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!
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.