I don’t think that anyone enjoys standing out. At least I certainly don’t. I would even argue that most people do everything that they can in order to fit in. Here in Dakar, that does not mean much. I constantly stand out. At first, I had this continual feeling the people were always looking at me. The type of feeling that caused me to walk around just slightly on edge all the time. The uncomfortable thought that I could never blend in. It was really hard to get used to. The bus is where I tended to notice it the most. A big room with a ton of people crammed into a small space, not talking, and with nothing to do but look around. Adjusting to that feeling, for me, was the hardest adjustment to make in coming here.
This past weekend there was a birthday party in my house for Ami, one of my little sisters who just turned two. After lunch on Saturday I asked Babacar, my thirteen-year-old brother, if he wanted to come with me to go by sweets at the bakery for the party. As we left the house, I didn’t see him sneak the family speaker under his shirt. All of a sudden, as we were walking, he started blasting the song Taki Taki, by DJ Snake and Selena Gomez. A white girl, and her little brother, walking down the streets of Yoff, blasting a Spanish song as loud as we possibly could. Everyone was staring. Taxi drivers turned their heads while driving by, shop keepers peered over boutique counters, people walking by on the street stopped. It was certainly a spectacle. This was the moment I realized I no longer minded being stared at. I could have walked as fast as I could to the bakery to get my little brother to stop embarrassing me, but we didn’t do that. Instead we danced and sang our way to the bakery.
This is a lesson that I hope I can take back to America with me. No, not that we should always be making a fool of ourselves or disrupting the peace, but that it can be fun to dance to the bakery, even if it means turning a couple of heads.