Teranga is a real thing. (Teranga is a Wolof word that encompasses a lot of things but is most simply translated into hospitality, but runs deeper than that). It doesn’t seem like it when you get off the airplane, but as you immerse yourself in family and everyday life you notice it each and every day. At the airport, just like in Ghana and Nigeria, you find people who say “oh, let me help you with those bags, do you need to use my phone, no worries I work here,” and then after they say “so how much are you going to pay me?” Luckily, I was ready for that; unfortunately, I still needed to use two phones to call the one contact I had; fortunately, I’m also really good at feigning stupidity and confusion – it’s all the more believable when you truly don’t understand what they are saying that well.
It was a frustrating start to my stay here, but now that I have gotten to know my family and a lot of the neighbors, it’s wonderful! I feel welcomed, and people invite me places and ask me to join games even when they know I don’t understand everything that’s happening. I’ve been shown how to xiim tea (that’s the way to pour the tea (ataaya) to make sure there is foam at the top) – not that I did it well or anything.