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Senegal Social

The “Senegal meet-up” made me feel so nostalgic. Mr. Taylor had prepared a slide show that captured the trip perfectly, and I’m really hoping that my parents will let me go back next year. They may think I’m naïve, but I really want to see how the project evolves and meet up with the fantastic people I got to know, again. Also, I loved the unique possibility we had to get an insight into the vibrant Senegalese culture. Somehow, I just can’t get the thundering rhythm and sound of the tom toms, out of my mind – not that I want to of course! And the dancing- so free, energetic, and full of passion of living in the moment… take me back!

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Yesterday it was International Women’s Day. I saw a freshman boy gave out tulips to all the girls in his grade- so sweet!

Nevertheless, we talked about it briefly at lunch yesterday, and one of my friends said it’s kind of degrading that women should have their own women’s day. It’s as if every other day, their role and work in society isn’t valued whereas men’s work is- that’s why they don’t have an ‘international man’s day’. Well, whatever it may mean to someone, I think it’s a positive thing that we have a day to celebrate the achievements of women a little extra than what we may normally take notice of!

On a personal note, I would like to dedicate this post to all the women I saw and spoke to when I was in Senegal. It astounded me how much they do for their communities. Many of them, carrying water all day- every day. Cleaning, washing, cooking, teaching, and selling. I remember how we visited a tiny village, called Gandiol, and it was entirely full of women and children. There was only one very old man, the chief  of the village, who I saw. The other men were somewhere else in Senegal, most likely Dakar, trying to find work so they could send money back to their wives (yes- polygamy is not unusual…) and children. I’ll always remember these women, in their magnificent dress, and of course- a large bucket on their head! AND a child on their back.

Every day, these women carried water from the school well to the building site

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The school cook preparing lunch for all the children

Unfortunately I can't remember her name, but the cook really dressed up for our final evening in Warang. All the women were so beautiful!

This was one of the teachers who also wore a beautiful outfit for the festive evening.

One of the women in Gandiol village

Lastly I want to acknowledge Sophie, the founder of les Cajoutiers. What she is doing for these children I met in Warang is beyond words. She has devoted her life to provide an education for more than 200 children, and support their families. She has also fully-employed several people (teachers, builders, cook, gardener, bus driver…) from the local community, who all come together to help others get away from poverty as early as possible. Thank you Sophie for being such an amazing role model!

Sophie Camara and the president of 'les cajoutiers'

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Unwanted company

I think my photos so far of Senegal have been slightly skewed, as it wasn’t all super clean and exotic-looking! Firstly, it was impossible to stay clean for very long and occasionally we had some unwanted company in our shower…

I kept a close eye on him!

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Le Kenkeni

The place where I stayed at in Warang, Senegal was called ‘le Kenkeni.’ It was great, and the employees (Mathilde, Antoine, and Wally) were all very sympathetic. Sometimes we didn’t have running water, and if we did, it was only used for flushing the toilet and showering, as the water was quite dirty. Therefore, we had to use bottled water for more or less everything (even brushing our teeth!), and sanitation wipes were frequently used! As for electricity, we had occasional power cuts but we quickly got used to running on reserve energy…

view of the atlantic ocean in the distance from the terrace

close up- we lived in the more luxurious part of the village (7000 inhabitants) Some other areas of Warang looked extremely different...

We enjoyed the hammocks! Mathilde in the background and of course the many bottles of filtered water!

Mathilde always had the most beautiful clothes

Lastly the chef, Antoine, made really good food for us, although it took him a while to figure out that he couldn’t just give pasta and onion sauce to the vegetarians every day! We had 4 vegetarians with us, and fish is part of the staple diet in Senegal, so I guess that was strange for him. Well he eventually varied his food a little, but the onion sauce remained! We laughed at that part quite a lot, as every morning, we saw a large sack of onions in the kitchen and quite correctly: Antoine served us his specialty minimum once per day. Sometimes, we had a salad for starter. We were all a little skeptical, as we didn’t know if it had been washed with clean water, but most of us ate it anyways and so far, none of us dead yet! hehe For breakfast, we had pancakes and bread ‘made in the bush’ word for word, so that kept us full during the hours we spent helping out in the classrooms or on the construction site.

The kitchen. I loved how we heard everything from Lady Gaga to Senegalese hip hop coming from the rusty radio!

Part of the group on the first day- Sophie to the second left

A typical lunch (this time without the onion sauce)

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a chaotic airport as the one in Dakar, or rather, “Aéroport International de Dakar-Léopold Sédar Senghor.” It really met up to international standards with only one baggage claim for all flights and an obvious shortage of trolleys. To remind you, we had 14 large boxes filled with donations, and porters were everywhere, so it was a little of  a struggle to get out of the actual airport. When we eventually got all our 26 pieces of luggage/boxes, we had to load them all off onto a security check and soon, a member of staff insisted on seeing what was inside the boxes. We were all really nervous as he raised his voice and questioned, “C’est quoi dans la boîte?” “l’ouvrir!” He was pointing to one of our larger boxes and Janene, one of our teachers, tried to explain that there was LEGO inside it for charity. However the man obviously didn’t understand and took out his knife to cut open the box. You can imagine that feeling of someone taking out his knife, and speaking in a tone of voice that suggests you’re illegally smuggling something. Well, our worries stopped abruptly when the man was quiet for a second and exclaimed “aaaah, ils sont des jeux!” while holding up a piece of LEGO. I thought it was so funny how he said “oh, they’re games!” and kindly offered to tape the box closed for us.

That was our first kick of adrenalin, and it didn’t stop there. Porters were like flies on us, and I think the first question I got, was if I was married. If not, it was “Can you find a job for me in Europe?” “Take me with you!” “Do you want a husband?” Anyways, we finally managed to get to the bus at 4 am (1 and a half hour after we landed) drove away with our driver and “supervisor”, Wally (after unsuccessfully avoiding a large tip to the porters…)

We arrived to Warang less than two hours later. I found it impossible to sleep during the bumpy bus ride because I was busy observing the surroundings. It was night, yet I saw several donkey, pigs, horses and goats walking aimlessly. It also struck me how many lonely people were out on the streets, just sitting on a rubber tire or plastic chair and making a fire for themselves. I kept thinking of the high unemployment rate in Senegal, when I saw small groups of people simply wandering around instead of being safe at home – like they have the right to.

...where is Wally...?

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