Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Visiting Senegal (July)

A statue of enslaved people from Goree Island, a slave port off the coast of Senegal.

Me modeling a West African style shirt.

So I don’t know where to begin. I haven’t written in like a month and a half because I spent most of July traveling in places where getting the internet wasn’t very easy. But no excuses, I have to tell you the story. I have been to Senegal and haggled with the best of them. Saw the people, rode in the taxis, hung out with another Georgetown student (Edwina--thanks!!), and left feeling like I had an idea of what life in that country is like. My fondest memory of Senegal is the hustle of the people. It’s the feeling that you are being lied to but it’s the feeling that these people, in their inflating of prices, are trying to make a living in a world which has become so hard for us all. One example: the markets. If you go to the store, get in a cab or do anything which requires you to buy something that does not have a pre set price tag on it, the seller will tell you a price that is literally three times the price you will end up paying. Now though I was used to haggling, this extreme form of haggling was a very new experience.

There was also the issue of beauty and how women in Senegal value fair skin so much that they burn their own skin with skin lighting creams and highly toxic chemicals which leave them a scary shade of orange. I was surprised but not really of how beauty is still determined by how light you are. I remember when I was a little girl visiting Haiti for my cousin's wedding, a small brown skinned girl asked to walk with me in the wedding because she liked the color of my skin. I didn't get it as much then even though I knew it was wrong but it's with memories like that and others that I understand the phenomenon of women bleaching their skin. My friend who went to Tanzania said they do the same bleaching treatment that leaves women with burnt knuckles and cheeks and skin the color of a rotten orange. The history of it all is too deep for me to go into but there's a sense that this orange skin somehow makes them more presentable. It's the self hate that it me the most I guess. The thought that being black isn't good enough, even in Africa.

We also visited Goree Island, a former slave port off the coast of Senegal. No words for an experience which can't possibly be described by language. Have you ever had your book jump out at you and teach you something about life? Well, I did.

I did meet my mom and caught up on my back home. I definitely am blessed to have a mother that makes me laugh so hard and smile so wide while still learning lessons every time I speak to her.

So that, in a nutshell was my Senegal experience.

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