Sunday, October 25, 2009

All About the Benjamins

I'm writing a second post for the day because I'm back from the bar early, actually I didn't go to the bar at all. The night started out harmlessly enough. My sister came into my room and found me wearing a really cute Ella Moss maxi dress and promptly told me I needed to change because it wasn't sexy enough (I wasn't going for sexy. I'm trying to blend in as best I can here). She then presumptuously told me that I wouldn't wear that dress out in the US. As a card carrying member of the Cardigan Crew, I beg to differ. If I can wear sweaters to Rick's week in and week out I can wear a slinky maxi dress in Africa. Regardless, I changed into jeans and a tank top, which was pronounced sexy and appropriate.

My brothers and I had been talking about going out all day. The pertinent pieces of information I received were as follows:

1. It was ladies night at the bar so I wouldn't have to pay cover.
2. We were not going to drink alcohol, only pop.
3. We were going to walk to the bar and say hi to friends on the way.

This led me to not bring a lot of money. Well, this information and the fact that my family always tells me not to walk around with a lot of money!

So, we sit down at a friend's house outside. The friend introduces me to 10 people in his family and then promptly quizzes me on the all of their names. It's dark I can see faces and names are really hard. I'm then berated for not knowing everyone's names and everyone lectures me on properly greeting people. OK, I get it and I did great everyone when I came in. As the only white person in the room it's pretty easy to remember my name especially since it's an AFRICAN NAME! No one here can say Alyssa and then tell me that having an African name is better anyway. Thanks a lot.

This group continues to make fun of me as I attempt to follow along with the conversation and participate. Everyone keeps saying Wolof is so easy. Awesome. I get it. Puular is harder, but guess what I've been here for two months.

The other annoying question: What is better the US or Senegal? Apart from the obvious differences in standard of living doesn't everyone have an allegiance to their native country? For some reason this question really gets me going because it's just so annoying. I'm living here for two years people. I obviously have some attachment for cause to be here. And while people revere the US, they also want to make sure that I think Senegal is better. I should only like Senegalese food now, only marry a Senegalese man, and stay here the rest of my life. This last fact makes no sense since everyone always complains they don't have enough money or jobs.

Finally, we leave the house of horrors and start walking toward the bar. My brother puts his arm around me and asks if I'm going to pay for him and his friends at the bar. I laugh it off. He wasn't kidding. We get to the main road where he wants to take a taxi and tells me to hail one and pay for it. I ask how much this is all going to cost. 2000CFA a person at least for the whole night. We are with 5 people. That's a significant amount of money especially since he told me that I wouldn't have to pay cover and we weren't going to drink. Facts he was now disputing. They are shocked I only brought 1500CFA with me. I tell them that the bar near the center has cheap beer and no cover. They get angry that I didn't ask them how much money I should bring even though we were talking about money all day.

Once it's determined we aka I don't have enough money to continue into town, my brother and his friends start asking me how much everything I'm wearing costs. This is not unusual in Senegal, but it so against our American culture I just can't get over it and it really bothers me. I would never ask how much someone I barely knew paid for something especially as a way to guilt that person. Everything is all about money here. And because I'm the only white girl in the room I have all the money. It's really hard for me to balance what I left behind with being here and being considered a piggy bank. How much is this, how much is that, you're so rich, American's have so much money. Get up, get an education, stop complaining, and start working.

My brother's friend Malik is super nice and tried to tell me it was OK, but my brother Petit, the one I really like, was obviously annoyed I had ruined his night. He brought me home, he said I was too tired to continue, and then went back out himself. I don't know how I'm supposed to relate to people if I'm on the this weird pedestal. I'm a foreigner so I'm supremely ignorant of all things Senegalese and I'm not very intelligent, but at the same time I'm rolling in money. Back home I think I'm a pretty generous person and I definitely don't mind paying for a few rounds for the Cardigan Crew, but I'm not going to get taken advantage of.

For now, I'm going to get into bed and watch Gossip Girl on my iPod. Watch some people who are richer than me flaunt their wealth. Tomorrow I'll see if there's any fall out from tonight and try and remedy the situation, but I'm not going to go out for a while. Not until I have a bunch better handle on the language and what's going on.


  1. Alyssa,

    If you really want to make it easier in Senegal, please take almost everything with a sense of humor. I am sure if you do, it will take you a long way. They will laugh at you but believe me it is not to be mean, just laugh with them and do not miss a chance to laugh at them.

    Jamm ak Jamm

  2. Why didn't you try to pay with a half eaten cob of corn?