Fieldwork Update: Pikine


After another week of surveying youth in neighborhoods, I have thus far collected 57 responses. The most recent area I surveyed is Pikine, a sprawling and populous suburb of Dakar that holds about 800,000 people. Although clearly neglected and desolate in several areas, Pikine also has a charm of youth and community. It is also the place where the political, hip-hop based youth movement Y’en a marre began.

My two days in Pikine tested the limits of my fieldwork strategy. Because the neighborhood was in the outskirts of the city, I had to wake up earlier than usual, around 6:30 am, to catch multiple buses in order to get there. The next 7 hours consisted of walking several miles through the neighborhood in scorching 100+ degrees weather. The breakfast that my home-stay family usually provides me consists of a long piece of bread which doesn’t sustain me much in general, let alone for a full day of traveling. Since I was not surveying near home for the first time, I ate lunch in Pikine, which does not have any restaurants designed for foreigners. Instead, I ate a fast-food style mafé, rice and chicken in peanut sauce, for $1 at a local restaurant. My stomach regretted that decision the next day.




My $1 meal


Goats are everywhere in Pikine

After receiving enthusiasm from all households in my first day of surveying, Macodou and I have since received mixed receptions. Some immediately welcome us with open arms and invite us to stay for lunch while children play with me. Some are busy, unwilling to participate, or suspicious that we work for the government. A few people have also taken an inordinate amount of time, up to 40 minutes, to finish the survey that is supposed to last 20 minutes. This happens either because they like to talk a lot or because they read and type slowly. I have realized that some of the French wording and formatting in my survey can be misconstrued by locals. But I cannot change it because in order for a survey’s results to be viable, it must remain constant for all respondents. In addition to unwillingness, many households simply do not meet the criteria of the age range and the alternation of male and female that random sampling requires. Despite these hurdles, most people who agree to participate do not have any complaints and finish in a reasonable amount of time.

In Pikine, more than other neighborhoods, I saw scores of children playing sports outside and enjoying each other’s company. If they are playing soccer, as they often do, I exchange passes with them and give them high-fives. One thing I do not enjoy so much is when they yell “Chinois!” or “Chinese!” at me and act out karate fight scenes. Senegalese strangers of all ages have called me Chinese and stared at me with a blank face. This is behavior I would find unacceptable in the United States. But I understand the reality that, as I have been told by locals, most of them have truly never seen an Asian man like me in their country except in Bruce Lee movies.

In addition to work, I was able to have some fun this week:

Celebrating Korité with lamb and traditional clothing


Shopping at H.L.M Marché


Helping a friend build her coconut drink shack


Yoff Beach


Riding the cheap, dangerous Karabou shuttle

In other news, I went to the hospital for the last time today! (Knock on wood). After one month of post-surgery maintenance, the large bandage over my stomach is finally off for good so I no longer have to ride the bus for 2 hours everyday to change it at the hospital.

On a semi-related note, the recent Ebola virus outbreak that has hit several countries in West Africa has not reached Senegal nor its bordering countries. Throughout my hospital treatment, I was told I should not be alarmed since Dakar is a capital city far away from the inland. Though I have heeded that advice, I am occasionally reminded by my concerned parents that a deadly virus is only two countries away from me.

I already leave Senegal in 9 days! Although I am excited to go home, there is still so much I want to do here and my last week will definitely be the busiest in terms of work and play. I will be surveying tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, Wednesday morning, and all day Thursday. In between, I will meet with one of the founders of Y’en a marre, attend a meeting for the local Rotary Club, eat dinner at the Korean Ambassador’s home, and hang out with friends. On Friday and Saturday, I will visit the hometown of my research assistant, Thiès, and spend time with his family. I will then survey all day Sunday and Monday. I leave next Wednesday.

Until next time,