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.
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.