There is a difference between hot..and African hot. To be hot at home typically means to choose a spot in the shade rather than in the sun, to drive with the windows down, and maybe grab an ice cream cone (from Captain Sundae, obviously). On the other hand, to be hot in Africa leads to much more drastic measures. African heat is the kind that blurs your consciousness, it messes with your mind to the point that sneaking into the country’s nicest resort and swimming in their pool without any intention of making a room reservation seems like a good idea. Who would have thought that my first time swimming in an infinity pool would be in Africa?! Not totally legal, I know, but no worries I plan to write a very nice review for the Radisson Blu resort in Dakar, Senegal on Trip Advisor.
Sunday was spent on a field trip with my World Religions class. We attended two completely different religious ceremonies and experienced two separate rituals: Catholicism and Islam. The Catholic mass we attended was at a monastery. It was incredible to partake in a service so different yet so similar to the Catholic masses we might find at home. I especially enjoyed whenever the choir (is that what they’re called in a Catholic church??) sang. Mesmerizing.
Then we went to an Islamic ceremony in a mosque. In order to be permitted in the building everyone had to remove their shoes, and girls had to cover their heads, shoulders, and knees. After our Muslim guides saw how we came dressed (shorts and tank tops to beat the heat), they quickly ordered the women and girls of the community to return to their homes and bring back all of the clothes that they owned to cover us naive foreigners. So before I knew it a thirteen year old girl was wrapping me up in her black lace head scarf and tying one of her homemade skirts around my waist. She giggled the entire time, clearly enjoying this opportunity to play dress up on me. After all were dressed, we proceeded to the mosque where the Muslims sang and sang and sang.
I also met up with a Christian missionary from Alabama whom I had found online and have been in contact with. She has been living in Senegal teaching English for about four years now. She took me out to lunch and told me her story, then showed me where her and her husband live. It was incredibly neat to see their home and get an idea of what every day life can look like in Africa. From there we walked to her church down the street where I sat in on one of the English classes that she teaches. There were only 6 kids at this particular class but I had a great time playing with them, coloring with them, and listening to them show off by singing the ABC’s over and over and over again.
It was fantastic for me to witness three different religious spectrums in the very same place and in such a confined amount of time. Although uncomfortable at times, I am so glad to be experiencing beliefs that coincide with my own as well as ones that are different from all cultural angles.
My final day was spent riding through the dunes on these crazy ATVs/dune buggys. Definitely the highlight of my time in Senegal! The ride was supposed to take us to the ‘pink’ lake, or as I like to call it, the brown pond. Yea nothing about that place was pink. Nothing. If you get really really close to the water and squint your eyes and think pink thoughts, you can sort of kind of see a tint of pink in the water, but definitely nothing like the Pepto Bismol oasis that is flaunted on Google images. Never trust the internet folks.
Half way through the ride we made a pit stop at the ocean. Everyone got off the ATVs and waded into the water but kept close to shore because the riptide in Senegal is not to be messed with. After wading in just a couple of feet I could already feel it, it was incredibly forceful.
But…my friends and I were hot. Really hot. Africa hot. So what did we do? We whipped off our clothes, which we had conveniently placed swimsuits beneath just in case of an opportunity such as this one, and we ran straight into the waves. Out of our tour group of over 100 people no one else was swimming besides me and my friends, but that definitely didn’t stop us. It was so terrifying and so fun to be tossed around in the waves..until we got yelled at. It didn’t take long for our tour guide to shout out at us telling us to get back to shore because the riptide is far too dangerous and swimming was not a part of the program. Oops. So we battled our way back to land, struggling against the riptide for several minutes, then attempted to disguise our laughter while drying off. It didn’t even matter that we got scolded, it was so worth it.
After another dune ride we ended up at a local village where they put on a huge show for us. There were drummers and singers, women dancing in Senegalese attire, and even a Senegalese wrestling match. It was such a fun thing to watch, but honestly I think they had more fun performing for us than we had watching them. They gave it their all to put on a show and were clearly having an incredible time doing it.
The day after we boarded the ship and left Africa, I was sitting in my photography class on the ship and we were talking over what it was like to approach Africa behind a lens. My class quickly came to a mutual agreement that we witnessed a lot of mistreatment as far as photo taking in Africa. We all admitted to have seen our fellow shipmates, and even professors, taking photos of locals without their consent, invading their privacy to capture a photo, and sometimes even getting in the picture and posing with them as if they are objects. It made all of us feel uncomfortable, and we can only imagine how uncomfortable it made the locals feel, so we decided to address this issue by role reversal.
We made a plan to have a ‘flash mob.’ Literally, a mob of flashing cameras. One night during the height of dinner time, all three photography classes came together and stormed into the cafeteria armed with our cameras. We snapped pictures of professors and students getting their food, sitting at their tables eating, even captured a few mid-bite action shots. Everyone was stunned, incredibly confused, and rather annoyed at this disruption and invasion of privacy, but we proceeded to take their pictures for about ten straight minutes. Then later that night at our pre-port meeting my photography professor explained to the whole ship why we did it and encouraged the shipboard community to be more considerate when photographing a culture and it’s people. I’m so lucky to be learning from a professor like her.
As you can tell by the length of this post, Africa had a lot to offer. It was such a wild adventure. We are now setting sail across the Atlantic Ocean headed towards Brazil! The next time I write to you I will no longer be a slimy pollywog (someone who has yet to sail across the equator), but I will be a trusty shellback (someone who has sailed across the equator and performed various ridiculous rituals). Wish me luck!