The Ritz. [Moving On Up.]

Christy and I the day that we moved into the Fort.

“Oh, that’s not going to work.”

 I believe that was precisely what I told my landlord when he first showed Christy and I the tiny little rooftop studio apartment that unbeknownst to us, would become home about a month later. It was probably an organic reaction to the elf-sized, no door, no shower bathroom. At that point in my grossly misinformed young life, I didn’t think that a toilet, microscopic sink difficult for the naked eye to even detect, and a hose that spouted glacial water out of the side of the wall constituted a bathroom. Laughably, I foolishly supposed bathrooms to be rooms with doors, mirrors, and tubs that filled with steaming hot water. [The kind condusive to the dreamy, apple-scented bubble baths that I am mildly addicted to.] That little studio apartment closet unskillfully masquerading as a bathroom didn’t even have a door. There was no kitchen, no real bathroom, no hot water, no

The "bathroom" in the Fort.

 space to move, and absolutely no privacy. Spoiled little American that I was, it took approximately ten seconds for me to firmly announce that there was no way I could ever possibly deign to live there.

 That was before I started apartment hunting in Senegal.

 Africa has taught me that you should never say never. You don’t know what you’re capable of handling until you’re forced to. Suffice it to say, that bathroomless tiny rooftop studio started to look like Nirvana, standing in stark contrast with the filthy, crumbling, roach infested future crime-scenes our real estate agent was taking a very wide-eyed Christy and I to see. A week after vehemently promising that there wasn’t the slightest chance Christy and I could be coerced into squeezing ourselves into that tiny room on the roof, we returned, shell-shocked and dazed, and begged the owner to let us rent it. At that point, it could have been an asbestos ridden shack, laced with black mold and accented by a steady methane leak and we would have happily signed that contract!  That little Senegalese man could have informed us that it been the recent site of a Wicca convention and a particularly grisly murder-suicide  and I am absolutely certain that we would not have cared in the slightest-it had a guard, a door that locked, and was serendipitously situated directly above the three men on my team.

The disaster area that was the Fort earlier this morning-mid packing.

And so we moved six duffels, four strings of twinkle lights, two very recent Carolina grads, and one coffee pot into what would be home for at least the next nine months. It was thus that “normal life” in Dakar began in a flurry of dust and sweat.

Christy and I quickly learned a myriad of lessons in “the Fort”-as our little studio was affectionately dubbed. Most of them were lessons that I hadn’t anticipated mastering in Senegal. We came to understand the sheer folly of having any sort of appliance plugged in or light turned on while using the hot plate. In fact, we learned that in the Fort, one can only use a single appliance at a time. [Unless you’re attempting to use both sides of said hot plate, or an iron-in which case, you’re guaranteed to blow the electricity no matter what you do.]  We discovered that snow spray works just as well as curtains, for only a fraction of the cost! [I promise, I’m not nearly as trashy as that idea would suggest.]  We also learned [the hard way] to always remove the toilet paper from the “bathroom” before “showering”, lest the scorching African sun bake the whole sopping mess into a defiant, immovable testimony to your Western stupidity on the cool tile.

Sorting and packing. It doesn't take a long time when you've already packed your entire life into three duffels once.

Living in the Fort taught me some rather valuable lessons, as well. I learned what it’s like to be around someone every second of every day, [minus my daily beach run] which taught me a great deal about what it means to put somebody else’s needs ahead of my own even when I’m tired and simply crave space. [A lesson that Christy will tell you I haven’t nearly perfected yet!] I came to understand that

Some of the heroes that carried all of our stuff to the Ritz for us!

“personal space” isn’t a right, nor are beds and hot water. And I learned not to take those things for granted. Christy and I actually had a lot of fun living in the Fort-but the wonderful news that a new girl will be joining us next year [more on that soon!] necessitated that we find a larger apartment. In an entirely unnecessary display of sweet care, God gave us one directly below the men-…the living room is almost as big as the entire Fort! We’ve dubbed it in “the Ritz”-and it has two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom with a glorious white tub and hot water. [More pictures to come after we unpack.] We barely know what to do with ourselves! It was so odd to walk in the front door after my run this afternoon, and have no idea where Christy was-I hadn’t realized just how accustomed I’d become to always knowing exactly where she was and exactly what she was doing. [That’s what you get when you share a one room apartment!]

 So here we sit after a long day of moving, with almost no furniture at all, entirely surrounded by boxes in our new living room. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a hot bubble bath that’s been calling my name for about eight months…

The living room, with the only furniture we have to our name. :)


  1. Enjoy the hot water bath! I’m SO jealous! Dang it…..

  2. Kristin says:

    Those windows are gorgeous!

  3. Aw Marissa, it hardly seems fair! At least your hair will be better than mine. ;) I’m excited to see you soon!

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