Perhaps the biggest difference relates to being occupied with the 'basics' of living. In Senegal a lot more headspace goes towards conciously thinking about basics, which results in a very different way of life. This isn't necessarily worse or bad, just ... different.
In any case, we're very very happy we were able to spend the time we had and immerse ourselves in a totally different way of life. It still feels like we were teleported back to our European life, which can't be compared to our African life in any way.
It’s the drinking which is the hardest for us, definitely around 16-17h. But, breaking the fasting when the sun goes down is quite a special experience. Even more so when you actually participated in the fasting.
Roos also has school tests (compositions) coming up next week, she's really excited that she'll still get her grades before we go back home. Much like Stien, we don't care about the grades but love to see how eager she is to learn and how her young brain is able to absorb so much new knowledge.
Now, down to the last 3 weeks. It feels really weird that we need to start thinking about going back. Next week, however, the ramadan starts. We're all quite curious how that will go - life is supposed to change quite a bit here. We'll have to overhaul some 'habits' we developed and figure out some practical things about how we'll take care of food and what a good 'evening' scheme might be like for Roos and Stien. Go with the flow seems like the only option there.
Our stay went super nice. We really had a good time together with our friend Ibrahima, who was clearly also quite relaxed.
In all honesty, the visit to the Sine-Saloum delta was really touristy ... but it was all very worthwhile to see and experience the place. The local guides really did their best, we're sure we paid them too much though - but it's their job and they have families to feed too.
For being first, Stien got 2 dresses as a gift from the school - which made her really happy.
From our perspective as parents, we don't really care about the marks, but find it remarkable Stien managed to understand the questions on the test and give meaningful answers. Even though we put her one year 'behind' her age group over here, it's crazy how a young brain can adapt to a totally new and extremely different context.
So developing 'deeper' social interactions is something we're lacking here, we don't really have a true sense of belonging after 5 months - which we don't regard as a good or a bad thing. It's part of the experience, and for sure part of something we learned!
Language is one thing that's stopping us from integrating further. If we would stay longer, really learning Wolof beyond the default sayings is essential.
But really making 'friends' who value you for the person you are (and not the wallet you carry) remains, in our experience, a tricky business. While this might sound blunt, it's core to our experience over here. Many people approach you in a very friendly manner, but often that conversation ends with a question about money.
Our life here is good, let's be clear about that. We enjoy being together with our family, sharing many good moments, walking by the beach nearly every day, working in the chicken pen, etc.
But some things are really, really hard to. Really integrating here will probably never happen, we will always remain the 'toubab' who's the outsider to local life here.
Running the chicken pen does make us think about meat/animal consumption quite a bit. Right now, we regard the chickens as a product, something to sell and profit upon. It's strange how fast any emotional connection to the chickens being animals is lost.
In other news, our chicken pen is running quite smoothly now. We're just wrapping up the sale of our third batch of chickens and have about 190 new chicks in the pen.
Normally we'd start again with new chicks next week, but we're holding off just a bit longer and start with a fresh batch around the 1st of April. In that way, there we'll be able to sell again right after the Ramadan period (Korité feast).
Right now, things have cooled down again - let's hope it stays that way in the weeks to come. In any case, it felt a bit unsettling that not much would be needed for a larger scale protest.
For safety reasons, the government decided to close down schools for a week ... so this week both Roos and Stien are staying home (and catching up on their Belgian schoolwork ;-)
Family of four, spending time in Mballing, Senegal.
Home to the Roeckoe family & some friends