13. Bonjour! Bonjour! Ca va? Ca va bien. Et tu bien? Bien! If there are ten people in a room, you must walk around and shake hands and exchange greetings with each individual. When five people walk into a room with ten people this can last awhile. Oh and repeat with goodbyes when leaving, allow 20 minutes to leave any room or place. Did I mention photos?? You’ll need to take photos with every person’s cell phone.
12. There is no such thing as time. And everything takes longer than you think (see above). You can’t really hurry when it’s 105 degrees.
11. You are not entitled to electricity, water and wifi at the same time. If you have two out of three, life is great. If you have one, life is good.
10. Always, and I do mean always, carry toilet paper on you. TP is more valuable than currency. Trust me on this. Oh go ahead and keep some wetwipes on you too.
9. It’s not hot. Unless the Senegalese are saying it’s hot or il fait tres chaud. Then it’s 112 degrees.
8. School is only canceled for one of two reasons: the teachers are on strike or the classrooms have been invaded by snakes. Just another day in the Casamance.
7. Everyone looks good in a nice coat of red dust. If you’d like to really do it up right, ride with the car windows down…or on a donkey cart or a moped. But probably you’re walking. That’ll work too.
6. You should definitely bring a Lifestraw with you. You won’t actually use it because it would insult your host, so you’ll just drink the “sweet” water from the well. But you’ll feel so much better having that Lifestraw in your bag in case of an emergency. It was an emergency, you missed your chance.
5. Malaria isn’t scary, you’ve got pills for that. It’s the Dengue and West Nile you need to worry about. And if you’re American, those mosquitoes are looking for you.
4. Sweat soaked clothes are a fashion statement. Not a particularly good one, but it’s a look that you can achieve several times per day.
3. You like your knees. Your significant other likes your knees. Senegalese do not like your knees, cover them.
2. When a vendor tells you a price, offer half of that and feel good about your haggling skills. Then your host teacher will let loose a string of Pulari and next thing you know you’ll get money back. Give up, you’re an American, you can’t haggle.
1. It is best not to ask what you are eating – just put it in your mouth and hope for the best. It always tastes good and there’s like only a 50% chance it’ll make you sick.
Africa will change you. Possibly by gifting you with spider eggs laid under your skin or a string of beads around your belly, but more likely because the people are welcoming, innovative, strong and full of dreams for the future of their beautiful land and culture. These are a people who want better for themselves and their families, they are committed to becoming global citizens that contribute to the betterment of the world.
What have you learned in your travels? Comment below and remember a sense of humor is universal!
We have arrived in Kolda, in the Casamance region of Senegal south of The Gambia. I hopped a small plane from Dakkar to Kolda. Our pilot was a french Prince Harry lookalike and our co-pilot was a Jessica Alba impersonator from South Africa – quite a flight crew! There were no flight attendants, but the copilot did turn around and indicate where the emergency exit was (the door we came in) should there be an “incident.” The flight was smooth sailing with beautiful views of Dakkar, the Gambia River and Casamance. We landed on a sand covered tarmac about one hour later. In the small cinderblock building, a man collected our passports and entered our names into a logbook. Our host, Fanta Fofana (you will find her in many of the pictures I’ll post) was waiting for us with her family. We milled around the building waiting for the "ground crew" to carry our bags from the plane to that porch you see in the picture, the African version of a luggage carousel. We hopped into the car with the men while Fanta hopped on her motorbike and took off down the dirt road ahead of us in her bright pink Senegalese dress. I didn't capture a picture of her but here is a street view of Kolda.
Our hotel has A/C and wifi, although neither work quite as they should. As I type, I’m tucked under my mosquito net and I will likely need to head down to the open air dining area to have enough wifi signal to upload this blog (update: I'm under the thatch roof dining room and opting for small picture sizes to reduce the upload time, also I'm worried the power might go out soon). My A/C quit in the middle of the night, so I slept under the net with the windows open listening to the sound of insects and birds I cannot name and the voices of revelers out in the street. It’s over 100 here, so it’s on the warm side to say the least. And I've just discovered there's no running water. I'm sure it'll come back on some time today..... or maybe tomorrow. Below you can see my bed, or my command center since if I'm in my room I'm probably hiding from the bugs in there. Also you can see the dining and pool area of the hotel. The picture makes it look quite lovely, but you know what they say about looks.
After checking in, Fanta and her husband took us to meet a number of very important people including the Education Inspector for Kolda, the Colonel of Kolda, the Secretariat of the Forestry Service of Casamance and the Director of the Research Institute in Kolda. The Colonel attended a military school in England and had visited the USA twice, so his English was excellent. We had a lovely chat in his beautiful and very large office with a chilling AC. The military compound was well-maintained and probably the most attractive building in Kolda. The colonel had a soldier take pictures of all of us and indicated he would send us the photos – so here’s hoping but in the meantime I was able to snag one with my iPhone. In an attempt to be culturally appropriate I delivered Poinsettia Groves (located on US 1 in Vero) orange and key lime jellies to each person we met. My suitcase will be much lighter on the way home!
I feel somewhat incapable of finding the words to describe this experience. Everything is so different here, the buildings, the streets, the sea of humanity, the trash, the heat, and the lack of clean water but at the same time so much is the same. The people talk of many of the same problems that we have in the USA. Educators talk about access to education for all children, improving the quality of the education, and getting more students to college. The scientists talk about diseases that impact their livestock and crops, breeding resistant plants and animals, and training farmers on best practices. The forestry service is dealing with logging and poaching, determining best management practices, and training people to use the forest sustainably. These could practically be headlines from our local and national papers.
Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on Sleeping Sickness in cattle and Sustainable Forestry Practices.
Imagine the voiceover guy, "Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive from Dakkar, Senegal - it's the Monarail! After almost 24 hours of travel, I have reached my first destination, the King Fahd Palace Hotel. My world travelers, or those of you that want to be world travelers, I have a recommendation. Purchase the upgrade for your flight - any upgrade that gets you a smidgeon more legroom because while everyone else will walk off the plane wilted, you'll hit the tarmac feeling like a princess.
Of course it's hard not to feel amazing when you've just flown across the Sahara Desert at sunset. Attention Honors Biology students, identify and briefly describe one plant or animal that can be found in the Sahara desert, pay particular attention to any special adaptations they might exhibit. Be sure to make sure you are not duplicating someone else's organisms - no repeats!
We flew in to Senegal on their Independence Day, so the flight crew welcomed us in traditional dress and sang their national anthem. It was a really special way to begin our adventure in Senegal. In fact, tonight we are meeting with a tailor who will be making us traditional Senegalese clothes from their famous fabrics to wear during our time here. It should help keep us cool in the 105+ degree temperatures we'll be experiencing and also honor the cultural traditions and norms of our hosts.
The very first thing I noticed as we walked across the tarmac in Dakar was the smell of the salty ocean air - it reminds me of Maine. And there are palm trees everywhere which is much like Florida. What a wonderful combination of my favorite places in a land so far from both - it is extraordinary. The hotel is located on the Atlantic and I have a lovely view of the ocean from my room. Below you can see the beach and the city, it is currently about 70 degrees and breezy. A wonderful respite from the heat I will be encountering when I travel to Kolda in a few days. Stay tuned!
About this Blog:
I am a former Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow, a program of the U.S. Department of State. I have completed graduate level training in Global Education and traveled to Senegal in April with the program to explore their educational system. This blog is a piece of the global education guide I have created to support other teachers and students in globalizing their classrooms. My focus area is life and environmental science and understanding the interconnectedness of Earth. For more information on the fellowship please visit the IREX website.