Friday, November 6, 2009

You Can Count On It

You can count on Senegalese people being late to everything except the mosque and a meal and it's absolutely infuriating. I've already had one discussion with Diof about how I think it's disrespectful when he makes me wait exorbitant periods of time, but I don't think how serious I am about this issue has really sunk it yet.

This morning I spent 1.5 hours waiting for Diof (1 hour of it sitting outside the office because he wasn't there yet and it was locked) before we did nothing. I waited for him to tell me that we weren't going to the village until the afternoon. Since it was 11 and we weren't leaving until 3 I stated my desire to go home, which he couldn't understand and then he made me promise that I would return by 3 because that's when the car was coming. I told him Americans honor appointments and left the office. He wanted me to go to the bank with him aka sit outside the bank for 2 hours as he does his personal business during business hours! Ah!!!! Damn you Ross School of Business and living in the US for teaching me business etiquette and common sense. I will never forgive you.

My family ate lunch late and I took a cab to get back to the office so I would be there by 3. I knew it was probably a waste, but I wanted to be punctual just in case. Obviously, I got there at 2:50 and Diof was no where in site. He wasn't there at 3 or 3:30 or at 4. Finally, at 4:15 he rolls up with a car and some stupid comments about how in Senegal the system is to have no system. I'm irate at this point and the only thing keeping my calm is the new People magazine my mom sent me. I don't know why I didn't leave. It's ridiculous that I spent 2.5 hours of my day just waiting. I have resolved to not let this happen anymore. My time can be better spent even sitting at home practicing Wolof with my 3 year old brother is more beneficial.

I only get angrier when Diof says we have to go two villages. I know that's impossible and I'm annoyed. All the people in the car with us are talking about how I need to let it go because getting frustrated isn't worth it since the Senegalese wont change. I try to explain that time is money and all Senegalese people ever talk about is money. They try to convince me that time isn't money... maybe that's why no one has any money!? Just a thought. I pass out in the back of the car so I don't have to participate in conversation anymore.

I'm angry and getting to the village is only making me angrier because we drive through Thies, which we didn't need to do, so Diof and a woman who works in the office can do personal errands. I almost got out of the car right then, but I stayed in so that we could stop several more times along the road to pick people up, to get drinks, and to just generally waste time and be inefficient. The village was no better. The women almost got in a physical altercation about who was going to sit on the executive board. I just sat back and shook hands with all the little kids coming to see the toubab.We didn't make it to the second village because it was night. I made no attempt to hide my discontent.

I'm done with villages. It was great at the beginning. It got me out of Thies and I had a purpose which was really important. Now, I want to stay in Thies and make real contacts that will become future partners. I'm done being the token toubab at meetings that Diof shows off and makes false promises about. I'm also done living by this insane lack of schedule. If people want to work with me they will be on time because otherwise I will not be there and I will leave. Period.

To give a little more context to my supremely bad mood throughout the day:

7 young people called me the extremely derogatory word for toubab
1 little boy threw a pop can at me because I didn't give him money
1 Chief de Quartier told me I would make a good first wife because I'm very beautiful, but also very lazy since I haven't learned to make ceebu jenn
3 members of my family asked me for things including: phone credit, tape, and cotton swabs
1 work partner asking me if I, because I am a woman, was too tired to walk home

The only thing that made this day better was when I finally returned home from the village and my mom asked me what was wrong and then went on this huge rant about how horrible village people are and how much better people who live in Thies are in every respect. It was very humorous and reminded me things could always be worse.

And there are some new pictures of Thies posted and a few of the village.


  1. As an American living and working in Senegal, it disappoints me and angers me to read blogs like this. You should go back to the US. I can guarantee nothing will get any better for you in Senegal, nor will you do anything productive, with such a close-minded, disdainful attitude. You are not here to "teach" the Senegalese anything about American business etiquette, nor are your ways of doing things superior. Sure, working in Senegal gets frustrating from time to time -- I have experienced every annoying episode you mentioned -- but you have to rise above it and remember that you are in THEIR culture, and therefore, THEIR system. That is the only way to be effective. Let go of the American way of doing things for a while and see what lessons you can learn from your time in Senegal. Then, if you want to return to the US, retaining only the negative and ranting about the Senegalese, that's your business. At this point in time, though, I suggest you grow up or go home.

  2. On the heels of what this commentor says, I also urge you just to think about some things you say.. such as "You can count on Senegalese people being late to everything..." This statement can reach thousands of people through a blog, and you yourself have commented on how you hate being pigeonholed as "rich," etc. because you are American, yet you are labeling an entire nation of poeple at the same time. I too live in Senegal, and I think you should be more responsible in writing about an entire country of people on a blog that can be read by anyone in the world who has never set foot in Senegal, and will judge the country by your close-minded and negative remarks.

  3. these instances are part of the growing and learning process, because you stay you will learn many things.