Monday, April 22, 2013


Sorry it has been such a long time...a lot has happened and so little time to write! So skip a few months (I'll fill ya'll in later)....and now...SENEGAL!! 

The Senegalese flag

We stayed with host families from Sunday night until Thursday morning where then we went and stayed at Sabdo Bade in Tubab Dialow (Tubab in Wolof-local language- means white person-is not derogatory). 

Sunday April 14, 2013: We got into Senegal pretty late so we just headed to a hostel type place to stay for the night. The next day we got a talk from the founder of the Baobab Center which works with communities across Senegal to  develop and address the many social issues that cause problems. Then Thiaba, a local young woman, took us around the area to orient us. it was wonderful to just get out and walk around in the warmth and see everyone from the community out and about!

Car Rapide-there is no set route, you just have to ask a driver if they're going near where you need to be--I did not try-way too complicated!-all highly decorated like these. 

Brittney, Anna, Thiaba (Senegalese guide) and me under a Boaobab tree on the first day of walking tour/orientation of our area.

 Then we came back to the center for a beautiful Senegalese lunch!! this time we didn't have to eat with our hands-but on Monday we had a talk and lunch/tea about proper etiquette about eating with our hands around a communal bowl. It takes a lot of talent to make balls and eat it without spilling everywhere!
Senegalese lunch- so good! Lot's of spices
 That night we got to head to our host families houses. We got there and were immediately greeted by the outgoing ladies man, Marco (3 years old). He wanted us to hold him and play with him constantly- which we basically did! The owners of the house/ our host parents were the grandparents of these children, who lived with them. i really connected with Maya, the 9 year old. She even wrote me some beautiful notes and drew me some pictures. Their French was really good and not at too advanced a level, so it was very easy to communicate with them, and they were very interested in learning all about us and America. It was so much fun hanging out with them after our long days of excursions. 
My host family-Little boy = Marco (3), holding him is Adja (11) and the little girl is Maya, Grandmother Mimi and  I am not sure who the woman all the way to the left is (I think the Aunt of Adja-cousin of Maya and Marco?) -so so so wonderful!

Our host families goat- he lives just below the stairs to our rooms

Our courtyard out front and our street

Monday April 15, 2013: We had a course at the Baobab Center on the basics of Islam and then went to visit a Koranic school and the Divinity Mosque (pictured below). It is the religion of about 90% of the people of Senegal, although as a religion it promotes tolerance of other religions. 

The Divinity Mosque

Then we headed to Goree Island which is an old halfway post for slaves headed all over the world. We took a ferry and it was very interesting because there were local women who were being very friendly with us and then at the end of our conversations, they would add "make sure to stop by my shop! Promise?!" Very good sales tactic. Once on the island we had a nice Yassa Poulet and Baobab juice then off to museums to learn about what happened on the island and then to the market. The vendors were very aggressive, and this was my first experience with bargaining, I had no idea what good prices were and the exchange rate is about $1: 500 SFC (Senegalese currency) so that didn't help either. I think I ended up with some good deals and some beautiful presents! Then back to Dakar to hang out with the kids!

Goree Island

Fishing boats on Goree- all over the coast of Senegal they are painted like this. Fishing is a big market

Baobab juice with lunch-so yummy!

Goree Island

The Museum of Slaves who passed through Goree Island (where they were detained)

Two vendors-very aggressive, the markets were exhausting!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2013: Headed to Rufisque where we picked up some supplies to donate to the schools we were visiting today so we were also supporting the local economy. We first visited a health center and saw their operations and what they can treat- very small, but seemed well manned. The schools were in the town just over- Sangalka. We were a little late so we only spent a few minutes in the kindergarten (they seemed very nervous when we were there-except a few who were very excited and shook our hands!). Then we headed to the primary school where they were winding down for the day. We went into a few different classrooms and then a group gathered and sang us a couple of songs that they learned in school and asked us to perform one too! We taught them the Hokie Pokie- they fully enjoyed it and got very into the moves! Adorable. As we were leaving they all wanted to shake our hands and some of them even had cool handshakes that they taught us.
The children from the primary school we visited (Amy and Brittney in the pic too)

Two adorable girls form the school

Then we headed to Lac Rose - north of Dakar. We had Yassa Poulet for lunch and of course some of the delicious pineapple juice (pictured below!). Then we got into the open back of an old military truck. We went around the lake and saw the salt operations and then headed to the other side where there is a lot of agricultural production and then further into the dunes where there is a very small village called Peulh. here we got a tour form the chiefs brother. It was very basic, but the man asked us not to give money to the children because they are very proud people and do not want to teach begging. Instead they wanted  us to, if we wanted, to buy crafts from their little shop which we did. 

Pineapple juice/soda thing-delicious!

Lac Rose-the salt extraction operations

Men mined it from the bottom, then the women stacked/organized it

The cost of the lake has such shallow groundwater that it is a great place to grow things-parsley here I think.  
A small village we visited- near the Lac Rose and ocean-got  a tour from  the brother of the Chief. 

A little family compound within the very small village-very basic accomodations

Anna, Amy, me, Brittney and Emily on a dune in front of the ocean
 On Goree Island, Brittney and Anna had gotten their hair done in braids, so when I got home Adja saw it and said that she coculd do the same to me if I wanted, so I said why not (it's free!), and it turned out really well!
The eleven year old in my host family did these after seeing the ones that my two friends paid for..she's a pro!

Thursday, April 18, 2013: It was a sad departure this morning, the family had been so wonderful and we had gotten so close with the kids! Marco even balled when we had to leave and said he wanted to come with us! 

We drove to Rufisque again, where we met up with a local man who is a lawyer. He volunteers for a group called SOS Environment which promotes sustainable development. He specifically talked to us about the problems of the rising ocean and what they are trying to do to stop it. There are also a lot of initiatives that he is working on to change the attitude of the local people on the importance of keeping the shoreline clear of trash (Dakar and greater areas we saw are covered in trash). Many people think that by throwing trash into the ocean and other waterway sit will be taken away, but it just comes back and creates health issues. He said it was very hard work  but some of the initiatives are working because he is really working to educate the people on the "why."

I am my mother's daughter, had to take a laundry pic- the laundry is so beautiful and colorful! Tells so much about the culture. 

Went to the town of Rufisque- just outside of Dakar and got a tour with a lawyer from there who is now working with SOS Environment (volunteering) to promote sustainable development of the area.

Yassa Poisson (so many little bones in the fish, but yes, everyone, I DID eat it even though it is seafood! and it was delicious)) 

After the tour of Rufisque, we headed to Toubab Dialow where we would be staying for the last couple of nights at a resort/hostel type place created by a French poet/artist- so there are his pieces of art everywhere and you can even see it in the architecture, incredible! We got some much needed relaxing beach time- though there were vendors walking the beach trying to get us to buy things. 

In the evening we had a Batik session where we learned the Senegales technique of painting fabric with wax, and then dying it. Turned out beautifully- we had shapes to go by so that helped too! 
Making Batik- Senegalese tye-dye with wax. (Amy making hers) 

The town where the hostel/resort place was located- we also got a tour of the village by one of the older members of the community who was not born there but lived there for the majority of his life.

The courtyard of Sabo Bade where we stayed the last couple of nights-we took  African drumming and dance lessons! Incredible

We even got some beach time in between our jam-packed days!  
After the Batik we headed over to a room where we were going to have African drumming lesson! (Below are not our drums-but close). It was so much fun and the instructor was hilarious and kept yelling "Obama!" when we were supposed to rest during the drumming pattern and he wouldn't let us go to dinner until we got the song right. 

African drums

Friday, April 19, 2013: In the morning we had African dance lessons- so exhausting, yet so much fun! Reminded me of my modern dance years! My calves are still burning it was such a good workout too. Then we got a tour of the village of Toubab Dialow by one of the elders, who also talked about the sea levels rising as a huge issue for this seaside village. 

The same man who created Sabdo Bade recently started another project a few miles away which we went to see as a retreat kind of place for creative minds-dancers, poets artists, etc. There was a beautiful stage and many contemplative places- I could spend some time there! So tranquil and beautifully crafted with pieces of art everywhere. Across the desert area, there lives a famous Senegalese poet who owns a large ranch-style house and holds many conferences of poets. 

The founder of the place we stayed also made another destination for poets and artists like himself to meditate and create-all the architecture and art there was made/thought of my him! i could live there for a while...

The owners room when he is there-also used for yoga and meditation sessions and poem readings

Then later we drove to the town of Joal and visited the Senghor museum which is in the house he grew up in, and the guide told us that this is also where many inspirations for him originated as he created the liberated Senegal (flag, motto etc) -fun fact: he was one on 44 children (his father was a polygamistic (5 wives) Christian and very rich). 

The first Senegalese president after the liberation in 1960

 Just across some water there is Shell Island (Fadiouth I think?). We got a tour of it with a local man. It is a very small tight-knit community and it seemed like a lot of them were had some sort of family relation. Here the majority of people are Christians, but everyone lives harmoniously with each other. They have a large fishing trade and pig business, "the work of Christian." since Muslims consider them a sacred animal. 
Shell Island-attached to mainland by a bridge - used to only be accessible by boat

Shell Island from the cemetery island-the mosque is the tower on the far left and the church is the tower to the far right

A Baobab tree on the cemetery island attached to Shell Island by a bridge 
Shell Island is the only place in Senegal where there are more Christians than Muslims, but they get a long very well and intermarry and even are buried in the same cemetery 

Saturday, April 20, 2013: Last day!! The week went by so fast, but the days were so jam-packed with amazing adventure! So on this last day we headed to the Bandia Animal Park for a safari (there are no carnivores in the park to protect the other, except hyenas and crocodiles which are kept separately). It was so much fun, the weather was perfect, as it was all week, and there were animals everywhere-giraffes, rhinos etc (no elephants though, they do not live here). 

Hyena at the wild animal reserve-they are kept in a cage separate from the rest of the animals so it does not eat them all- and is therefore bigger/better fed than one would be in the wild

An impala male-females don't have horns

Ostrich-there were so many! And apparently they are very aggressive, we were all a bit nervous they would charge our truck! 

Pumba!! A boar is very sacred to Islam (pigs) and so are protected-except on Shell Island actually where they keep many pigs for eating since they are a majority Christians. 

A rhino! Pictures do not do this huge majestic animal justice! 

Zebra-so cute
Giraffe! This is the only male on the reserve and he travels alone-we also saw mothers and babies

Monkeys-the mothers are all carrying their little ones clinging to their stomachs-very fast animals

Me under a Baobab tree which was actually used as a cemetery ages ago (see pic below)

There are tons of bones inside!

Crocodiles-there were so many in the waters-definitely not going swimming there! 

Baobab tree- very common in Senegal and can live for a very long time- can make juice and jams out of the fruit it bears (commonly called monkey bread because monkeys eat it) -the roots are very shallow and it holds a lot of water since Senegal has a wet and dry season it has to be able to maintain liquid for the dry periods. 
 Then in the afternoon we went back to Dakar to go to the market. It was absolutely CRAZY! So many people calling you and saying they have the best things and prices and to come and "just look at what they do." It is one of the most exhausting things to do- bargaining. I'm never sure I'm getting a good deal, or I feel like I'm ripping them off or I'm just getting annoyed with people pestering me. Though overall I like the crafts that people do and I found some very nice things. Though I am glad to be mainly in places where prices are fixed and bargaining is not needed-saves me a lot of headaches! 

After that too short experience in Senegal I would love to return! Maybe to a different African culture to get a different experience, but I will definitely return at some point in my life. It was just the day-to-day little differences and discussions on values that play into them were very fascinating. How similar, yet different they are. I would love to explore these more! 

Yal na Yàlla ubbi sa wërsëg   (May God give you luck)

Only in Senegal---Goats get to ride in style...on top of the buses...