In Senegal, one value that people take very seriously is teranga. The basic premise of teranga, or hospitality, is that one should always be grateful and should always treat their guest as a king so that good things will happen to him.  Now I am from Georgia, so I know hospitality.  But, in Senegal, they take it to the next dimension... 

People first start paying attention to Teranga walking on the streets. Besides French, the majority of people in Dakar speak Wolof. As soon as you walk into a store or restaurant or house or pass people on the streets you will hear people say, "Bonjour, Ca Va" in French or "Salaamaalekum, Nanga def", in Wolof.  Both phrases roughly translate to hello, how are you?  But no, the conversation does not stop there. People genuinely want to know how you are doing, what you are doing in Senegal, what are you studying, your name, etc.  At first I found this quite strange, annoying and time consuming.  But once I got the hang of it, I began to genuinely want to know how people were doing because every person that I have met in this country has been extremely fascinating. It is becoming a bit of a habit and I realized that you will receive a great deal of respect if you properly greet someone. j'aime ca.  

The Senegalese people always put a guest first.  They will sometimes sleep outside if it means that their guest has somewhere to sleep. I am experiencing hospitality in the home because I am doing a home stay here in Senegal.  My family is constantly making sure that I have enough food, water, light, cold air, food, food and more food!!!  I mean I am a college student.  I have slept on the ground outside before... I am fine with anything.  If I take my sweatshirt off, they run to get the fan.  If my eyes are watery because of the spicy (but delicious) dinner, they get me plain white rice instead. Being constantly waited on by my family and maid (many Senegalese families have maids;it does not necessarily signify how much money a family has), is not something most of the American students here are used to..

Then there is food.  Food is extremely important in Senegalese culture, and lots of it! In traditional Senegalese homes, families gather around a huge bowl of food for every lunch and dinner.  The meal usually consists of rice, veggies and spices, pork, chicken or fish.  Before a woman sits down to eat she will usually wear this long skirt made out of fabric with vibrant designs so that she does not get her clothes dirty and so that she does not expose her legs while she is eating.  When the meal is revealed, you must eat your entire meal only with your right hand!  It is much harder then it looks.  There is a certain technique one much acquire to successfully eat rice with your hands. There are also many rules and traditions during this feast, which makes meals extremely special and meaningful.  There is ALWAYS plenty of food left during meals, which is great for the family, friends and neighbors who frequently stop by Senegalese homes uninvited, for food, tea and a good chat.  Unfortunately, my host family eats out of "the bowl" with forks...

Teranga is awesome because though it is about giving, it has nothing to do with the amount of money a person has. 

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