As I write this, my 7th full day in Senegal is coming to a close. Already I have had a glimpse of the capital; felt the rhythm of life in Dene, a Sufi religious community; and have now settled into the beautiful surroundings of the Langue de Barbarie National Park in the vibrant village of Mouit. There has been a bounty of new and exciting experiences and valuable learning opportunities in this past week, and I have no doubt that many more lie ahead. What may be less interesting, but has occupied many of my concerns is the daily routine. Rumours of bucket showers, fetching water from wells and ‘squatty potties’ (a porcelain hole in the ground for one’s private affairs) were not exaggerated, but mean something different to me already.
The daily routine is in many ways a response to the climate. We learnt today that the rainfall in Senegal has experienced a 100-year drought and a halving of annual rainfall – it should perhaps be obvious that water might be somewhat scarce so near the Sahara. The climate not only makes it scarcer, but also more difficult to collect. In Dene, regular trips to the well were the only way to get water. Hence the Senegalese cannot afford to be careless with their water consumption: both bucket showers and the aforementioned “squatty potties” are water-conserving (and I think they have merits in themselves beyond this). What I had seen as a lack of proper showers and toilets was misguided, it is a different lifestyle for a different climate. The same can be seen in the Senegalese cleaning regimen. Anyone in the team can tell you that sand has been a major challenge for me. Going to bed with sandy feet is hard to avoid, but I’m getting into a routine. In Senegal, it’s important to sweep the floor every morning; the lifestyle is so centred around the (very sandy) outdoors that the dirt can quickly build up. A strict inspection today reminded us that we need to respond to this new climate, literally and metaphorically.
I’m starting to love the bucket shower, and I’m getting over the sand. There’s a lot about this climate that I haven’t yet adapted to (I have 7 months and 3 weeks to do so), there’s a lot about the culture that I don’t yet understand, but there’s also a lot that I’m yet to experience and that’s what I’m excited for.