Power outages. When the power goes out in cities in the United States, it makes front pages news for weeks. When the power goes out in Dakar, you grab a flashlight, a drink, some good friends and rest on the fact that you probably will not have electricity until the next morning.
Since I have been here, the power in my neighborhood, Ouakam, has gone out only a few times, but apparently was a lot more common before I got here, my host family said that they are used to the power going out all the time. The other night the neighborhood went dark as I was walking home from school before dinner around 8 p. m. and was out for the rest of the night. When my host parents and two younger brothers decided to hit the hay because there was nothing else to do, I ended up staying up for hours having an enlightening conversation in French with my host brother Kryss (age 24) and sister Amelie (20) over coke and a $ 2 flashlight. It was one of those conversations that starts out casual but then gets really deep and personal; one of those conversations that you never forget. After talking about religion for an hour and trying to communicate with them my views, as they were trying to explain theirs, my brother then tells me that the power never goes out in America. After sitting with my siblings for the past few months as they obtain their ideas about America from shows like MTV Cribs, Jersey Shore and Friends, I felt like it was my duty as a host student to break the news to them. When I explained to them that there are places in the states that do not have electricity or running water and that people there that also struggle, they were shocked. They were also shocked to find out that I do not live in a 12 bedroom mansion with 2 pools. My siblings have expressed to me since day one how badly they want to come to America to have a better life, and though things might be better in America, I am not sure who lives a better life. La richesse, or wealth of a person does not have anything to do with how much money a person has in Senegal. At a person’s funeral, the amount of friends and family that are at the funeral determines your wealth as a person.
After the conversation, I patted myself on the back for realizing how strong my French has gotten and also for realizing how much I have opened myself up to get the most out of my stay here. I have made so many Senegalese friends and can honestly say that I felt like I have learned more from then than from any of my classes here, and most of my classes throughout my life. Not to mention how ecstatic I was to hear them say how different I am from the other students they have hosted and how much they appreciated having me stay with them.
I couldn’t think of a better way to spend one of my last nights in Dakar.