Friday, 11 October 2013

First interview is done!

The past week has been really good. I got more used to the climate (it is still between 30 and 35 degrees during the day and between 25 and 28 during the night), I moved one floor up (to the apartment I actually rented) and I settled down. Both apartments are quite the same, but in this kitchen the cooker is working so I can cook for myself. Although I really enjoyed cooking together with Bijou every night for her family, it is also nice to cook for myself a few days a week. I am now also able to wash my clothes properly with hot water (since I can boil the water in a pan!). I can stay in this apartment till I finish my case study, which is really nice.

Having dinner with Bijou's family.
View from the rooftop of my apartment.
I am the only ‘white’ person in the neighbourhood and in the past two weeks I sensed that people started to get used to my presence. When people started a conversation, I told them that I work here on my PhD and that I will stay for four months. Every day when I leave my apartment, I greet everybody – especially the Imams sitting in front of the mosque - kindly Salaam Aleikum.” They know me well by now and I am no longer a stranger. Every morning I buy bread in a small shop around the corner and I can hear them yelling from a distance: “Bonjour Annemarie! Comment ça va?"

Last week I experienced that the rain season is not over yet. Usually I wake up early morning due to the morning prayers of the mosque that echoes from the speakers, but Sunday morning I woke up from a heavy thunderstorm. The weather was terrible: wind, rain, lightning, and it lasted a few hours. The consequence was that apart from having no water - unfortunately, the water problem in Dakar is not solved yet - there was no electricity either! I can assure you, without water and electricity, life is getting a little bit difficult. Luckily this was only for one day and I was glad that the internet-café had a generator, so I could charge my laptop and I was able to work. Welcome in Africa! ;-)

The rain season is not over yet...
On Monday I had the opportunity to attend the defence of Bijou’s Master Thesis. Bijou is trained as a social worker, but she decided after a few years work experience to go back to university to study international law. She chooses for human rights law (I like!) and she wrote her master thesis about the implementation of child protection laws in Senegal. 

Bijou defending her Master Thesis!
Since we were both quite tired after an exciting weekend where Bijou got married and graduated from university, we decided to cook something quick on Monday night. We went to the butcher around the corner, who had a barbeque in front of his little shop. The butcher was cutting the goat meat, while another guy prepared the meat on the barbeque. The barbeque looked like an old bed in its previous life. Nevertheless, the meat tasted delicious and it did not wonder why we had to wait in a queue since it was so busy (and in the end thus not so quick, haha). ;-)

 ‘Fastfood’ the Senegalese way
Goatmeat on the bbq!

On Wednesday I had lunch with a diplomat from the Netherlands Embassy. We spoke about my research, her job at the Embassy and must-see’s in Senegal. We already met in May and I asked her whether the Embassy could perhaps facilitate a mini-conference where I could present my preliminary research results of my case study in the end of January. A frequently heard critique is that many (Western) researchers come to Africa to do their research, to do interviews and to gather knowledge and take this knowledge home. In the end, most researchers do not share their knowledge with the local people in the country where they conduct their study, which is unfortunate. I would like to demonstrate the contrary and invite people working in the field of FGM/C who I interviewed (and others interested) to share my preliminary results at the end of my case study in January (and to receive feedback). For me, that is also a good way to validate my research results. She was very enthusiastic about my idea and she said that she was sure that the Ambassador would be more than happy to facilitate the conference in his own residence! I was so happy to hear that!
We had lunch at Villa les Jumeaux, such a lovely place!
Research-wise, everything is going well and I am satisfied. I finished my letter of consent and questionnaire last week. I discussed the letter of consent with Bijou and she had some very helpful comments, taking into account the Senegalese values, as well as the ‘Senegalese French’ (which is apparently slightly different than the ‘European French’.

My French is getting better every day. I can easily read reports in French, write e-mails in French and communicate with people. Bargaining the price for the taxi is no problem, but interview people about my (rather sensitive) research topic is something different. I don't feel comfortable doing the interviews myself in French. Therefore, I decided to conduct the interviews with French-speaking people with the help of an interpreter. The past week I discussed the issue of translations with Bijou and I am extremely happy that she is willing and able to join me during the interviews and do the translations. She really is the perfect person for this job. She has a background in sociology and human rights, experience in the field and working at community level, experience in doing research/interviews (she finished a study among refugees in Senegal recently), very knowledgeable about FGM/C and most importantly: someone I can trust. She knows how sensitive the topic is and we already spoke quite deliberately about the language we will use to gather the information I need, but at the same time not offend people.

Originally I had an interview planned on Wednesday. I was so happy that I managed to have the first interview planned 1,5 week after I arrived in Dakar! We agreed to meet at 2pm in a hotel in Dakar. I arrived well in time, waiting in the lobby, as you can imagine very excited, with my notebook and recorder ready. At 2pm, the lady came to the lobby, telling me that she had another appointment at 2pm. I asked her whether I could perhaps wait till she finished the other appointment, but she told me: "I am so sorry, I don't know how long this meeting will take, but afterwards I have to go home. I won't be able to talk to you today." Aah, alright… I was a little bit disappointed, but I knew that it was also part of the job – especially in Africa. We agreed to  have an appointment on Friday morning instead.

This morning, I took the bus at 9m and arrived at the Ministry of the Family one hour later. I had two appointments: one at 10am and the other one at 11.30am. In May, I did an internship at the Family Ministry for two weeks and it was really nice to be back here and to see everybody here again. They welcomed me warmly and invited me to join them for lunch. 

However, the two persons I had an appointment with, were not present… I waited for one hour till 11am and then I decided to call one of them to ask him where he was. His response: “Ooooh, I am really sorry, but I am really, really, really busy! I am at the Ministry of Justice and I cannot do the interview today. Maybe I have time next week...” 

Hmm.... I decided to call the other lady, but unfortunately she did not pick up her phone. Two hours later, I tried again and she asked me to come to her office for the interview "I have time now, can you come?" Haha, alright, I am very flexible!! I went there quickly and I am very happy to inform you that I just came back from my first official interview!! It went very well, exactly how I had it in mind. 

This week I spend most of my days writing e-mails and calling persons working in the field of FGM/C, inviting them to participate in my research. I started with inviting the international organizations (UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women, WHO) and NGOs, since I can conduct these interviews myself in English. I first want to further pilot my questionnaire, before I finalize my questionnaire and translate it to French.

The past week I also worked one day on the report for the UNFPA in New York. I finished this report the week before my departure to Senegal, but Nafy Diop (Special Advisor and Coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C) informed me that the report will be translated to French, published and presented during a conference in Rome in two weeks. The editors had some questions for me and of course I was more than happy to answer them! 

Below you'll find some pictures I took the past days during my bus and taxi rides in Dakar:

The Atlantic Ocean!
Too many goats...
... for Tabaski (an Islamic holiday).
Anyone need a haircut?
You can find shops like these everywhere.
Washing cars - especially taxi's - is a national sport in Dakar.
The bus station where I take the bus to place d'Independance
I also made a small movie, to give you a better idea of how my life looks like here:
After all, I am doing fine. Tonight I go to a concert of Baaba Maal, a famous Senegalese Singer. I am very excited! Tomorrow I have another interview planned (we'll see whether I will indeed take place, haha). Time is flying, and in three weeks Erik will be here! I am really looking forward to his visit, and we are already planning some nice trips! I am counting the days. ;-)

Wish you all a nice weekend!

Kind regards,


1 comment:

  1. Great story, greet research, great person :-) Miss you so but I am glad that Senegal can have a bit of you too! We should not be greedy in life :-) Can't wait to visit you my dear xx Eefje