The cool, dry, breeze of Dakar mid-February shoots goose bumps up my arm as I walk to the bus stop. Talking to myself to occupy the daily seven-minute commute past the woman who sells beignets, expertly dodging motor bikes and Klandos as I cross the Ecobank road, past Souleyemane who sells me Café Touba, over the pedestrian bridge, to the Dem Dikk bus stop. I walk instinctively to the same spot I always do, even though the sign for the 008, 232, and 305 has been covered for months by a white truck parked casually on the Airport road sidewalk. Sleepily I fumble my greetings to my fellow commuters at the stop and smile at my friend as she runs towards me, black bucket in hand, chasing down the approaching bus. I tap my two fingers at the driver as the bus nears and begin to walk as it slows to a halt, hopping on before hearing the loud screech of a TATA stopping short. I make sure to tell the apprentis in Wolof to wait, as I grab the black bucket from my bus friend and help her on board. 200 CFA like it is every day. I grab the ticket cage and settle in, pressed between a boubou and ripped jeans, only one hundred commutes like this left.
It’s my birthday. I sit on the floor in my room with four other students and an instructor eating Moroccan couscous and yassa ginaar out of a bowl with a spoon. My yaay had asked what my favorite Senegalese dish was so she could make it for me and all my friends. Jaloux by Dadja blasts one room over as Siddikh celebrates his birthday, sharing a meal and a cool glass of bissap with his friends. A dance party ensues. Who could be suprised by that? Cake and a song sung in French and English and Wolof as the wax of the boutique candle probably bought from Saliou drips down the cake. I bought Siddikh headphones. He wanted air pods so he cut his last pair to look like them. He needed new ones. And sunglasses so he would stop stealing mine. A yaay boye hug. A family that has existed for four and a half months and one that will continue as is for four and a half more. A celebration interrupted by a halfway mark.
Ndeye is getting married. Who is Mame Cheikh, have I met him? And how are they related to me? Boubous. So many boubous. My homestay dad let my brother Siddikh come with us because he passed his composition in school, but he doesn’t want to hang out with me. His friends are here. We are going to have how many lunches? I thought we already at lunch.Sitting upstairs in Thies in the heavy afternoon heat we write a yak post: 100 things we are grateful for. Finally, we eat, sweaty, crowded, awkwardly squatting around three large bowls. I’m handed a child to hold on the bus to the reception. Whose kid is sleeping in my lap? And why? What do you say to a bride again? How about the groom? And will someone please tell me how they are related to me? Please? Someone who I think might be important is singing because Siddikh is filming him with his iPhone. A hundred days here and I still know nothing.
I am sitting in the grass at Princeton University. Some Senegalese man who I spoke to once over the summer is playing something called Kora music out of a small speaker as we all sit in a circle. Unfamiliar faces with unfamiliar stories. Barefoot I dig my feet into the cool, familiar grass of summer nights outdoors. Five minutes to explain who I am. I only use three. I’m simply not that interesting I say. Nobody knows me yet. Seven youthful faces full of excitement and bewilderment create a faint circle as dusk settles into night. No one yet knows what is to come. As this weird guitar-like music rings in my ears, I imagine the adventures that lie ahead. Nine months full of endless possibility: an eternity.