“You have a specific responsibility to existence, to God if you like, to taste, touch, and smell what there is to experience. You have to do everything. If given an option between doing something and not doing it, you have to do it; because you’ve already done the ‘not do it’ part.” -Sam Sheridan
I have another job and another adventure. This summer, from May 25th to August 1st I’ll be living and working in Dakar, Senegal as the Client Relationship Manager for Zidisha, an American microcredit NGO. I’ll travel around the city, meet with entrepreneurs and their families, and watch them take initiative to grow their businesses and help their communities.
Unlike my last trip to Africa, when I worked in an AIDS clinic in Jinja, Uganda, I don’t know very much about where I’m going. My impression of Dakar, garnered from a Lonely Planet guidebook and hours walking the streets of the city on GoogleMaps while listening to mbalax music on YouTube, is that it’s a vibrant, hectic, sprawling, spicy, colorful, hospitable, mysterious, tangled, humming metropolis, with a population of 2.5 million people bounded on three sides by the Atlantic surf, dotted with fishing pirogues. I’m incredibly excited to live in circumstances that will quickly strip away my ignorance–I’ll live with a host family in Yoff, a Muslim community and fishing village north of the city, and my job provides me with no office, meaning my days will be spent on the road meeting with 30-40 entrepreneurs in their homes and businesses scattered across the city.
Immersion is what you make of it. My goal this summer is to see all sides of Dakar, from the palaces to the fishing shacks, the museums and the nightclubs. I’m especially focused on learning about music, especially hip-hop in West Africa in anticipation of the French thesis I’ll write when I return to school. I’ll post what I see when I can, and I encourage you to write to me while I’m away.
It’s a big world out there. Let’s go see it.