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First Impressions of Dakar

It is a good thing the internets take a while to get up and running in Dakar.  I wrote a few notes down during our first week here, and reading over those notes now gives a very different impression than what I have just a week later.
“It slaps you right in face.”  In our first few days here in Senegal, this was the most apt description I have heard about adjusting to life here.  For some reason, arrival in Dakar proves to be a bumpy process, even for seasoned Foreign Service Officers.   We’ve also heard that everything continues to get better from there. And that refrain seems to reverberate with almost every aspect of living here.  Even more people have told us that while the first few days were rough, it is now one of their favorite places to live.

So it wasn’t a surprise that we were jolted to our senses upon landing here.  The amount of logistics to organize were overwhelming, especially when one considers how long it takes to accomplish any one task.  Accomplishing one task a day seemed extremely overzealous.   But the tasks are slowly being removed from my To Do list and our house is starting to feel more like our home. 

It certainly helps that we’ve both been to Senegal before.  Ronit is bombarded by Pulaars in the market looking to help out their “sister.”  It is helped further by the fact that most new comers have a tough time setting up their lives.  I know in 6 months the first week will feel like a distant bleary memory, and that we’ll be enjoying our new life with all that Dakar has to offer.

Trying to grasp the enormity of a move like this, we can only look at it through the lenses of what we know, namely comparing Senegal of today to the Senegal of 9 years ago when we were here last or comparing it to Cambodia.  By most aspects, both comparisons are unfair, but it is the only lens we have.  The roads are better, but the traffic is worse.  The prices are higher.  The ocean is really blue.  The new embassy building is right on the coast, and some offices have ocean views.  That’s nice.  Our house is in the flight path for the airport, and we can wave to passengers coming in at all hours of the day and night. That part isn’t so nice.  It seems there is a great group of people here. We’ve meet a few people in the last few days that I could imagine being good friends.

Shai is now enrolled in Ecole en Couleurs, a French preschool.  He seems to love it and has already made some good friends, though I doubt they are having very meaningful conversations – each day when he gets home he tells me how many words he spoke in class.  We have hired a nanny to help with Micah in the morning and both kids in the afternoon.  She seems extremely sweet, and Micah is already calling her his friend.  Now if only he will call her “amie.”

As we fall into our daily routines, we think fondly of our friends at home and around the world.  We’d love to hear from you and love it even more if you came for a visit.  We promise your arrival in Senegal won’t be as bumpy as ours.  We already have your internet connection set up and your beds made.

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