Religion in Senegal

A church in Mar Lodj.

            My last required blog post for my blogger job and it’s all a bit surreal that my program is ending soon and I will shortly be leaving Dakar, a place I’ve called home for the last few months. A place that has tested my limits, frustrated me, and most importantly has brought me so many exiting adventure and fun times. As I’m nearing the end of the semester with finals still ahead of me I’m thinking what I haven’t covered of Senegal, what have I lacked in sharing and what comes to mind is religion. A large part of Senegalese life is religion. The religious context is huge much more obvious than the States. In comparison the States is a very secular place, some statistics just for reference Senegal is 94% Muslim, 4% Christian, and 1% traditional African religion. This flows into all aspects of life and you can tell when you’re here by the abundant mosques and churches all the way to the language. For example, a lot of Senegalese people say words like inshalla and alxamdulilaay which are originally Arabic but have now be incorporated into the everyday language.

A mosque in Mar Lodj.

            I’ve had the opportunity to see how religion affects life here. Muslims will pray every day but on Fridays a lot of them will go to the mosque that day since it is a sacred day for them. Also, on Fridays a lot of Senegalese dress up nicely to show the importance of this day. All religions have holidays and one that is coming up for Muslims is Ramadan which signifies their month long fast where during day light hours they don’t consume food or drinks till after night fall. Since it starts tonight and I’m here in Senegal with a host family I have decided to participate with them. I have never fasted before and am not religious but thought what’s a better way to immerse yourself into culture than by participating in their holidays.

The church I went to for a Sunday service.

Senegal is very religiously tolerant and accepting you’re free to practice whatever you want. The thing is they don’t understand atheism or secularism at all, it’s a really hard thing for them to wrap their heads around. Which I totally understand considering even their language is religious. So, I’ve kept my beliefs to myself since I am atheist but I did go to church once here just to see how it is, since my friends that do go said it’s not quite like going to church in the states that there is a lot of music and participation. Not that I know what it’s like in the states since I’ve never been to a church service ever, but why not make my first time in Senegal. It was interesting trying to follow the sermon in French and then hear the children’s choir sing periodically it made it very lively. That was my attempt at participating in the religious context here, it’s slightly strange as I don’t really believe in anything but observing was still eye opening.

Senegalese Food and Customs

            Food is a central part to life without it, starvation is inevitable. The thing about food is that is varies by culture and region and not just the type of food but how it is eaten. In Senegal the biggest difference is the times meals are taken. Breakfast varies for people based on when they start their day. Often people don’t take their breakfast till after they start their day like my coworkers at my internship. They will take a break to eat breakfast around 10am sometimes later if they can’t take a break. Breakfast consists of a baguette usually with a spread on it and coffee.

Breakfast: Baguette and coffee.

            Lunch time is wildly late, during the week at school I eat lunch around 1pm but my host family eats lunch between 3 and 4pm. On the weekends it feels like an eternity waiting for the “mid-day” meal. If I can stand to wait for this meal or am not out of town, it’s usually heavier and the biggest meal of the day. Dinner then is later in lieu of the late lunch usually at 9pm but on the weekends my host family eats even later at 10pm usually. The latest I’ve had a meal here is some time at 11pm. It was really hard to adjust to these different eating times at first but now I couldn’t imagine not doing it like this, I might even maintain some of these times when I return to the states mainly with dinner I now like eating on the later side.

The typical set up for meals with my host family.

            Timing is important but also adapting to cultural standards when eating so you don’t do a cultural faux-pas. In Senegal communal eating is very common, a big bowl of food gets set down and everyone surrounds it and digs in. The hand you dig in with matters a lot you can only eat with your right hand. This is because culturally the left hand is used in the bathroom and therefore can’t be used to eat with because it is dirty. When you eat at the bowl with your hand, a spoon, or fork it is only acceptable to eat in the space in front of you, reaching to other people’s parts at the bowl is bad. It is ok to reach in the middle to pull from the “good part”. The center of the bowl has the meat or fish that is central to the dish and is easily accessible to everyone at the meal. Often people eat on the ground on top of a sheet or mat, but a big thing is don’t walk on this sheet with shoes on. While eating on the ground there are proper ways to sit you can have one leg up while sitting on the other like you’re taking a knee but then got lazy. Men can sit like this and women if they have pants on. I usually don’t do this one because I feel uncomfortable with my foot being that close to the food I’m about to eat. Another way to sit is with your legs to the side this is the way I sit; often older people tend to take stools to sit on.

            The food itself is mostly rice based and way oilier than I’m used to. A lot of dishes have fish which I unfortunately don’t like but all of Senegal eats fish. The meat and fish are less “ready” than the states by this I mean that bones are left in and fat isn’t cut off. They usually fry or grill the fish whole with the head and tail still on and while those parts aren’t eaten it is still shocking to see at first. Onions are a huge part of dishes and are sautéed in many spices the best part of all Senegalese dishes is that they are never bland because people put a lot of seasonings in and they like their heat. Most dishes are a good mild to medium heat but even then, some people will add more. What I find is lacking is fruits but there are fruit stands all over the streets of Dakar to supplement my diet.

            There’s plenty of places in Dakar to get non-Senegalese food but beware some of it might not be what you’re expecting, for instance a hamburger in Senegal is a thin beef patty with a fried egg and french fries on it. It’s very good don’t get me wrong but it’s kind of funny how they adapted a hamburger. Additionally, The Senegalese love sugar they make their coffee and tea sweet and they have lots of sweets available including ice cream. There are 4 ice cream shops just around my neighborhood. I have been grateful to explore a new cuisine and way of life. In food memories are made and I had the opportunity to taste those memories.

Marsoulou I love you

            What do people think of when we say the word rural? Many things pop through people’s heads and part of that is all dependent on context. If the context was rural America farms, pickup trucks, and tractors would be the image people got. If the context was rural Senegal where I just spent a week in the image would be huts, sand, and nothing-ness. The actuality of all that varies on location, but the image is far from reality. Rural Africa is way different than what you’d expect the people there are kind and generous. I was in a village called Marsoulou that is located on the island of Mar in the Fatick region. It’s not like it was super busy or had anything special going on but it was still an incredible relaxing experience.

My house in the village.

           To give context for how rural life is in Senegal today, my village has about 800 people and concrete houses with metal roofs. Each family has their own horse and cart to get around between villages near by and to transport items. It would be impossible not to have this source of transportation, but horses can be expensive, so donkeys were also used as a cheaper form of transportation. Our horse was sick this week unfortunately and I asked about medicine for the horse and got an answer of that there is stuff for them but there isn’t a vet in the village. While I can see that these people don’t have nothing access to more than basic needs is a little harder to come by.

My quaint little room that became cozy for me.

During the day the kids would go to school and in the evening at the secondary school located on the edge of the village the kids would all gather to play soccer. The school day was morning classes starting at 8am then a lunch break at noon and ending at 4pm where classes would begin again till 6pm. While besides the kids going to school to the average person in the village doesn’t seem to be doing much to people in more urban areas. That because their attitude about life is just so much more laid back there isn’t a constant need to be productive and work it’s acceptable to relax. For work the women will take bracelets, keychains, and other made items and sell it in the next village over where a lot of tourist go to for vacation. There is also fishing and some farming with the harvest being in the rainy season.

Our horse named Salmon.

            During the week I would wake up and have my breakfast that consisted of bread and coffee. Then go out to enjoy the day before the real heat kicked in but most of my time was spent following my host brother who is a Senegalese wrestler. He left later in the week to go to a match, but he would usually make attaaya, a Senegalese type of tea that involves 3 rounds with each round bearing significance. Attaaya takes time and in the village the people have time after our first batch of tea for the day there was a lot of down time for me to read or ask questions about how life is here. I found out so much this way and really benefited from connecting with my family here and despite not having electricity, indoor plumbing, and other luxuries life was not bad.

Smiling about the fact that I got to be around horses again.

            Mid-day involved heat so bad sitting under the mango tree was the best place to be and lunch would follow soon after. Eating in the village was intense my host family would tell me to eat more and it was like a contest on how much you could eat. If I’d know that I would have brought my second stomach. I did not once hear my stomach rubble from hunger this past week.  Following this I’d wait for the sun to start setting to take the heat with it and around 5pm was the best it was still light out to see but not so hot anymore. Dinner would happen after dark, so we would eat with a flashlight and after eating would be more attaaya. Attaaya exists in all of Senegal but I have never drunk more attaaya than I have this week. Another surprising part of rural life was the moonlight which lit up the night because I thought the nights here would be pitch black and it wasn’t.

Daily Life

            My course load in Senegal is unlike anything I would be doing back on campus. Here I am not taking any science classes the first time since I started college. Here I go to my internship 2 to 3 times a week. Here I’m not involved in clubs and other extracurriculars. Here I travel a lot, often taking weekend trips to other areas of Senegal. Here I focus on experiences and not grades or performance. Being abroad has allowed me to release the pressure because only credits transfer.

A picture of school from across the street.

            I walk 20 minutes to school every Monday and Wednesday and when I enter our school building I’m greeted by familiar faces. I go to my first class of the day at 10:30 am where I attempt to learn Wolof a local language deriving from the Wolof ethnic group. Each ethnic group has their own language and among ethnic groups the language can vary even further by different regions. Since Wolof is the largest group in Senegal their language has become a common language used for communication. At noon my next class starts it’s a public heath course centered around the issues and challenges in west Africa fully held in French. Which has required me to slowly learn health words in French, luckily some of them are very similar to the English. After that class I have a break for lunch where I’ll go to the roof and buy some food from our cafeteria lady for 1000cfa about $2 or walk around school and pick up a sandwich or fataaya from a local place nearby. Following lunch at 2:30 pm I have my French class which starts with a discussion about what we did over the weekend or what we had for lunch and similar stuff like that to practice our speaking skills before we get into the lesson. After that I’m done for the day and I either go directly home or walk around with friends to get ice cream.

From the roof looking out to the street.

            On Tuesdays and Thursdays my days start earlier because I have to be at my internships at 9:00 am. I intern at the health post in Liberté 2 which is about a 20-minute walk from my host family’s house. There I take people’s blood pressure, weight, and temperature as a check in before the see a health care professional. I also weight and measure babies that are there to get vaccines, these vaccines are provide for free. This little clinic has shown me a lot about how health care is run in Senegal. I leave the health post at noon to walk to school and have lunch before my class at 2:30 pm. This class is contemporary Senegalese society and culture where we dive deeper into social issues, taboos, and customs through movies, guest speakers, and field trips. While this sounds all like fun and it is, we still do have a few lectures and class periods where we reflect and discus the culture. This gives a lot of perspective to our lives in our host families as well as background to why the Senegalese do somethings we don’t understand. On Tuesdays only, I also have an internship seminar where we discuss the workforce in Senegal and the problems people face.

A picture of the health post where I intern.

            Fridays are “free” days because we have no classes, but it is meant to be used to give the opportunity to go to your internship or for school scheduled trips. Up until this point I’ve been writing a lot about all the fun trips I’ve been going on from spring break to the school taking us to other areas of Senegal but have completely skipped my daily life. To be honest my daily life probably impacts me the most, as incredible as it is to discover more of Senegal my daily life has brought on more of the immersion that’s sought after by study abroad students. There are several ways that my daily life has done this by allowing me to make leaps in my language improvement, having daily interactions with my host family, and learning to navigate my host city.

Spring Breaking in St. Louis

            While everyone at SU had their spring break a few weeks ago I had mine this past week. I spent the week in northern Senegal in the city of St. Louis which used to be the French capital of former French West Africa and the vestiges of colonialism is still visible in the architecture. St. Louis is so north that it is only 9km away from the Mauritania border.

Architecture Highlights

Our trek to St. Louis involved getting on the 7am bus which was thrilling to get up that early. The bus arrived and as I got off I wasn’t sure if I made it to my actual destination since the vibe in St. Louis is completely different to Dakar as well as the population is so much smaller. It was like I was in a tiny city that still had a town feel to it. It was nice to get that smaller feel but still not be in what one would consider as empty, but a problem that I noticed that was a bigger issue here than in Dakar was trash. There was trash everywhere all along the shore right next to the many water ways around the island.

            The main part of St. Louis and downtown is located on the island but more of this city has spread out onto the mainland. These two parts are connected by a bridge designed by Émile Nouguier a co-designer for the Eiffel Tower. The bridge is called Faidherbe Bridge and spans a total length of 507.35 meters. Since this bridge was the way to get to the island from the mainland we crossed it many times with a taxi or on foot. Which required me to concur a fear, I’m situationally afraid of heights meaning if I’m in a car or on a plane and it’s high up I’m completely fine because I’m in a protective compartment, but if I have to walk that’s when the fear hits. After many times of traversing the bridge it got easier, but I think it will now only apply to this particular bridge.

From the Jean Mermoz Museum about the aéropostale.

            We spent the week eating good, relaxing, and touring the city saw lots of museums there was a natural history museum of Senegal, a museum about the Aéropostale that was an airline company that shipped mail from France to South America with stops and one of them was in St. Louis, and a photography museum capturing Senegalese artists and the development of photography in Senegal.

A Look into Zebrabar

In the middle of our stay we traveled out to the Langue de Barbarie and stayed at a campsite like place called Zebrabar. There we stayed in little solar powered bungalows and befriended the friendly animals. We also had many water-like adventures from taking a pirogue tour of different kinds of birds even going to see an island completely inhabited by birds, walking to find a pink pond, and even kayaking on some rough water as it was pretty windy.

Pirogue Tour

Walk to the Pink Pond

There was so much more in everything we did this week that’s it hard to capture all of it in only one blog post, but I hope my words and pictures do it some justice while giving background on this historical town. I hope to come back next week with a more detailed post.

Lac Rose

Welcome to Lake Retba or Lac Rose (pink lake) as most of the world knows it. This incredible place is not only beautiful but also amazing considering the science behind the color of the lake. The color is due mainly to algae that live in the lake but also the combination of wind and sun that can enhance the color making it look more vibrant. In the evening as the sun went down the lake didn’t even appear pink anymore but compared to the appearance at noon it was the pinkest.

            In addition to the algae the lake is also really salty up to 40% in some areas making it saltier than the Dead Sea especially in the dry season when water is being evaporated and there’s no rain for months to dilute the water. The color also is generally more vibrant in the dry season which luckily for me because I was there at that time; the dry season is from November to June. The salt makes the water very buoyant just like the Dead sea which make swimming a fun new experience.

            When I “swam” in the water it was an unreal experience and I’ve never felt anything like it before. I just immediately floated without out doing anything and I felt light like I didn’t weight anything and on top of that the water was incredibly warm almost hot. All other bodies of water I’ve swam in so far have been cold to freezing so it was a nice change to have warm water especially since I take cold showers at home. I also felt a little slimy from the algae and could feel the salt on me when I ran my fingers over my skin. Good thing there was a place to rinse of even thought that water was cold.

A man collecting salt to sell.

            The locals use the lake to harvest the salt. They do this by digging the salt up from the ground and then scooping it out of the water and placing it on their boat. Then it gets cleaned before the women go to Dakar or other places to sell the salt and that’s how they make a living. It’s very strenuous work and the men are usually out in the water for 6 hours a day collecting this valuable resource which is used to preserve fish that is cooked in many meals.

The lake in the evening, no longer having the pink color.

The Midway Point

I recently took my 60th malaria pill. A fact that means I’ve been in Senegal for two whole months but also it means I only have two months left. In this halfway point of my journey I’m perplexed by being excited to leave and not wanting to go because my next location brings me closer to what I’m familiar with and this location brings on exciting adventures with everything that isn’t familiar to me. Doing new things frequently is a gift, but it becomes tiring.

On the pirogue to depart for the island.

After falling ill earlier this week on Tuesday night with a fever, headache, and severe diarrhea. I just wanted to go back to the familiar, a familiar drug store like CVS would have been a luxury in my time of need. The pharmacies here have stuff I just don’t know what to buy because it’s in French and they have completely different brands. Being surrounded by unknowns of what to do for my health in ways of what to eat and medicine to take I went to school on Wednesday to talk to a staff member who helped me.

She called the doctor for me and he gave me a prescription for medicine to break my fever and help with the diarrhea and if that didn’t work then there were other steps we could take. So as the weekend approached I was still struggling and in pain with no appetite, but there was a planned weekend school trip to Mar Lodj that I wasn’t going to miss. So, I went and got on the bus Friday morning not feeling great and about 3 hours later we get off the bus to then take a 30 minutes pirogue ride to the island the village is located on.

Our hotel was right on the water and the sea air was luckily easing my stomach with the medicines I was taking I got better just in time to enjoy the rest of my weekend. We went on a pirogue tour of the mangroves in the evening in addition to seeing mangroves we spotted wildlife that thrives off the ecosystem that the mangroves provide. The next day we had a tour of the village on horse drawn carts and my heart could have been happier as a horse person. I kept seeing horses all around but haven’t interacted with them till now and internally I was dying.  After that tour I felt at peace which carried on into the earlier afternoon of swimming and reading a book in a hammock.

The evening brought traditional Senegalese wrestling and even we got to wrestle each other like the Senegalese do. Seeing your peers go against each other was maybe a little bit more exciting than the professionals that were wrestling. It was also the last big event this weekend had for us, so we went all out cheering on our friends.

We packed up and headed out on Sunday to return to Dakar. After crossing the sea from the island to the mainland we find one of our buses to have a dead battery which leaves us being stranded for two hours while the drivers tow the other bus to help. They come back with it fixed and we’re excited to get moving again. Not for long though because we make a pit stop at the largest baobab in western Senegal, with a hole in it that you can enter into the baobab.


Getting Clothes Tailored

            Shopping in Senegal is very different from shopping in the states for starters most of it is done on the street at a market. There are all kinds of markets from ones that are permanent to those that move around, that sell all kinds of stuff from clothes to food to even fabric. Senegalese fabric is very important in a lot of aspects from local commerce to fashion. The Senegalese are very fashionable, and they often get clothes made for them by a tailor. Some families even have a personal tailor that comes to their house to take measurements and then will bring back the finished product. There’s also a lot of little shops that tailors have all over Dakar walk around on neighborhood streets and you’re bound to find at least one if not more.

            The process of getting clothes made requires a person to go to a market to buy fabric, the biggest market for fabric is the HLM market. I didn’t buy fabric here because you can find fabric all over but for people that don’t know where to go, this is the place. There are so many patterns to pick and choose from everything is super colorful. I came in looking for three different fabrics to make three different outfits and had to think would this pattern look good made into the outfit I was picturing it for, was kind of a challenge.

            After picking out the fabric then you go to a tailor with a drawing or picture, so they have an idea about what you want. I brought my drawings and fabric with me and then got measured specifying where I wanted things to start and end compared to my drawings. Then when it was finished I came back to try on the clothes. A lot of the time adjustments are needed, as was the case for me. The skirts were a little too big around the hips and the pockets were too small on the overalls. After these minor adjustments I had amazing new clothes to wear.

            Important things to note about the whole process is the importance of bargaining and knowing the cost of what you’re getting. For fabric this means you need to know the quality of the fabric because there’s three different levels of fabric quality at the lowest level you shouldn’t pay more than 1000cfa per meter (about 2 USD) and at the highest level you can pay anywhere from 6000cfa to 50,000cfa per meter (about 10 to 85 USD). Then at the tailor you should know how much it cost to get items made about 5000cfa is a good standard for a dress and outfit (two pieces) can be up to 7000cfa you can bargain with the tailor too as is in Senegalese spirt, especially because depending on the tailor they’ll try to upcharge you as a foreigner. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you know is the right price.

The Outfits / Impromptu Photo Shoot

Exhausting Encounters

I was expecting to be in rural Senegal this week as this was when it was planned for but after that being cancelled I spent this week going to classes and maintaining the normal routine. Which was weird because the professors weren’t prepared to teach us and a lot of them made assignments for us to do that basically had us reflect on the rural visit that never happened. Some of the changed the assignment’s objective others moved it back but overall, it’s a mess I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do anymore for my classes. There’s also this overall feeling of exhaustion that would really appreciate a break from classes and my internship but to no avail do I get this.

            I’m trying to be a bit real after reading another blogger’s post about their abroad experience and trying to keep it real and the truth is it’s exhausting. I’m not talking about the fun trips or even classes but about just merely existing in this different society and culture. When preparing for an abroad experience, students are advised to learn about their host city and then to blend into that society and culture. It’s infinitely harder to do that when you don’t physically don’t look like the citizens of your host country, which I don’t. I knew from the beginning I wouldn’t blend in not even if I managed to master the native language, wear traditional clothes, and know all the cultural customs it still wouldn’t happen people would know I’m a toubab (foreigner).

            While that word means no offense from the Senegalese it’s just a word and as my professor was explaining they would even call him that word to since he was wearing western clothes that day. Now that I know it’s meaning I’m starting to notice when I get called it on the street and hate is starting to root in me because I know I’m a foreigner and I don’t own you my time just because you yelled that to me on the street. I would like to just walk from place to place without getting gawked at or more, which happens. There are several recent encounters and the frequency of this is really weighing down on me. I don’t want to walk alone if I don’t have to and that’s stripping my independence because if I’m alone when someone approaches me it’s 10 times worse and more like to occur than if I was with a friend. I don’t know how to not be independent anyone that knows me personally knows that I’m very independent and that I don’t need anyone but rather I include people in my life because things are easier when you have a support group.

            I was at the beach just enjoying the sun and sand when my friend goes to buy some fries I’m left alone at our spot watching our stuff. A man comes up and starts taking to me the rest of the encounter was strange and awkward and I tried pretending I didn’t understand somethings that I did and other things I actually didn’t understand, and he’d bring out his broken English too. I’m not making fun of him for having broken English I probably have broken French but the fact that he was determined to get something out of me was jarring. He started with saying he loves American girls and that they’re the prettiest and then said he wants relationship with me and when I said no he’d ask why. When that why didn’t satisfy him, he started to make up lies as if I’d believe him over everything else I know. The lies were along the lines of my boyfriend has other wives and girlfriends, so I should get with this man because of this fact. When my friend returned she told him that we’re going to play cards and we’re not here to talk so he eventually left mad not getting what he wanted.

            I was walking home from school and I left alone because everybody at school wasn’t ready to leave and I really wanted to get home to do some laundry. As I started it wasn’t long before someone called out at me and walked up to me saying they were a rapper and they want to be my friend and invite me to shows as if what they do would convince me to be friends with the kind of person that stops women on the street and follows them as they are walking home to get their number. Again, when I said no they did not get the concept and stopped talking to me instead they persisted and it’s in this culture of men not taking no as an answer that’s becoming the most exhausting part. I was followed almost home, and I needed to go to the bank and I didn’t want this man following me while I got money out of the ATM or knowing where I lived. So, I turned around and started walking back towards school in the hopes of running into someone I knew or making my way all the way back to school. Luckily, I found a group of people I knew that live in my neighborhood and then could start walking back with them, but I was not far from school and about in the same spot the man first started talking to me.

            Besides men children also bring exhaustion to me they’re more likely to notice differences outwardly. They won’t hide their attempts at trying to touch your hair because it’s different or calling you a foreigner and they don’t get the concept of why you might not be okay with this. It also comes down to them idolizing you and where you’re from. I had an overwhelming experience with children recently because the ministry of the environment and two people in our program at their internship created a project to plant trees at a school in the suburbs and educate the children on the environment, so we volunteered to help this project. Another student reported how when talking to these children they all had dreams of going to the US or Canada to go to university and like live there and none of them wanted to stay in Senegal. They also reported how a child said they love toubabs and when asked why they didn’t have an answer. It was like they’ve never been asked that question before and it comes down to, as foreigners we are assumed to be rich and have all this money and houses and through that these children can live their dreams off us. It’s really messed up and complex and I’m not even covering the half of it there’s more layers to this issue and the ethics of it.

            I’ve been as real as I could be but because of how these children treat us foreigners it only explains the behavior of adults that try becoming my friend or boyfriend/husband it could be their ticket to “luxury” and while not everyone talking to me has a secret motive I could never tell otherwise. It makes it really hard to befriend locals beside my host family and other host families.

Senegal’s 2019 Election

A political poster for Macky Sall, the incumbent in Dakar.

            I’ve been told I came to Senegal at the best and worst time because of the presidential election. It’s the best because it’s an amazing opportunity to see how democracy is run in another country. The worst because the election provides concerns for safety, protest could form things could become violent. Things have been moved to maintain our safety, like the rural visit that is a big part of this program usually is held in early February in the spring semester. This semester it was planned for the beginning of March but has been cancelled and rescheduled to the end of April.

This measure was taken because even though election day was on Sunday February 24th, 2019 the provisional results were released today, Thursday February 28th, 2019 and the constitutional council, that oversees the elections needs to certify the results before they are official. When the official results will come out seems unknown as things are constantly changing in this political sphere, besides when election day is everything else isn’t set in stone. As a group of students who would have left after election results went, doesn’t seem like the best idea, and with the possibility of a run-off election taking place in March the program decided the change was the best idea. A run off happens when none of the running candidates get more than 50% of the votes and with 5 candidates running during this election the possibly of a run-off is more than probable.

The campaign officially starts at the beginning of February, and it was noticeable the next day tons of posters when up for the candidates and the most frequent of them all was the incumbent, Macky Sall. A big difference is the posters have the candidate’s face on them because when citizens go to vote the ballot will have the face of the person next to their name. In the states you’ll only see what a candidate looks like at a debate and here debates only happen when all the candidates agree to it if one candidate says no then the debate doesn’t happen.

 The campaign season officially ends the Friday before election day it’s the last day people can drive around in trucks with the candidates face on the side and huge speakers on the back of the truck playing campaign music. Once midnight hits and it’s technically Saturday and the day of rest begins. This involves restaurants and other business being closed. Then on Sunday the polls opened at 7am and people went to choose their next leader, because technically the incumbent isn’t currently president during this time, and he has to stay at his private residence and if he wins then he’ll be president again.

At the polls, citizen show their ID card with their voting number on the back and once done voting they get their pinky stained red. It’s hard to wash off immediately but over time it will go away and is done as a prevention from people trying to vote more than once. I hear and see the pride Senegalese have currently and even if they don’t like a particular candidate they express it and their passion is admirable. I realized when I get back to the states I too will be thrown into a political world with the 2020 elections coming up and I could learn something from the way the Senegalese show up to participate in their government.

Create your website at
Get started