting over the loud speakers of mosques and chauvinism, but you know, over all it was a pretty awesome experience. I feel that American culture is just going to seem boring in comparison.

5. Ataya

It's like magic.

Ataya means many things to me, but I think ultimately it embodies Senegalese culture so well. Ataya, as I have explained in previous posts is a type of tea drank (drunk?) in Senegal. However, it is much more than that. To me, Ataya is an event, not just a beverage. Each round takes about 30 minutes to make. There are three rounds and each has a different meaning.

While partaking in Ataya people sit around, relax and talk. Everyone is welcome around the Ataya pot. Strangers will invite you while you are walking down the street to drink a cup with them. Anyone and everyone can drink ataya together and EVERYONE drinks Ataya. It is a great equalizer and the epitome of taarange isolated into an event. When drinking Ataya (properly) I have always felt included and welcome. I will miss this pause in the day when nothing else is important. Just you glass and conversation.

It's all about being social and trying not to blow up the propane tank.

Plus, the tea is freakin’ delicious.

Things I WON’T miss about Senegal:

1. Bugs-

These didn't bite me but I didn't take many bug pictures.

My legs looked like I have the Chicken Pox on my legs. Had some Malaria scares. Was constantly attacked by very aggressive flies. Chased around a bathroom by a GIANT spider. Found ants crawling in and out of my computer… Bugs suck. I can totally deal with the occasional Oregon spider now.

2. Having an Office Job- At times I felt like I could have accomplished my internship in Oregon, in my pajamas. I was expecting to be out in the field doing more hands on work, not sitting in an office translating documents and siting in on staff meetings. In a lot of ways my internship was an exercise in frustration. I have grown and learned a lot from it. I know that I could not have gained the experience I did elsewhere. The few times I did get to leave Dakar and see our NGO in action it was inspiring, but through my time here, and talking with other NGOs, I don’t think this is the line of work for me. My attention span isn’t long enough to be efficient while sitting in front of a computer all day. I don’t want to work for an organization that is constantly stressed about funding; sometimes more so than their mission. GEEP, luckily, is mostly not like that, but from what I found, few NGOs are like GEEP.

Theater for change! I love this stuff, if only my job involved more of it.

Hanging out with middle schoolers. Wish I could have more!

3. MEN.

Ugh. Seriously, if i get proposed to, ask for my number, or if I have a husband ONE. MORE. TIME. I’m gonna… idk. Freak out.

Not all men are terrible. I have some male friends who I adore, my host brother is wonderful and if they are married I’m usually safe. But the overly aggressive men towards white women got real old, REAL fast. I realize I am seen as a walking visa, maybe if Senegal was my reality I would try to do the same… Sometimes men might just see me as an exotic piece of meat or a way to make an easy buck. Regardless of the reasons, one can only take so much of trying blatantly to be used, EVERYDAY.

A possey of dudes too cool for school with matching fades on there jeans that was too ridiculous not to document.

Truth: Senegalese men are beautiful. They all work out, they’re all ridiculously tall, and generally they all have great teeth. Yet, asking for my number before my name or full on grabbing my ass on a dance floor takes away any appeal you could have ever possibly had.

Plus, i’m taken fellas.

Truth: My wedding ring isn’t real, but is a symbol that says, “I don’t want to get up on ya. So don’t try.”

This particular man harassed us as we were buying our bags of water, demanded a picture and is quenticential thing that turned me into a mean person

Men have taken the habit of telling me I need a Senegalese husband when I tell them I’m married. It is not a good idea.  In a patriarchal, chauvinist society, men can joke about polygamy but white girls aren’t allowed to…except this white girl. When men persist that I need to take them up as my second husband my response is now, “Sorry, I already have a second husband. Three would just be too much work.” This follows in silence and confusion or anger.

What cha gonna do? I think the polygamist white girl caught your tongue perhaps you should be such a jerk next time.

I’m very much looking forward to being seemingly anonymous when I get home.

4. Pollution/The trash/environmental situation

I’m a Oregon hippie at heart. I have some very practical reasons for hating the pollution, such as, my asthma resurfaced while I was here and after a crazy attack I was prescribed a few medicines and an inhaler. Burning plastic and other garbage in the streets, everywhere, everyday leads to some pretty nasty stuff in the air. My lungs disagreed. Aside from my medical reasons, it affects the health of everyone who lives here too.

A domicile on the beach...

There is a HUGE trash problem in Senegal as I wrote about before. It’s like Senegal is a huge example of the tragedy of the commons. Everyone makes sure they look beautiful and well put together, their houses are always very clean and have nice things, but once you leave your front door, it doesn’t matter. It’s really sad because Senegal is such a lovely place. There is so much natural beauty that is being covered in trash. There are some movements to educate people about the environment and the problems with littering but the problem goes beyond garbage.

The beauty that should be universal in Senegal

There are constant trash and tire fires along the side of the road, lots and lots of cars spew thick black smoke, a large industry in Senegal (cement factories) have low environmental standards and are set up near the ocean, etc. Environmental standards at woefully lacking here.

5. Poverty/ Social Injustice

This is the hardest thing to write about because there are so many things that just aren’t fair about Senegal. I wrote my blog about disabilities and have touched on poverty here and there but it’s really difficult to write about because I don’t think one can truly understand what poverty is like here without living around and amongst it.During my study abroad we would talk about social issues in Senegal and I always found myself making US comparisons. I would guess 87% of Senegal’s ‘problems’ can be found in the United States as well, the scale of the problems however is much larger in Senegal.

A poor section of Dakar without proper drainage systems

There are so many marginalized groups here (not unlike the United States). The disabled, the poor, women… etc. Sexual assault is a GIANT problem here that just isn’t talked about because the rights of women are not respected or important.

Children are put into Islamic schools where the Marabouts take advantage of them by putting them on the street to beg for money to make their keep.

These things I will not miss, but it is so frustrating to know that I can just escape these hardships and injustices. For the people living in Senegal this is their daily reality. It is hard to be in such a privileged position and stay objective and unaffected by these issues. Why can’t we all just treat each other with dignity and respect?!

Again, I feel as if I am not doing this issue justice. It is just so hard for me to explain because of all of the complex issues compounded by even more complex and confusing emotions about the subject.

My top 5 LOVE/HATEs:

1. Language- My French and Wolof have noticeably improved in my time here yet i’m am nowhere near to fluent in either. My lack of language abilities have made me feel often isolated, dumb and openly made fun of. It has been so incredibly difficult and frustrating to learn two languages at the same time. Not to mention that Wolof is very difficult, they talk fast and very different words sound exactly the same. I also have the added challenge of the intern before me being fluent in French and very successful at Wolof. I came in with high expectations placed upon me that I was unable to live up to. Since she lived in the same house I did felt my Senegalese contacts disappointment from both the work and the home sphere. So basic communication made me want to beat my head against a wall.

At the same time learning and speaking 3 different languages was so much fun. Communication will be boring when I return home. The first few months I was here, I was always exhausted after a long day of speaking in french and Wolof, it was mentally taxing. Yet, just like anything you constantly exercise my skills, and mental capacity for listening and speaking increased dramatically. I’m not fluent by any means, but I can hold my own in a conversation. Talking is a daily challenge i’ve learned to welcome, I will miss it.

2. Waaxale

“Naata la?”

“10.000 cfa”

“Whaaaaa?!?! Seer naa! Wanni ko!”

Waaxale has been both the bane of my existence and something that causes great excitement and unspoken competitions among other white friends, especially Rachel (though i’m not sure she’s aware of that..).

It is frustrating to know that based on the color of my skin I am judged so much differently. Despite living here for half a year, I still look like easy prey. In a way, I am. Waaxale constantly reminds me that I will never be able to fully fit into Senegalese society. Toubabs have money. That means vendors, taxi man, beggars and talibe on the streets, sometimes people you think are your friends will try to get as much money out of you as they can because they think they can.

Truth: I’m a student here on scholarship. I am not rich despite being white.

I never thought i’d be a victim of racism or discrimination so openly. People have straight up told me, “No. You’re white. You can pay this price.” or something to that effect. It is hard to swallow at times. It took me a long time to grapple with the fact that I can never fit in but it has definitely given me a deeper appreciation for people in situations far worse than mine. I just get harassed by beautiful men and have people attempt to financially exploit me everyday for 6 months. I can escape when I go home. Discrimination and racism have far worse consequences around the world. I am fortunate to have to have this experience, I think it has led to a lot of personal growth.

Other than the deep soul-searching, growth of waaxale it’s also fun. I feel so triumphant when I get a good price, especially if it’s lower than all of my friends. The conversation starts. I hold my own. We argue. One of us wins out. I pay, and begin friendly banter with the vendor. At first advisories and we finish as friends. Waaxale is a battle of wits.

I think there should be more bargaining in the US. I know I will be utterly offended by the price of coffee or jeans. It’s going to be hard not to whip out my waaxale skills when I go home.

3. Transportation- There is something to love about having to hang off the side of a moving bus because it is packed to over capacity…

So there were three professors and an intern in the back seat of a taxi...

I have gotten so used to walking outside and waving my arm, then for $2-$3 getting where ever i need to go. It’s nice that a bus costs $.20 and a car rapide even less than that. It is so easy to find a way to get around.

However, I am so excited for buses that run on time and aren’t over flowing with people. For Oregon ‘traffic’ in comparison to the nightmare that is Dakar. For taxi drivers that won’t hit you or hit on you. And of course, for being able to walk or ride my bike almost anywhere I need to go.

Horse and Buggy available.

This is totally normal.

4. My Family- I have learned so much by living with a host family that I never would have living on my own in Senegal. I was let in on so many cultural celebrations, norms and traditions. I am so grateful for them and their contribution to my time and education here.

Such sweeties

Never the less, I am really excited to be and adult again. To not feel guilty for being busy and coming home late. To cook for myself, to not have to have a fight over cleaning my own room, to be able to sit in my living room with the lights on and not feel like i’m disturbing somebody… etc.

All dressed up!

Though I couldn’t have truly experience Senegal without them and will miss sama waker, I look forward to my independence.

Dad and daughter.

5. Being Out of My Element-

Coming to Senegal with basic french and terrible Wolof, never being to Africa before, never interning before, never living abroad before…. basically jumping in with both feet and not looking back definitely had its ups and downs.

First off, I felt like I was drowning for the first 4 months I was here. I had my moments of success but over all I had no idea what was going on. This lead to a lot of stress, frustration, and admittedly, a few tears here and there.

Yet, other than perhaps having better language skills, I wouldn’t change a thing. Constantly living by the seat of my pants, playing catch up, making mistakes and a fool of myself made me grow and learn so much.

It’s so frustrating to feel like I’m just finally getting into a really good groove here and now my time is over. If I would have another 3 or 6 months I think I could accomplish some pretty amazing things. Unfortunately, I’m frantically finishing my work projects, shopping and packing for my departure in just a few short days.

I’m not ready. I don’t want to go. Home will be dull, cold and expensive. I of course miss my family, friends, and boyfriend but my trip of my life is over and it’s hard to swallow.

I hope my blog has been fun to read and you’ve learned a bit about Senegal along the way! I will of course be posting a few blogs about my experiences of reverse culture shock, so stay tuned for that. Thank you readers for reading. Senegal has really impacted me a lot. I have grown so much and am so grateful for my experiences here.

Senegal, Jërejef ci taaranga bi!

Babenen yoon, Senegal. Namm naa la.

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Disabilities in Senegal

I have been here now for 5 1/2 months. It has been an amazing experience. One of my first posts was about the stark difference I noticed between the rich and the poor in Senegal. Going back and reading that post, I honestly did not do a good job painting the picture of poverty in Senegal. So, let’s just say this, just seeing the lives of the poor here has changed my perspective on a lot of things in life and the western world leads it.

Rachel, struck by the same feeling of guilt and disbelief of just how poor poor was here, confided in her family back home, as I did with mine. Their reactions were similar; well just because they are poor doesn’t mean they aren’t happy and there are people in poverty here in America too, don’t forget that. This was the first moment I realized how valuable my time in Senegal would be. Our families back home couldn’t see what we saw, couldn’t comprehend what poor really meant. There are no homeless shelters, food banks, unemployment benefits, food stamps, reduced housing grants… any resources like America has, and often takes for granted or advantage of. There are people literally have nothing but the clothes on their backs here. If you are dealt a bad hand in life, there isn’t a societal support net to catch you as you fall. None of this I could really understand until I was here, seeing it, living amongst it, being confronted by it.

After a few weeks of the shock of poverty began to feel normal, I could ignore it. My heart wouldn’t break every time I saw a dirty 5 year old in the street asking for change and sugar cubes. I wouldn’t feel guilty bargaining for a taxi on the same street as a mother with her 3 children was trying to find their next meal. These things stayed sad, but I also accepted it as part of life here. It wasn’t until that point that I began noticing all of the disabled people.

People with disabilities struggle no matter where they are. In America, they are still fighting for rights and treated like lepers. In Senegal, the situation from a Westerner’s eyes is tragic.There is no city in Senegal, including Dakar, that is capable of accommodating people with disabilities. People with deformed legs, crawling down the street, flip-flops on their hands. Blind old men being led around by younger relatives, car to car, asking for change. Gangs of women, men and children in wheel chairs, looking hopeless. These are everyday pictures of my bus ride to work.

Rachel and I often talked about all of the disabled people we see. It seemed like there were so many. Far more than we had ever seen in America. Then, we questioned if there were simply more people with disabilities here, or if we are just better at hiding and/or integrating them in the US? Finally, I spoke with a friend who is a medical student about it. She said very matter of factually that most of the people with deformed legs or crutches, or in wheel chairs had polio.

Polio. It blew my mind. Somewhere in the back of my head I knew that polio was a problem in Africa. The nurse back home told me I was very lucky that my mom kept me up to date on my shots because I didn’t need a polio vaccine. I had to have made the connection that meant polio was a problem here somewhere in my head but I never really actively considered it before. Polio. A dead disease where I come from, cripples thousands here and leaves them on the streets, to the mercy of others for basic necessities.

A week or so later, I had another friend who had just gotten back from staying at a rural village for a week. He described helping Peace Corps volunteers give village children Polio vaccines. He is just a college undergrad from Boston with no medical training, yet, the need is so great, it didn’t matter. Polio was ‘officially eradicated’ in Senegal in 2003, yet, it was found due to poor injection techniques and other administrative problem, people are still suffering from the disease. The official report is with oral vaccines the situation is now under control. I’m not sure if that means there aren’t any more new cases of polio in Senegal, for all i know that is true. But, it is clear by looking on the streets, the polio situation is far from under control.

Then I went online to investigate further. Many people with lost limbs also are mine victims. A few years ago, when the Casamace conflict was at its highest there were a lot of people who suffered from mine injuries. I thought back to my trip to the Casamace and how disappointed I was that I couldn’t go to a famous animal reserve because there were still active landmines throughout the park and felt ashamed of my Toubaab self. While I was in the Casamance I knew there was still rebels and active land mines, but I never felt like I was in a war zone. I often joked about it with my fellow travel mates, not thinking about the consequences the conflict actually had on the people in the region. It was far more serious, and many more people who I had realized before were injured by the violence in the region.

If you’re a woman with a disability? That is called being doubly handicapped. Handicapped women are often kept from school, struggle to find a marriage partner, are at great risk when it comes to giving child-birth, and aren’t assisted in raising their children. Ultimately, they are condemned to beg. However, for some reason, it is more shameful for a woman to beg. They are constantly insulted, ridiculed and shamed, unlike their male begging counter parts.

So Polio, Land mines, being a handicapped woman, probably a poor diet, prenatal and health conditions lead to thousands of disabled people on the street, with nowhere to turn except their families and those who give to them on the street. I, being white, am asked by all of them to spare cent franc, cent franc. 100 cfa amounts to about $.20 but I simply can’t give to them all. There is a man next to a store I often go, it appears his legs stopped growing when he was 5 or 6. We banter in a friendly manner, sometimes I give him a little money, sometimes food but then I have to ignore everyone else who swarms me asking for the same. It is a difficult situation for any healthy person in Senegal.

Something else I’ve discussed with various people is mentally disabled people. I just don’t see them. Since I have been in Senegal I have encountered 4 people who I suspect were mentally disabled. One clearly had down syndrome an other a mental disorder but not something I could identify. One could have just been drunk and was harassing me for funny/to scare me or was seriously mentally disturbed. The third, is Rachel’s host brother, who is an epileptic. Hardly a mental disability in my opinion, but without treatment, can be a serious problem. Untreated epilepsy is often the case here and therefore is classified as a mental disability. He come from a wealthy family and has access to medication, he operates as a normal kid. He is incredibly fortunate. Yet, by and large that is not very many mentally handicapped people considering i’m in the capital city.

After reading a bit on mental disorders, my suspicions were confirmed.  I found there is a great stigma around having disabled children. Many believe it is God punishing an unfaithful wife, and results in the mother having to raise he child alone, cut off from her family. Many hide their children, out of shame, never letting them leave the house. There are cases of infanticide of handicapped children, to protect family honor. The stories went on and on.

I learned that there are a total of 4 schools for disabled children, only one is outside of Dakar. All are filled to capacity by wealthier families. Most families that do have disabled children couldn’t afford the cost of these schools. The resources are overwhelmingly limited.

From what I can tell there isn’t a government program for the handicapped. There are many NGOs, USAID, etc who have various programs to help and empower the disabled of Senegal. Yet, from my experience, NGOs are inefficient and constantly are limited by funding issues. Then, USAID has a million conditions attached to everything they do, and again are limited in their capacities. The need is too great for them to effectively combat. Even if the resources were there, these individuals likely would not have the capacity to reach them or even access to information about them.

This is a sad post, I know. There are always communities that seem to be forgotten by society. Women, children, minority groups, the disabled… The situation for the disabled in Senegal is grave. Sadly, I do not have a positive solution to pose at the end of this post. Poverty is so wide-spread here, resources are poorly managed, and there are so many issues that focusing on disability issues is not a reality for the country. Everything is interlinked. Lack of education leads to the stigma towards metal disability which results in cutting off that family from support and that results in more poverty.

I rarely will think that outside intervention is a positive thing for developing countries. Often, as is the case with Senegal and their history with structural adjustment programs, outside development organizations make matters worse, rather than improve them. However, a large spread education campaign needs to be put in place  and so is the establishment of an effective body to aid and provide resources for the disabled and their families should be established. Perhaps an outside actor could assist with this, because on its own, I don’t see Senegal taking action. That happening is a shot in the dark, but it never hurts to hope.

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Thanksgiving in Senegal

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, despite its history where we celebrate the time the Native Americans saved the pilgrims, they celebrated together and all was merry… until we started killing all the Native Americans.

I love thanksgiving because it is all about family. It is a relaxing holiday where my mom, brother and I spend all morning in the kitchen together, checking in on the parade now and again. We polish the silver and have an overly extravagant, very traditional meal and just thoroughly enjoy our time together.

This is the very first year I have not been with some type of family for thanksgiving and though I am so close to returning home, it was a sad thought. Thus, I had the great idea, bring thanksgiving to Senegal! My mom sent me things I couldn’t find in a care package. My package contained cranberry sauce, french’s fried onions, a can of pumpkin pie mix, cream of mushroom soup, a package of stuffing and turkey gravy… you know, the essentials.

I was shopping on Wednesday before Thanksgiving and that’s when it hit me… the fever… the chills… the headache… the body aches… I had come down with the flu and was sick as a dog all thanksgiving day long. I had talked up this day so much that my family and invites were quite disappointed when I said I wasn’t up to cooking the meal.

I rescheduled sunday, gathered everything necessary and the cooking process began 4 hours before people were to arrive. My host sisters were both a blessing and a true pain in the rear end. Though it is true that I am a little handicapped in a Senegalese kitchen, I am fairly certain my host sisters think i am completely inept when it comes to domestic things. (For example, they all gathered around and took pictures of me the first time I swept and mopped my floor…) So I was in the position of instructor, advisor and helper, but was definitely not in charge of the kitchen.

This, by and large, worked out well. I learned how to make delicious mashed potatoes thanks to my host mom, and my host sister took care of opening all the cans (with a knife). I also didn’t have to chop any onions because my sister didn’t want to have to dodge the flying pieces.

When dinner was finally ready and the guests had arrived.

My lovely friend Marieme with the cranberry sauce..which everyone thought was weird. Awesome for me! It is my favorite!

Only two people from my office. On Thursday I had a very ambitious guest list of 7 people on top of my family of 6… I decided it was best if I reduced the numbers for my sanity. Girl can only cook so much American food in a Senegalese kitchen at once!

Forgot to get a picture of the food before we started eating... but here is more or less the spread.

Anyway, we placed everything out in the living room and there were a few skeptical looks. My host father seemed the most reluctant to try things and waited until others gave dishes a stamp of approval before he’d take a bite. I gave them an abridged history of thanksgiving and what we usually do at my house every year. My brother and host sisters were busy watching football (the real kind) which seemed fitting for the occasion.

Football... The international (minus America) pass time.

Remembered with dessert! Pumpkin pie and apple crumble.. pie was a little burnt 😦

After pie, and bubbly cider we called it a night. I was pleased with the over all experience. The next night we have cold stuffing and green bean casserole surrounding a large platter with fried fish in the middle. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen. Gave a whole new meaning to Thanksgiving leftovers, but I appreciated the cultural exchange.

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Riding Camels and Peeing in Bushes.

This weekend I went back to St. Louis with Rachel and her new study abroad program. Her new group consists of 50+ students which definitely changed the atmosphere of traveling compared to our 10 membered crew in our last program.

We left at 1pm from her school and piled on luxury tour buses on our way to Lompoul. The trip was a long one, took us about 5 hours with traffic and there is no where large enough to handle a 50 person bathroom break..except the bushes along the side of the road. The first outdoor bathroom break I had this trip I squatted in some thorn bushes and when I stood up I saw a man in the distance giving me a Rachel thumbs up… awkward.

My favorite part of the trip.

Lompoul is a dessert. We stayed in big tents and ate on low round tables, perched on tuffets. Lanterns guided our way at night. It was needless to say, very romantic. I was expect Aladdin to come down on his magic carpet and whisk me away into a song filled adventure.  But before I get to the night time, lets go back to our point of arrival. We pull up on the side of the road and unload from the buses to reload into Jeeps and the back of trucks and 4wheeled our way to our camp spot. Dakar has prepared me for hanging off the side of a moving vehicle but never one so bumpy. I was at risk of falling out a few times… It was exhilarating!

One of the more sturdy buses available.

When we arrived, I survived the looong pee line and trekked up to sand dunes to see what most excited me about this trip. The camels. We all go to go on a short camel ride at sunset in what im calling the Sahara desert.

Eating area

The bathroom. I'll let your mind wander like mine did as to what it looked like inside.

My sleeping quarters. It fit 12 people comfortably.

Toubabs at sunset

*side note* It wasn’t Sahara proper, but, my guess is that the area used to be like the bushy Senegalese landscape surrounding it before the Sahara started to creep in. Desertification is a major problem in Senegal and most of places across Africa that border the desert. It destroys acres and acres of farm land each year and no one can figure out how to stop the process. So, it is likely that the desert we were enjoying was a product of this destructive natural process. We were paying for the chance which I guess means locals have found ways to make the desert economically viable. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

The camel ride was fun, and kinda scary. We rode two to a camel and Kim and my camel had a funny lip but that made him endearing. I’m fairly certain the camel behind me was considering biting my ass the whole time too. What I gathered from riding a camel at sunset in the desert of West Africa was that: 1, I am a very fortunate individual. I mean, come on? How many people get to do something like this? Even if it was like a pony ride where someone lead us around. 2. I do not want to know two things: what it is like to ride a camel for a long distance and what it feels like to ride a running camel. I had to roll my hips around enough at slow speeds.

Our loose liped camel

Look mom!

Free as birds! Titanic Camels.

We ate dinner, coos-coos and mutton, and sat around a bon fire for a while listening and dancing to the drum circle. Then a group of us went back to the sand dunes and watched some of the most spectacular stars I have ever seen. It was windy and cold and so I even got to indulge in my hoodie! Something I have yet to wear in my time here. It made me feel like myself again. I have missed the sensation of being cold. When I was sleepy enough to go back to my tent, which for some disturbing reason smelt like cat pee and curled up in my sweater and heavy blanket, I drifted right to sleep…

Boom boom boom…WAKE UP!  At 6:15 am I heard the first drum. This happened 5 times, getting louder each time because the drummer started at the tent farthest from us and stopped at our tent. Breakfast was at 7 am my cell phone alarm, just like everyone else in the program’s, was set for 6:45. It was a cold morning and there were many moans and groans and disgruntled college students stumbling through the sand to the bathroom and single sink to brush teeth and wash faces.

Once I woke up enough to talk, I washed my face, slammed down a breakfast of bread and tea I ran up to the sand dune again to watch the sun rise. Breathtaking.

Rachel and I at sunrise.

Back on the bus for day two.

We were supposed to go to a famous bird park so we left at 730 am. Though we were all on the bus by 750, we didn’t leave for some reason until almost 45 minutes later. Then we started to smell burning rubber an hour into the journey. It would get so bad I thought I might suffocate, then the odor would die off a little. The driver decided to try to ignore it.

Suddenly, we were urgently pulled over by police men along with the rest of the people of the road. A bunch of black SUVs drove by and stopped, then Karim Wade got out and walked down the street to a car accident directly behind us. A ton of people started running towards the scene. We were of course giddy, and I, the Toubaba I am, took pictures and Wade totally looked at my camera… after I took the pictures… but still.

Karim is the pale on in the middle, known as the super minister because he holds multiple positions.

Later we found out that the car had two of the President’s deputies, escorting Wade to the St. Louis to inaugurate the new bridge in the city that day. (Something I would have loved to go to but I was on a trip with 50 other white people and we have all been told to stay away from political gatherings… ugh.) Unfortunately, there were casualties. It is scary to think that they were just a short distance ahead of us when it happened.

Saint Louis is so pretty. I wish I could have spent more time here.

Since the road into St. Louis was closed, and we didn’t know the tragic fate of the accident, we went to a hotel with a big pool and hung out till the road opened. I found a litter of four puppies. We played card games, swam, played Frisbee and wasted time.

Aren't they adorable flea infested little things?

When we finally did get to St. Louis, four hours later, we were about to eat our arms off. We ate lunch, found our rooms and went shopping. I went a little banana sandwich and bought quite a bit of things. There was a big event at the town square. Men were dressed up in traditional clothes, there was a race for school kids, and a concert later that night. It was really interesting to see, and a lot of fun. We finally went back and ate dinner and then went out to check out the nightlife of St. Louis. Nothing spectacular to report there other than bars by the water had amazing views of the bridge.

As big as Jumanji Pelicans

Only a fraction of the bird island

In the morning we got up early to go to the bird park since we missed it the first day. It took again, FOREVER to get there and it was VERY touristy. There were a bunch of old wrinkly french people who didn’t know what Wolof was. But one we got away from the epitome of why being a toubab is a bad thing, I felt like I was in an episode of animal planet. It was a pelican island where they lay their eggs. Thousands and thousands of giant pelicans. It is hard to describe this experience. I think that pictures can’t really capture the intensity of seeing so many giant birds in one place.

It moved too fast for a good shot but this thing was huge!

We also saw this lizard thing that I thought was a komodo dragon, but quickly remembered that wouldn’t make any sense. Turns out Senegal has its own dragon lizard.

Kim and I on the boat after leaving the pelican island

 

Back at the camp we ate lunch and hit the long road back to Dakar. This prompted my 3rd out-door pee break, where when I found a bush not previously claimed and began my business, the bush started to rattle and I realized a man on a horse was riding by to my left. Sigh, I should really start drinking less water on road trips.

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Ceeb bu Jën

While in Pout the other weekend Rachel and I learned how to make Ceeb bu Jën. Ceeb bu Jën , meaning Rice and Fish, is Senegal’s national dish. There are two main version xonq et weex  (Red or White). I prefer the red personally, but they are both delicious. We made white version.

The most important ingredient!

Ceeb bu Jën is actually rather complicated and has several steps. A few of the steps have a specific name. This receipt will take a while to make but is definitely worth tasting.

You will need:

The things you'll need

Rice

Fish (A few pieces of your choice of fish.  Depending on the amount of people you are cooking for, but at least one piece to fry and one to cook in the stew.)

Dried peppers

Garlic

Parsley

Salt

Fish bullion cubes

Small chunk of dried fish and abalone ( if you would like)

A small green bell pepper

onions

oil

Veggies- again, of your choice. We used:

Carrots, Potatoes, Cabbage, Okra, Eggplant, and Cassava ( i think zucchini or other squashes would be really good too)

Bissap- This means Hibiscus in English, not the flower but the green leaves. I have no idea where or if you can find this in the USA.

Water

Okay, once you have all of your ingredients together be sure also to have a place to fry fish, steam both your bissap (if you can find it) and rice and a giant pot to cook everything in.

And of course, for prep, wash and peel your veggies.

Ceeb bu Jën Instructions:

 

 

 

 

 

And gut and scale your fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roff– making the stuffing for the fish…and then stuffing it.

1. Add spices- dried peppers, garlic, parsley, salt, and a tiny bit of cabbage (optional) to your spice grounder and grind until it’s a green paste.

Pound with all your might!

A greenish spicy paste.

2. Stuff inside the fish in various locations

NokosThis is kinda a base flavoring. You use it to spice the broth and rice.

1. Add dried peppers, a small green bell pepper and chopped onions to your grinder with a little bit of salt, mash a bit.

Mashin' up the Nokos

Rossi– Fryin da fish and making the broth.

1. Add a little salt and hot oil in a deep pot

2. Fry half of the fish.

Fish into the fryer.

3. Pull out fish and set aside.

4. Put Nokos sauce in the oil after pulling out the fish. Add about 4 fish bullion cubes.

5. Wait until the Rossi is reddish then add water (about one liter) and add a little bit a salt.

The Rest- I don’t know if this has a name or if it’s just the rest of ross plus cooking the rice, but i’m gonna call it the rest.

6. After a while add the veggies: Carrots, eggplants, cabbage, cassava, potatoes and some dried fish.

7. wash rice and create a circle thing and steam a little.

8. put the more sensitive vegetables (okra, bissap, etc) in the broth

9. Cover, let sit 15 minutes.

10. add crushed peppers, 2 fish bullion cubes and a little salt  to the mixture

Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. MSG.

11. let stew around 30 minutes, then take all of the veggies and fish out of the broth.

12. Put the rest of the Nokos in the broth then add the rice to the broth, cover till finished.

No one could tell me why, but the hole is important.

13. Place rice on a platter and scrape the burnt rice at the bottom into a separate bowl.

The rice should be raw, but wet at this point and on top of your broth in a steamer.

Rice soaking up that yummy broth.

Lay out an even, thick layer of rice on your platter.

14. Arrange the fish and the veggies over the rice, serve scoops of bissap and burnt rice and enjoy!

Couldn't get the best photo, but here it is!

Bissap- You do this during Rossi if you can find it. If not it’s okay. Bissap is a good thing to taste but serves as a condiment of sorts for Ceeb bu Jën and the meal can be equally great without it.

1. Steam the bissap on top of the big pot. Add a little bit of crushed pepper.

Steaming it.

2. mix cooked bissap to a pulp.

And there you have it! This is the most complicated recipe i have posted but it is the most staple Senegalese thing you can eat. Even now, after being here for 5 months I get people asking if I know Ceeb bu Jën. Food is important in any culture, this particular dish is essential to eat if you are here, and maybe once you tried it, essential where you are too. 🙂

Just a spice picture I liked to leave you with. Don't you wish we all shopped like this in little markets?

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