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By Lisa Maina

Working with Equipe Aidons les Talibés has been very interesting but there has been a recent hiatus in the management of the organization. Because of this, program development had slowed, and I haven’t been able to work with Boukom and his team in the last few weeks. However, I knew still wanted to give back to the community and was restless to find another organization to work with in the meantime. With the help of the incredible program directors here at CIEE Dakar, I was quickly placed at another volunteer post, one I am very excited about.

Being a public health major, with a particular interest in global health, I was drawn to this program in Senegal because of the chance I would have to witness the health system in action here. When the opportunity to work at a health post in suburban Dakar was presented to me, it felt like fate (sorry that’s cheesy). This post was constructed by the Red Cross and operated by Red Cross volunteers until it was offered to the local government. Now, it is operated by two government-paid clinicians, that perform the maternal and child health functions, and several volunteer clinicians, that offer first aid and pharmaceutical services. My point of contact at the post is Cheikh Faye, an impassioned, energetic volunteer that spends basically 22 out of 24 hours a day helping the people in his neighborhood.

My first day volunteering started with a 40-minute bus drive to the outskirts of Dakar in a region called Pikine. Luckily, I was travelling with a student that had been volunteering at the post for a while, so she knew exactly where to go when our bus broke down still about 20 minutes from our destination. This wasn’t my first time on public transport in Dakar, but it was definitely my longest, with loads of traffic, standing, and confusion until we were forced to take a taxi the rest of the way to the post.

When we finally arrived, we received a warm welcome from Cheikh, then we got right into the work. The other student volunteering there already knew the ropes, so she showed me around. There are 4 offices, 3 for family health and 1 for adult consultations, 1 pharmacy and 1 research lab/classroom all on the premises. Right next door to the post is a Red Cross operated primary school and across the street is a delicious restaurant that we frequently visit after long days seeing patients. My duties that first day were to learn how everything works at the clinic and pick it up as quickly as I could.

I work with Cheikh in the adult consultation room where we check in patients for the entire clinic, perform first aid duties and occasionally do mini-surgeries for kids and adults. As consultations for children 0 to 5 years of age are free, we have a lot of newborns and toddlers come into our clinic where they are weighed and sent to the family medicine offices. That is my absolute favorite part, especially last week when I got to weigh a week-old baby, oh my goodness she was so small and quiet it was incredible. Anyways, check-ins are easy enough minus the language barrier. Because we are outside of urban Dakar, many of the clients don’t speak any French and most speak only Wolof. As I have been taking Wolof classes since my arrival in Dakar, I can ask basic questions, hi, how are you, what do you want, what’s your name, and so forth. However, it’s the responses that usually pose a problem. Sometimes they have a specific card that indicates when they should be coming for visits and depending on the type of card I can figure out whether it’s a family planning visit, post-natal or adult consultation, but other times the client assumes I speak Wolof, is disappointed when I don’t, and we just wait for Cheikh to translate.

I also had to quickly learn how to clean and wrap wounds, which is simple enough but more than anything, I had to get used to seeing open wounds and blood without reacting too harshly. Though most cases have been mild, occasionally we’ll have to remove a birth control implant which involves making a deep incision into the client’s arm, squishing out the plastic implant and picking it out from the inside of the arm with some forceps. I wouldn’t say I'm rather squeamish, but that definitely shocked me watching it for the first time, especially as the procedure was done with several other patients waiting in the same room, very little anesthesia and relatively little light. In fact, conditions in the clinic are adequate for the needs of the community but insufficient compared to standards most of us are used to. When the other student first arrived at the clinic, there were no gloves for any of the clinicians in the office, meaning wound cleanings and procedures were done with bare hands. The bed is ripped up and the scale is very outdated; the tools used are limited and reused from patient to patient; and the clinic only provides antiseptic and the cleaning gauze used, so patients must buy wrapping gauze, ointments or any other necessities at the pharmacy next door.

What the clinic lacks in supplies, though, is made up for by the incredible staff that work their butts off every day to ensure the health of their neighbors. Cheikh and his colleagues are at the clinic as early as 8 am, work there until 2:30 to 3 pm, afterwards do home visits for clients that can’t make it to the clinic, then go home to their own families but are usually still on call for any emergencies. My first home visit, we went to the home of these women that are taking care of their elderly father/husband. He had fallen from a flight of stairs and has unable to walk since, but he was also experiencing severe decay of the skin on his left foot. Cheikh explained the likely cause of this necrosis as a result of the fall creating a sort of paralysis and the lack of movement decreased blood flow to his extremities. Since that first visit, Cheikh has made himself available everyday to remove the decaying skin, perform physical therapy to increase blood flow and do routine cleanings to stimulate skin regeneration. Other home visit clients include the family of a woman who unfortunately died after one of her procedures. Cheikh still visits the family members to check in on them and keep in contact as often as he can. Though I haven’t spent as much time with the other clinicians, so I am unaware of their schedules, but I know it takes a really courageous heart to do the work they do and take care of not only their neighbors, but many of these clients have become their friends, further indicating the quality of their care.

I have taken this opportunity to focus more on what I can obtain from this experience rather than analyze my impact on the community. Because I’m learning so much every day and I’m very naïve when it comes to the field of health administration, I doubt I can have much impact other than the occasional help I offer on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. I stand to gain a lot of knowledge not only on health practices, but also on the health system in Senegal, diseases in the region, maternal and child health routines, world perspectives on health, cultural aspects of medicine and so much more, all information I can use in the future to then help make an impact on the international health community.

By Lisa Maina

As I discussed in the last entry, this semester I will be volunteering with Bokoum Djibril and his organization called Equipe Aidons les Talibés (EAT) in order to improve conditions for orphaned students of the Quran. These children are known all over Dakar as everyone is approached by at least one each day. When I asked my host family about their opinion of the issue, they were equally as distraught as I was but at the same time disillusioned because they felt helpless in finding the right solution to save these children from their unfortunate situation.

One of Djibril’s main goals is to change the way in which people view Talibés. Obviously when you see children begging in the streets, you are likely to view them as sad, helpless, and powerless. This perspective is heightened by their soot-covered clothes filled with holes and their bare and dirty feet. However, Djibril firmly believes that people should not see them as depressed and helpless, but rather focus on their hopefulness and potential as children to get out of their situation. Additionally, we should recognize the strength these kids have that brought them all the way to Dakar without their families and spend each day on the street just to get an education. For these reasons, Djibril has focused his organization on providing opportunities for Talibés to experience their childhood like so many other more privileged children.

In order to do this, EAT reserves full days with children of some Daaras in order to allow them to spend time with other Talibés learning, playing and eating, rather than begging. My role in the organization thus far is to help program fun activities for the children along with another American volunteer. Two weeks ago, that meant choosing and organizing games that we would play all together during a day that we had reserved with them. Though this sounds simple enough, we had to account for the language barrier when considering how to give instructions for the games. We are both proficient in French, but the Talibés have only just begun their French lessons, so communication is either in Wolof (of which we are both novices) or gestures. This cut out a considerable number of games we could play, especially games that could help their learning.

Eventually we settled on a couple games that required little instruction or ones that could be easily translated. A crowd favorite was Duck, Duck, Goose, though the Wolof words for duck and goose were very long. In this case, we settled for “Muus, Muus, Xaj” which translates to cat, cat, dog. After a few demonstrations, the kids were running around, ducking their heads, and having a blast. For the rest of the day, we helped with general logistics, serving food, practicing French and having a good time with the kids.

Playing "Simon Says".
French lessons taught by a volunteer professor.
Talibés eating a dinner provided by EAT volunteers.
Us demonstrating Muus, Muus, Xaj.

Moving forward, I plan to be an ambassador of EAT, selling merchandise to people that want to support the cause and raising awareness of the organization. This way, we can fund more activities for the kids and implement more programs to help the children. One program I am particularly interested in is the mentorship program Djibril has just started drafting. This program would pair each Talibé with a volunteer who would vow to provide clothes and food. Each day that the Talibé would work the street, he would work in the direction of his mentor’s home, meet him or her there and they would provide a meal as well as anything else necessary before the Talibé returns home.

Right now, this program is being designed but it is facing a few difficulties because of logistics and lack of volunteers. In order to implement the program, we need to work out an adequate system to register volunteers willing to participate, ensure quality involvement, establish contractual agreements to confirm length of participation, as well as get enough funds to kickstart the program. As a team, we are working together to develop this initiative, brainstorming appropriate regulations, contracts, and potential blueprints for the plan of the program.

Additionally, the EAT team has been working on establishing more structured French lessons for the Talibés with teachers for each level. This has also been challenging to implement because of logistics and lack of resources. Such resources include certified French teachers for each level, space for lessons, practice material and so forth. It has also been difficult to ensure that the children would retain the information, as these lessons would only occur the few times a month EAT is allowed to work with each of the Daaras. Though there are many challenges to overcome before implementing these lessons, at EAT we know education is one of the most powerful tools these kids can be equipped with, so we are doing everything we can to make it possible.

All in all, there is a lot to do to change conditions for the Talibés of Dakar and I look forward to providing any help I can. If anyone is interested in this organization, visit their Facebook page for more information (!! Also check out their merchandise if you’d like to support the Talibés of Dakar!

By Lisa Maina

Among the many reasons I decided to attend George Washington University, one of the most important was the many opportunities I would have to study abroad. I’ve always been interested in working internationally, and what better way to confirm this than by spending a semester abroad? GW makes it so incredibly easy to do so, whether through awesome advising, easy FOFAC registration, or financial aid transferal; there was nothing that could stop me from exploring the globe.

The hardest part of the whole process was probably choosing where to go, especially because there were so many options. With choices ranging from 6 continents, 41 countries, and over 200 programs, the list of options was long. I knew I wanted to continue learning French while abroad, so that cut down my options by a few, but many still remained. After doing the necessary research, I knew I wanted to travel with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) because of their resources, classes and global opportunities. Now most people in my position would have easily chosen to go to France, and of course I would have loved to spend a semester there, but I saw something else in my life course*. However, I wanted a different experience from the rest of my peers; I wanted to go somewhere where I could learn about the world from a completely new perspective. For this reason, and many others, I chose to study abroad in Africa, more specifically in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

In order to be fully prepared for this journey, I wanted to strengthen my French skills as well as transition my way of thought to one more open to new perspectives. In order to do this, I chose to study abroad in France during the summer, which definitely improved my oral communication and (helped me see the world in a different way). Within 2 months, I witnessed different ways of greeting people, of eating, of travelling, of interacting with others; overall it was very different. Even though I was experiencing the culture firsthand, there was still so much I had yet to understand as I learned in my course on French Identity. Learning the history behind all the common beliefs of the French, I could begin to comprehend why their culture was so different and could appreciate what some of their values meant to them.

Overall, I learned a lot from my short stay in France but the most important was how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Staying in a host-family comprised entirely of strangers was definitely out of my comfort zone, as well as being approached in French, not knowing how to convey exactly what I meant, figuring out news ways to communicate my needs, and just being in a fairly foreign environment. Eventually, it became normal for me to not know exactly what to do, and I learned how to be okay with it and understand that I’m not always going to be able to resolve that problem.

Having done intercultural workshops while in France, I also learned how to view a different culture with an open mind, not privy to judgement but rather to curious observation. Instead of immediately jumping to conclusions when witnessing some aspect of a culture, I learned to ask myself why I feel a certain way about this aspect, what I’m used to and why that culture might have this aspect. This way, I am less likely to dismiss the traditions of a society (which I believe one should never do, but humans are naturally judgmental), but I can analyze what cultural significance they might have and have a more objective opinion. For example, (maybe talk about French being pretentious, la bise, idk)

With all this is mind, I came home from France mentally prepared to head straight to Senegal, though definitely not physically prepared. Being that it is a third world country, there was a lot I had to consider like vaccinations, buying any products I might not find in Senegal, getting lots of bug spray and malaria pills, signing any documents I had left, and finally, packing. This came especially hard because of the conservative nature of Senegalese society combined with its incredibly hot climate. I am very comfortable in my body, so I am not afraid to wear booty shorts and a tank top when it hits 75°F, but that definitely would not slide in Senegal. Trying to find clothes that would keep me cool but covered is not something I’ve ever had to do and presented many challenges when I made my feeble attempts. After a couple unsuccessful rounds of shopping, I decided to just buy some pairs of linen pants and hope for the best. My last item to do was say bye to my family, which I now realize I did not do well enough. I guess I didn’t realize how long four months on the other side of the globe is and homesickness, no matter how much you think you won’t have it, is very real. Finally, we made the 2-hour trip to JFK International Airport, I said my last farewells (while my mother stalled to prolong my departure) and I made my way through security to await my flight.

While flying is generally pretty stressful, my arrival in Senegal was the first of many trials I did not foresee, from lost luggage to the heat to the lack of toilet paper in bathrooms, but my euphoria mitigated some of the initial stress I felt. It also didn’t hurt that I had some family friends in the city with whom to communicate any concerns, but also, my host family was most accommodating, and I am grateful to have been welcomed into such a wonderful home. Thus far, living in Africa is pretty much what I imagined and more. People on the streets are extremely kind and willing to have full conversations, which has only helped with the language acquisition. A simple “Salaamalekum” will spark a huge smile on a passing stranger and right away you’ve made a new friend. Often times, people will approach me speaking Wolof at full speed, mistaking me for a Senegalese girl, but it’s never an issue and only makes them more inclined to keep up the conversation when I say “degguma Wolof”.

After a few days of orientation, we had a cultural competency lesson on the cultural differences we might encounter here in Senegal. We split into groups and explored different aspects of Senegalese life. In my group we discussed the concentration of homeless children in Dakar and what has caused their numbers to remain so high throughout the years. Because of the reputation of Senegal as being the country of “Teranga” or hospitality, many people across West Africa know of the welcoming nature of the Senegalese. This, along with the importance of religion in this country, has enticed many young students of the Quran to leave their homes and study under the Marabouts here in Dakar. As is tradition, students are expected to bring Adiya, or a donation, in return for their studies. However, many Marabouts in Dakar have turned this sacred tradition into a form of exploitation, forcing these children to beg on the streets and receive no training after handing over what little they received from strangers. Many Senegalese can recognize these children, termed “Talibés”, and face an internal conflict when approached by one. If they don’t aid these children in collecting money, the Talibés are often beaten by their Marabouts. If they do give them money, however, they are only perpetuating a cycle of exploitation. One thing they often do instead is offer food around lunchtime when Talibés have been on the streets for many hours without food. This way they can help without necessarily supporting their manipulation.

After learning about this phenomenon, I couldn’t help but look at the young beggars in a new light, and all I wanted to do is help without harming the delicate situation. I thought about the many dangers these children face, children that are only seeking an education in the Quran, children that are only seeking a better future. I constantly wondered what could be done for these kids, and when offered an opportunity to work with an organization dedicated to their aid, I couldn’t pass up the option.

Equipe Aidons les Talibés (EAT), created by Bokoum Djibril in 2009, is nonprofit whose main purpose is to work with Talibés to provide adequate living conditions as well as offer an emotional support system in order for them to live safer lives. Working with five “Daaras”, or Quranic schools, Djibril and his team of volunteers conduct activities like happy weekend, one Talibé one sweater, Eid al-Fitr celebrations and more. They work with many sponsors to provide clothing, food, health care, education and safe play spaces for these children and foster real relationships with them. Coming on 10 years, Djibril and his team are developing more and more programs to improve the lives of Talibés as well as change the mentality of the Senegalese from feeling helpless to the situation by giving people a way to break the cycle.

Overall, it has been an incredible first month here in Senegal, and I'm very happy with the opportunities I have chosen thus far. I am ecstatic to start working with EAT and make a lasting impact on the organization, as well as effect real change for the Talibés. After meeting with a few of the other volunteers, I can tell it will be a very influential experience from which I will learn much and gain new perspectives to bring back to America.

By mhaimbodi

In my original post I stressed the importance of identity, and that for me, identity was something that I would be grappling with for the rest of my life. While my time abroad has not necessarily changed this sentiment, I think that it has given me a new confidence and maturity that can only come from time away from one’s support network and everyday familiarity. I am less reliant on the opinion of others, and I have learned that in defining identity, while your audience will always change, your definition won’t. I have introduced myself many times over the past few months, and in doing so I have gained a sort of self assurance that I didn’t know possible. I have become more confident in the impact that my words can have on others, and I am less afraid or self conscious to speak up. This does not mean that I have something to say about everything, because something that is very frustrating to me is people who don’t know when to stop talking. However, I think that the past few months have taught me about expression, and that if you have something productive to say then you should say it without extensive self doubt. Accordingly, my time has also reinforced the importance of thinking before speaking, especially when speaking about another country or culture that you are still learning about.

Upon reflection, I still am a black woman (obviously that did not change), but I think that my time in Dakar has given me a new appreciation of my mixed background. I have seen many mixed families here that have made me reminiscent of traveling with my parents and brother while growing up, and I have thought a lot about the privileges and experiences I was awarded because I have parents from two different places. I am prouder than ever to represent the histories of both sides of my family, and everyone who made it possible for me to be living, as my time in Senegal has given me a deeper reverence for family and those who came before me.

I think that the hardest part about leaving Dakar will be saying goodbye to the pace of life that I have grown accustomed to, and how welcoming the overarching community has been. I am notoriously impatient, and that has been tested greatly since my arrival in January just because of how time works here. It is very normal for things to start much later than they are supposed to, and to do a lot of waiting. This gave me a lot of anxiety (it still does sometimes), but it was also a wake up call/reminder that not everything functions according to my clock, and that sometimes it is necessary to step outside of yourself and simply appreciate that given moment. As for the welcoming nature of this community, I don’t think there has been a single day in Dakar where I’ve walked outside and haven’t greeted/been greeted by everyone I pass. It will be hard to adjust back to the impersonal society that makes up so much of the U.S, but I am grateful to know that humanity exists like this, and to have lived in a city as unique and special as Dakar.

My different communities abroad have made me think critically about my identity in many ways. Per my first post, where I elaborated on the complexities of blackness around the world, it has been interesting having now been in Dakar for over two months and seeing where I fit in. I am one of the few students of color in my program that is composed of university students from around the US. This has been an interesting adjustment to make because my social circle back at GW is mainly black students and other people of color. On top of that, this is my first time traveling and living anywhere in Africa with a group of other Americans. At my study center, one of my greatest sources of community here, there is also a law school that is composed solely of Senegalese students. There is no forced separation between the two schools, and we are encouraged to talk to the law students and make friendships, etc. However, there is a natural separation that comes with taking different classes on different floors of the building, and the language barrier that still persists with French and Wolof. This dynamic - especially compared to my friend groups at GW - has caused me to reflect on what it means for me to be an American abroad because at least in this instance I am definitely seen as a part of a larger group, and that is something that I have never had to do so vividly. Furthermore, what it means to be one of a few students of color in a large group of Americans.

The running route that I have in Dakar was another community that I referenced in my last post. I think that more than anything, this has supported and strengthened my notion that I am independent, but it has also reassured me that there are parallels between people when we least expect them. Running has solidified my sense of independence because I made myself familiar with my running paths without any guide. That is not to say that the paths are challenging, and that people have not run them before, but in a new city with a completely different climate I was proud to do this alone. The feeling of independence is also matched with a feeling of comfort because of all the other people that I pass whenever I am on a run. A simple head nod, smile, or thumbs up from a fellow runner is enough to remind me that being in charge/control of what I am doing does not  mean that I have to be completely isolated. I am running alongside people from completely different backgrounds, and with a wide range (young to old men and women, some running in flip flops and some in tracksuits), and this has reminded me that even in the midst of minor identity confusion I can still feel a part of something.


By mhaimbodi

The concept of community becomes more important than ever when you are traveling/living  abroad. While total integration is not really possible within the first few months (or ever), there are certain people and places that can definitely make you feel more at ease amidst new surroundings. I have attached a couple of mine:

One of the first things that I wanted to do upon my arrival in Dakar was find a running route. At home I run everyday, and before coming I was a little anxious as to whether or not I would be able to do the same here. It turns out that the neighborhood I live in, Ouakam, is right next to one of the longest roads in Dakar (Route de la Corniche) that literally borders the Atlantic Ocean.  I have made it a habit to run around 6:30/7 most evenings after getting home from school, as the sun is setting then and it is much cooler. For the first couple of weeks I had to adjust to the unfamiliarity of where I was, and all of the car exhaust as I am not used to running right next to main roads, but now the ease of finding my way and knowing where I am going is really comforting. Every day I feel more and more acclimated to my surroundings, and the euphoria that accompanies running is something that makes me feel even more at home.

...continue reading "Defining Community"

I believe that the most important thing for anyone in this world is knowing who you are. When it comes down to it, the anxieties and realities of life are often easier to handle when someone is confident within. That being said, because a sense of self is such a valuable thing to hold, it tends to be really hard to find. Throughout my life my background has been a source of contrasted emotions. Isolation coupled with belonging, confusion mixed with understanding and embarrassment matched with pride. I think that the majority of this is a result of having parents from two completely different places; my dad is black from Namibia, and my mom is white from America. It was not until recently, say the last couple of years, that I realized that this conflict of emotions is one that will last forever, and that knowing who I am is accepting this ongoing internal battle.

I am black. I know that there are many layers to identity, and that having a mixed race background does not cancel out the fact that I am black. However, I also know that black is perceived and defined differently around the world as a result of different experiences and encounters with other races throughout history. Living in America, where sometimes even just one black grandparent can categorize someone as black, it is interesting to observe and compare this complexity of blackness when I am abroad. In Senegal, for instance, I am much closer to being white (I have been called white already), and I am often referred to as a ‘toubab’ which is basically a name to describe white or wealthy foreigners. It is also different having travelled in South Africa and Namibia where the term “coloured” historically differentiated people who appear like they could be mixed race from black people, but who would still be considered black in America.

Although I have only been in Dakar for a little over two weeks, my sense of self has already been greatly impacted. Something that I am still coming to terms with is how visible I am, which comes from looking obviously different from the majority of the population. While my hyper visibility is sometimes really uncomfortable, I am going to make the effort to use it as a mediator; to embrace puzzled glances or long stares, and to answer questions about where I am from, confidently. I am being challenged everyday (or every time I step outside) to confront the fact that other perceptions of who or ”what” I am are not defining. My name, which is Namibian (and clearly not American), leads to further questions about my identity, giving me the opportunity to elaborate on my background to people in a new place who are genuinely curious. The constant explaining that my mom is American, and dad is Namibian has brought me a newfound assuredness in who I am because it solidifies that that will never change, no matter where I am.

By lrich522

On Saturday, I went to a wedding with my three American friends, my four host sisters, my host brother, and their onslaught of friends and extended family members. My sisters had invited me and my friends a few weeks back. When I asked where it was, they responded "Dakar". When I asked where in Dakar they said a name that I was not familiar with, and my host brother said it's far away.. but I assumed he was just sulking about being forced to go because he hates weddings.

My friends got to my house between 11 and 11:30. We got ready together and put on our traditional Senegalese dresses (at first I was uncomfortable with the notion of wearing traditional garb but my sister explained to me that whether you are Senegalese, American, Muslim, Christian... anyone at all can wear them and it is more a sign of respect to attend these events dressed appropriately). I had forgotten to factor in Senegalese time because we didn't end up leaving until 2 pm (sorry to Clara who took half a shower so that she could make it to my house by 11).

When we were on our way out of the house I saw a big van waiting for my sisters and their posse (the first sign that should've made me realize the wedding wasn't all that close). The four of us got into my brothers car who drove us to pick up his cousin who was going to direct us how to get there since he didn't know the way (second sign). Then we got stuck in traffic, I fell asleep, and when I woke up we were very much not in the city of Dakar anymore (third and final sign).

An hour and a half after leaving, we realized that the wedding was in the region of Dakar and not the city.. classic mixup. As we drove through the sand streets, we eventually stopped once again because the other van broke down. Since we were close to the actual wedding, my host brother tried to drop us off so that he could loop back and pick up the others but then his car stalled and got stuck in the sand. We attracted a lot of attention and pretty soon there was a crowd of kids surrounding our car yelling "toubab"  (white person).

...continue reading "I’m still confused"

By lrich522

This past weekend was Easter, and while I didn’t get to participate in any egg hunts, I did get to observe how Senegalese celebrate the holiday (and I even got to eat pork for the first time since I have been here). The religious split in Senegal is roughly 95% Muslim and 5% Christian, and I would argue that the relationship between the religious majority and minority is very unique and completely different from that of the United States.

During the Christian holidays, those who are celebrating will cook massive amounts of food so that they can share with all of their Muslim neighbors and friends. On the flip side, Muslims offer food to their Christian friends during Muslim holidays. Being here during Easter definitely gave me the sense that celebrating holidays, even if you’re celebrating for your friends, is an absolute must.

Year after year on the day before Good Friday, Senegalese Christians prepare ngalakh, a sweet peanut butter dish made with fruit from the baobab tree, millet, and whatever other sweet fruits are around. Our Christian friend here told us that his mother stayed up all night and ended up making 3 massive tubs of it to share with the community. I hadn’t realized that when I was eating it for lunch that day, it had come from his house. Later, I saw all of our other friends with little personal sized buckets of it. For the rest of the weekend you would see people whip out a mini bucket and go in on some gnalakh. It is absolutely delicious and I only wish I could eat a bucket of it every single day.

...continue reading "Pass me the bucket of Ngalakh, please"

By lrich522

This past week was spring break, so my friends and I decided to plan a short trip not too far from Dakar. There were students in our program who traveled everywhere from Morocco to the Gambia to Italy to Spain. We had decided to stay in Senegal both for financial reasons and because there are so many places within Senegal that we want to see before leaving, and this break seemed like a good opportunity to do so.

One of my host brother’s friends has a friend with a house in Saly, a town along the Petite Côte, which he said we could rent for the weekend. So my three American friends along with a couple of our Senegalese friends and I were able to spend the first weekend of break there. It was extremely beautiful and definitely a tourist trap, but we had a great time hanging out, swimming, and going to the beach. We tried cooking some American food for our friends (I’m pretty sure our cooking french toast one morning then tacos with gauc that night doesn’t necessarily constitute a good representation of typical American food but we tried) and they roasted an entire chicken.

...continue reading "Spring Break: À L’aise quoi"