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Published: February 2nd 2011
Dear Family and Friends
Life has truly become an pleasant monotony here. I have come to the point that I see myself as an inhabitant here. I am enjoying myself, the intern ship with Caritas is really neat, I feel like to am doing something here and that going to work is not always an exercise in patience and killing time, but like you guys, the day to day activities, as exciting as you or others may find them seem banal to post on travel blog. On this tangent of domesticity, I am going to rent an apartment for the months of February and March. This appears to put an end to my aspirations of going to Mali, the fabled city of Timbuktu that I tried to kick so many of my child hoods friends too and Burkina Faso. I suppose for gain there must be loss.
So I suppose I will give you a financial run down of the apartment. It is 4 bedroom, 2 bath, kitchen, dining and living room apartment for a total of 120,000 CFA a month in a decent part of town. In addition to the basic rent cost, me and my flat mates,
will doll out another 80,000 CFA for water and electricity and lastly another 25,000 Cfa to furnish the place with the basics. If I was staying here longer I would not pay the other fees, but considering the complications and tardiness of Senegalese utilities it is better to pay a bit more to not have any of the hassle. To boot we do not have to splurge to buy furniture for just two months.
So in total the place is 225,000 CFA a month, which does sound kinda steep, but, when you convert that into Canadian you are looking at about 450-480 bucks a month with utilities included for a 4 bedroom apartment(remember that this will be divided amongst 3 people as well so for my share of the apartment I am paying 150 month in rent). Also did I mention the terrace? This was the selling feature; there is a terrace as well as roof top that will hopefully get some serious RnR/party use. This I think gives you a guys of an idea of a massive difference between home and here. Housing is, in all things considered, cheap. This explains why expats just go off and live
in another country. They can afford it.
As I have mentioned one of the downsides of this lifestyle, is a lack of interesting material to put onto my blog so my faithful readers can see what I have been up to, or the lack therin of. So for example the other weekend was a massive religious holiday here in Senegal. There is this city called Touba, which is the religious capital of Senegal and is the second largest Muslim pilgrimages after Mecca, apparently hundreds of thousands of people from virtually everywhere flock to this sandy city to prey and worship. Alas I have a serious deficit in interest in going to Touba and the fact that there would be millions of people there was more a deterrent to me than an attraction. In addition people told me that this was the second largest pilgrimage after mecca… I have been the second largest Okober fest, in Kitchener Ontario (which is true, but its also akin to saying that masturbating is the next best thing to sex, its true but realistically it is a pale copy) [Ok so I should stop being a pessimistic pedantic asshole and get on with my
So I have intentions of going to Touba and have not been so I will hold out my lecture on Touba, but I will go into a small lecture on Sénégalaise Islam. As I have mentioned before Islam in Sénégal is quite different from the variant that we get bombarded in Western media. Here the sufi brotherhoods became wildly popular and have dominated the religious areana. Sufis are known within islam to be the more spiritual often less literal scriptural side of islam. This is especially true in Senegal where there is a mingling of local animism with sufi and muslim culture. Everyone here considers themselves a very devout muslim and I never doubt the sincerity of their professions of faith, however many of their beliefs are not in accordance with what they practice in Mecca, or even what is written in the book.
This has some really neat features, that inspire me with hope that this country can go on some uncharted adventure into social development and experimentation, but it also scares the hell out of me. Ok some fun features, everyone here is a strong believer that everyone is equal and that we are all
a part of a large brotherhood striving to a single ethereal goal. Women’s rights here are not fantastic, but women play a large role in the public proudly sphere displaying their shoulders and ample bosums to the public along with their energetic personalities. In marriage, men are allowed to have four wives, yet divorce does exist(not trying to defend the system here just pointing out that its not all hopeless) and there are instances of the first wife choosing the next wives for the husband(unsure how I feel about this one). Furthermore people here are friendly as hell, the majority of people who approach you in the street are aiming at extracting some kind of currency out of you, however there is still a substantial percentage that are just curious and want to say hi.
Now onto the religious hierarchy. There are three main religious brotherhoods here in Senegal. The most prominent and powerful is the Mouride brotherhood, which Senegal’s religious hero, Chiehk Amadou Bamba started. These brotherhoods are immensely powerful. Their leaders are known are marabouts, who their devout followers carry images of them around their necks, in ther cars, vans etc for good luck as well as
a proclamation of fiety. Also aside from the call to prair which is blaired out by mega phone five times a day, locals in expressions of faith with either break out into song and sing religious hyms for hours, or drive around to town slowly with steroe systems in their cars so that everyone can have the privlidge of hearing. Another aspect is the grigri; which is a page or section of the Koran anointed by a Marabout wrapped in a neckless, bracelet or belt that you wear at all times, except during polluting activities like sex and using the washroom. These gri gris can be designed and tailored to bring the weared protection against certain things like protection from theft or good heath. The senegalese wrestlers here are covered in them with protection of not falling etc. (this is what most academics would consider the Africanization of islam, as the religion is extremely iconicalistic, thus having images of any religious leader is frowned upon, in addition religious leaders who interpret the Koran for their followers is excplititly contra Koranic teachings, and I do think I need to go into what our pious muslims in Mecca think of the gri
gris.) Due to the structure of the brotherhoods the grand marabouts, eg religious leaders exert a massive amount of power. This power, locals have explained is one of the main reasons why this country has never suffered any serious conflicts or civil wars because these religious leaders hold so much influence that they have become a stabilizing element. On the flip side the reverence that the general populace heaps upon these single individuals; whom their only act to merit this adoration was being born, is terrifying.
In short I have been pleasently surprised with Sénégalese Islam, it is friendly and energetic
on a whole with a fluidity and openess that i would asume to not see in Hurabi dominated nations.
The surfing is progressing. I tried to catch some waves last weekend; it is still a struggle as I have yet to manage to stand on my board in a way that resembles surfing. Rather every time I attempt to stand, I unsteadily stand, flailing my arms for some micro fraction of stability, on top of my board having for a very brief triumphant moment, before the wave either loses momentum or I lose balance to send me
tumbling back into the frothing ocean exhilarated that for a second I almost had it, and motivating me to return to the crashing waves for more punishment.
So hope all is well and hopefully I will do something blog worthy in the next couple of weeks
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