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Dakar – how different this city must seem if you come at it from the West instead of from the East. What would seem dirty and chaotic strikes me instead as refined and calm. The wide streets seem to welcome the blue sky. The cement houses reach out to a never-ending horizon over the ocean instead of wall of mountains or sea of sand.  The smell of masala, sewage and chai is replaced with fish, sweat and salt. The colors of temples and saris replaced with blue sky, white sand, and batik fabrics.

This is a place that is so familiar but unlike any other that I have been to – a fact that quickly becomes obvious in everything I do. The people look American, but somehow different. The language I know, but only part of the time. This water I have touched, but only from the other side.

Days go by here and I wonder, how can I feel like I know a place and yet not know it at the same time? I have never been to Senegal, and yet something about it is so familiar. Is it New York or New Delhi that I am reminded of being in Dakar? How many days will it take for this to feel like “normal” or to finally feel completely different? I don’t know, but I think that when it does, it will be time for me to go.

A mural of the Dakar coast line painted on a wall along the beach.

Finally, after almost 7 months in Asia, (India, Nepal, and Vietnam) I am off to someplace new – a place with desert and rainforest, Wolof and French, relative calm but growing economic disparity.

Senegal.

Africa itself isn’t new to me. I have been to Egypt twice and my Sicilian friends in Siracusa would have considered the 6 months I spent in the southeastern corner of the island as more legitimately African then European.  But being in and below the Sahel, that is new to me and deliciously unlike anything I have encountered before.

The food, the aromas, the people… I have no idea what to even expect. I am trying to expect nothing, hoping that no expectations will allow me to absorb and figure out the place more quickly. Luckily I have friends here. Friends that can make up for the lack familiarity and make the place feel like home even before I have arrived.

Senegal – I have wanted to meet you for years. I am ready for something new, and you fit the bill to a tee. Hopefully we will get along just swimmingly.