This is a difficult process. Trips to the pharmacy aside--to pick up obscene amounts of pads, tampons, and malaria medication--I still have to journey back and forth to my closet, trying to guess what is acceptable dress in Dakar. Here's what I know so far:
- Low neck-lines are inappropriate; same for short skirts. All dresses/skirts should go below the knee. This is tricky, because it gets hot in Dakar. It's supposed to be 60 - 80 degrees F while I'm there, and I can't wear shorts or tank-tops.
- Men and women care a great deal about their appearance, especially in public. All the casual American styles I own--plain t-shirts, slightly frayed jeans, cracking sneakers--are really not up to snuff.
- Students at the university dress up for class. What "dress up" means, I'm not sure, so I'm taking a few collared shirts that I haven't worn since high school.
- Young people wear western clothes. Young, urban women wear pants. This is good news, though I still intend to take advantage of cheap cloth and clothing prices to get some traditional outfits tailored to me.
- When exercising, shorts are fine. This I learned from writing to another young woman--a runner--who's currently studying abroad in Dakar. I had nightmares of heatstroke while running in pants.
- When clubbing, anything goes. Outfits get much more daring at night. I don't feel very daring, though, and so I'm not taking anything that would be too revealing. (What, I wonder, would they think of the clothes Yalies wear to the Screw? On Halloween? To Toad's?)