The other day my friend Josh was chatting about how his village loved to hold dances all the time and asked if I was interested in coming to the next soire that weekend. Dancing in another village is a good opportunity to let loose without having to be reminded of your awkward flailing for the next two years as you walk around town. I had nothing too pressing so that next Saturday I hopped onto a crowded minibus headed for Malem Nani. There are no bus or transportation schedules here in Senegal, you just head to a ‘garage’ where all the buses and cars congregate, find one headed to where you are going, and wait for it to fill up. Sometimes you buy the last spot on the car and you leave immediately, other times the wait can take hours, sometimes you end up leaving the next day. I had to transfer buses in the city of Tamba and due to the wait there I arrived in Malem Nani fairly late at night. Having missed dinner, Josh and I ate some street food where one of his friends cooked. I had been looking forward to the dance until then when one of his villagers greeted me. We did the normal lose hand shake, is your family there, and your work, peace, peace only. Then he suddenly went in to kiss me. This is not a greeting I learned and definitely not ok in Senegalese or American culture. I dodged the sloppy attempt and Josh immediately put him in his place. This guy was definitely not in his right state of mind. As independent as I like to try to be, that admittedly shook me up and I started wondering if we should even go to the dance. If guys were that forward at dinner, what would dancing be like?! But we devised a plan, I was to go for the crotch first and then Josh would step in and we would leave immediately if I felt uncomfortable.
I’m glad I didn’t stop myself from going. Apparently everyone who had decided to pregame the dance no longer had money to buy a ticket for the soire. Also, apparently 11 is too early to go to a Senegalese dance. The only two white people in a town of about 2,000 were the only ones on the dance floor. The dance was a fundraiser for a student group in town, so when we first showed up the guys running the soire came out and danced with us. Watching them was worth the bus ticket to Malem Nani. They were so good at dancing, every move they pulled just looked so smooth, cool, and fluid. Who knew that one legged below knee kicks or that bowlegged funny walks could be so sexy! But here these guys were, looking, acting, and dancing like big name rap stars. Maybe the best part was that they didn’t even notice that I am an awful dancer. Our dancing was basically like a circle of encouragement. Everyone would take their turn in the center of our circle, while we whooped at their moves. I had a great time being awkward and they cheered that along too. In my village I usually go to bed around 9:30 so we had to leave at 1, just as it was starting to pick up. Regardless, dancing in a sparse dance hall in Senegal amongst talented young men is something I won’t forget for a while. And then to top it off, Josh’s family cooked an awesome lunch of yassa fish the next day.