Senegal

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Mail from the U.S. to Senegal often takes about two weeks to arrive; however, it may take several more days for it to reach some areas that are further from the capital. Advise your family and friends to number their letters for tracking purposes and to include "SENEGAL-WEST AFRICA", “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes. Your address during training will be:

PCT “Your Name”
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 299
Thiès, Senegal, West Africa

Once you have been sworn in as a Volunteer and are at your permanent site, you will set up a postal box. Peace Corps cannot forward your mail to your new address, so loved ones should consider this and not send mail too close to the end of training.

Telephones

If you would like to bring an iPhone or other smartphone, consult with your carrier to determine your options. Peace Corps/Senegal training staff facilitates the purchase of locally available cell phones upon arrival. About 70 percent of Volunteers in Senegal have regular access to the cell phone network. Volunteers are able to place direct international calls and SMS messages through local carriers.

Internet

There is Internet access at the many Internet cafes across Senegal, particularly in regional capitals. Many Volunteers do not have electricity in their homes, and security and maintenance of devices cannot be guaranteed. If you do bring a computer, consider purchasing personal property insurance.

Housing and Site Location

Most Volunteers in Senegal are assigned to rural areas, especially those who work in sustainable agriculture, health, and agroforestry. For safety and cultural reasons, Volunteers are usually housed in family compounds, where accommodations range from a cement-block room with a tin roof to a traditional hut with a thatched roof. The Peace Corps expects that all housing be equipped with screens to protect against mosquitoes and other insects, doors and windows with locks, and a concrete floor. Additionally, bathing and toilet facilities must meet Peace Corps standards. Your site will be supplied with water through a reliable well water source, a community tap, or a tap in your home, depending on where you may be assigned. Volunteers are encouraged to bring pictures or other decorations to “make their hut a home.” While there is no guarantee of having electricity, the current in Senegal is 220 volts, 50 hertz.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. 

Food and Diet

Rice and millet are the two staples, with millet being the traditional food crop in the peanut basin and rice being more prevalent in the river basins. Depending on your assignment and the relative wealth of the families with whom you live, you may end up eating millet or rice three times a day. Corn and sorghum are also widely prepared. Generally, rice is served at lunch and millet at dinner, both with seasonal vegetables, and fish when available. The national dish is thiéboudien, a tasty blend of fish and rice simmered in tomato sauce and spices, accompanied by various vegetables. Other popular dishes are mafé (rice and peanut sauce), yassa (rice, onions, and chicken, beef, or fish), and cere neex (millet and bean sauce). Bread is popular, but is expensive for the average Senegalese since all of its ingredients are imported. It has become a breakfast staple in urban areas. On Muslim holidays, the standard fare is lamb. A variety of fruits is also available at different seasons, including mangoes, papayas, watermelons, mandarins, oranges, and bananas Available vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant, okra, cabbage, beans, turnips, squash, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and carrots.

Transportation

Volunteers are issued bicycles for daily use. Use of helmets is mandatory and you will be issued a helmet with your bicycle. Volunteers are not permitted to drive or ride on motorcycles or motor scooters. Village-based Volunteers may find themselves passengers on charrettes, (horse- or donkey-drawn carts). For intercity transportation, some areas are served by Peugeot 504 station wagons called sept-places or taxis-brousse. They are frequently unreliable, unsafe, crowded, and uncomfortable. Other zones depend on minibuses or vans of various shapes and sizes, which may be even more unreliable, unsafe, crowded, and uncomfortable. In Dakar, Volunteers often use city buses or taxis. Peace Corps/Senegal regularly reminds Volunteers to examine the condition of a vehicle and its driver before purchasing a ticket to board any intercity mode of transport. If you find yourself in a vehicle you believe to be unsafe, you should demand that the driver let you out immediately. Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death of Americans in Africa. In Senegal, since 1963, one Volunteer and one staff member have died in an automobile accident.

Social Activities 

Social activities vary from region to region. Baptisms and weddings are big events in all areas. Some of West Africa's best-known musicians are from Senegal, including Youssou Ndour and Baaba Maal. Soccer, called football in Senegal, is a major preoccupation throughout the country and basketball is becoming more popular. Traditional wrestling tournaments and the ceremonies surrounding them are important sources of entertainment throughout the country. Dakar is home to a softball league consisting of both Senegalese and ex-pat teams.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Senegalese, with rare exception, appear in public neatly dressed. While an unkempt or sloppy appearance may be an expression of individuality in the United States, in Senegal it is viewed as demeaning and disrespectful. Thus, Volunteers are expected to dress neatly and be well groomed at all times. Male Volunteers who wear shorts risk being treated as schoolboys, since generally only schoolboys wear shorts in Senegal. Female Volunteers should not wear anything above the knee, including shorts, in public. Long hair, unconventional hairdos, blatant tattoos, and piercings are considered unusual and may attract attention or cause ridicule or harassment. They are considered inappropriate and should not be worn during Volunteer service. If you have any of these appearance characteristics, a decision to go without them for the duration of your Peace Corps service should be made prior to accepting the invitation to serve in Senegal. These recommendations for dress are consistent with Peace Corps policies established to ensure the safety and well-being of Volunteers and with the wishes of the Senegalese government. As guests of the government, Volunteers should not abuse the hospitality of their host by showing disregard for local norms.