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Published: December 4th 2008
My living arrangements in Diakhanor are composed of two 3x3 meter rooms and a private toilet. In addition, there is a walled off porch area which adds nearly 30% to my living space. It also increases my quality of life by giving additional privacy and keeping kids out who are two short too reach the latch. The structure is encompassed in a larger walled off area owned by the family from whom I’m renting. But a simple rental agreement doesn’t do justice to our relationship, for all general purposes they are my adopted Senegalese family.
My brother Michel a mason built the house with the intention of living there with his fiancé once they are married. She lives in Cape Verde but according to the plan will return and they will be married in two years, which should be right around the time I depart. This works out well, as the family earns income for the two years including an advance paid before I arrived to finish the last few projects like pouring the cement for the floors. So compared to other volunteers living in huts with daylight shooting in through the thatching of the roof and around the
For sleeping, reading, playing guitar, using the computer and hanging about.
loosely fitted doors, I am the first to live in a brand new structure built by a professional builder. This is important as many buildings here quickly melt away after or even while being built. This is due to the poor quality brick made on site that breaks down leaving concave sections of wall between each layer of mortar. This is also why you won’t see any buildings with paint on them. It’s all long since fallen off.
Although basic by western standards the property is so nice that I suspect a teacher at the local school, with whom I was practicing my French, has dwelling envy. The first few times I met with him he mentioned my place and was sure to comment on it every time we walked near. Not so much in the “I’m glad you have a nice place to stay” type of comments but more of a “why does one person need such a nice place with two big rooms” commentary. I understand where he is coming from though. He and his family come from Dakar for part of the year so he can teach at the small public school that services the village.
Bike garage, water storage, cooking and lots of other space i haven't figured out what to do with yet.
He lives in a half finished building which I suspect has no electricity (no one in the village has running water) and of course no paint. Here I am one person in a space suitable for many more by Senegalese standards with paint on the walls and just a few possessions to fill it. He hinted at this again when a new teacher came to the village and needed a place to stay. I didn’t offer up one of the rooms as I wanted to preserve the little nook of personal space I had carved out. I spent that night contemplating notions of myself as an imperialist American bringing to Senegal my western values of excess. I concluded that I would, with Michel’s approval, give the room to the teacher and see it as an opportunity to live in close quarters with a Senegalese augmenting my learning curve of the language and culture.
I told Michel my plan in the morning and he said I was nuts. No one sees me as a Mr. Burns plotting to blot out the sun as I had built up in my mind. He also didn’t want to have anyone else living in
Introducing the bucket bath, oh how i miss hot showers.
the property because he was worried they would cause damage he’d have to repair down the road. It was a nice slap back to reality which in retrospect I am glad he had made. Now a days I get my French conversation elsewhere.
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