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Senegal 2011

Blog posts are listed in chronological order,

read from the beginning of the trip!

Welcome Home Senegal!


Ousman, Jillian Van Ells, Ezequiel Guanire and I would like to welcome the girls back to the U.S.  They arrived at about 1:57 pm and were happily reunited with their families. Despite being on the plane since 12:30 am, the group was all smiles and up for a couple more pictures. It has been a real pleasure working with this group of young women and experiencing Senegal through their blogs. 

Welcome home girls.  We look forward to learning more about Senegal during the Global Education Assembly on September 15th!


Posted by on Wednesday July 6, 2011 at 07:55PM
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Reflections on N'Diawdoune

Reflections on the N’Diawdoune Village Stay


Today was our last day at the village. Although I was so excited to escape from the bucket showers, squat toilettes, and mosquitoes that characterized the village, I could not help but feel a little sad about leaving all of the friends that I made during my stay. Even though it was hard living without certain things that I have grown accustomed to in the U.S. (such as hot water and a running toilet), my experience at the village was worth being a little uncomfortable at times.

I had so many fun times at the village. I cooked (an experience that still surprises me to this day), I painted fences and windows, I taught an English class, and I even helped with some construction work. Although it might seem that I spent much of my time working, I also found some time to have some fun. For example, I played “Duck, Duck, Goose” with the little kids of the village. At one point of the trip, I went on a little adventure with my friend, Farie, to her house. Last but not least, I had a fun dance party with about a hundred kids during our going away party.

Because of these certain experiences, I have grown a lot as a person. I have learned that I am able to live without certain things that I once thought of as a necessity (such as hot water and electricity) and still be able to survive. My stay at the village also made me more aware the amount of water that is really necessary to use. In the States, I would use vast amount s of water. I would take 20 minute showers and leave water running. At N’Diawdoune, the bucket showers limited my water intake. This allowed me to realize the amount of water that I had been using in the past was extremely unnecessary as well as wasteful. Lastly, from my interaction with the kids of the village, I learned how to be more patient. In the past ,I use to avoid little kids because I didn’t have enough patience to deal with kids’ high energy and their excessive need for constant attention. Although my patience level is still not where I want it to be, I am proud to day that my stay at the village has caused my patience has grown tremendously.

Overall, the village has made e a stronger, wiser, and a more conscious person. Even though m y stay at the village was very short, my time there has caused a huge impact on my life. This might sound cliché, but I can attest to the fact that it does take a whole village to raise a child. N’Diawdoune village has contributed to my spiritual and mental growth. Because of this, I am forever thankful to N’Diawdoune and my experience in the village.

-Kayla Kelly

Posted by Mrs. Melissa A. Brown on Tuesday July 5, 2011 at 10:26AM
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Nature Walk


Yesterday, in the middle of watching an intense soccer game, Ousman announced that he was going to take us on a nature walk.   After begrudgingly conceding and ridding ourselves of the children clinging to our footsteps, we embarked on a walk to two gorgeous locations: the first being the highest point behind our village and the second being the top of a hill overlooking the river.

On our adventure to the highest point, Ousman pointed out the Mauritanian sands slowly spreading over the Senegalese border, sands which could speculatively cover a majority of Senegalese territory in fifty years. He explained that in result this sand would eat away nutrients in the ground which in turn could slow and even prevent plant growth and hurt the country’s agricultural economy. In other words we felt bittersweet. On one hand we happily appreciated the gorgeous landscape, dotted with trees and brush, well on the other hand we felt sadness as we acknowledged that the passing of time would essentially completely alter the picturesque landscape.

 Luckily, we managed to snap photos of the miles and miles of scenery allowing us to capture a beautiful moment in time. We then embarked on another walk to the river and crossed through the village. As we had never entered the village from our observation point, Amanda wouldn’t cease her claim that we had walked so far, we were in another village… We then passed straight through the village, crossed the road and hiked up a hill to a spot where we could see the river stretching for miles. Ousman pondered aloud the possibilities and potential such a fertile, green, gorgeous area could have. These endeavors would potentially include a five star golf resort, a 30 story building looking out upon the water or even his personal fortress of solitude aka his home. In contrast, I appreciated the land not only for its potential in the future but for its present state as being 100% natural.

After walking back to the village, we realized that we wanted to see the setting sun from the point atop the river so Nicole, Jamie and I sprinted up the hill in order to capture a picture while Ousman, Guan and Amanda walked behind. All in all, the nature walk placed an emphasis not only on Senegal’s future potential but on its present serenity.

P.S. Ousman you’re the bomb.com.


Posted by on Saturday July 2, 2011 at 09:00AM
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She's mine!


The possessive attitudes that the kids from the village have in regards to us is defiantly a defining characteristic of our stay here in Ndiawdoune. The way that the kids treat other kids from families that we don’t ‘belong to’ is something very hard for all of us to understand. But I also think that it says something about the massive amounts of pride that every person here has in themselves and their accomplishments. To us, being the first to grab a girl as she hopped off the bus doesn’t seem very significant, but when I stop to think about everything that entails (from waking up early in case we arrived in the morning, to sitting outside in the heat all day long until we did finally show) I find myself a little more understanding of the reasoning behind their possessive attitudes. Let’s be real, back home if I worked really hard to buy myself a puppy I’d be really mad if my neighbor decided it be cool to take my puppy. As much as I don’t want to put us on the same level as a puppy for them we are something new and unique that they don’t normally get to have around. The kids here are incredibly kind and generous but they are most defiantly prepared for battle whenever they feel that they are being challenged. Looking at their behavior from an outsiders view the constant hitting, pinching, shoving, and tripping that they do in order to maintain their place by our sides seems ridiculously cruel and unnecessary, but I also feel like it’s just one more thing that helps prepare them for life as they fight for top academic spots in school, distinguishing themselves in a family with 7 siblings, or even obtaining food for the day. It may seem crazy but I really do admire these kids for being able to accomplish their goals and their determination not to let anything stand in their way.


The second all of us stepped of the bus in Ndiawdoune, the kids swarmed us and claimed us as their own. Three girls grabbed my hands/arms and now, they basically have “ownership” of me. No other kids are allowed to hold my hands as my three girls hit any other kid who tries. They introduce me as their “Tuabab” and they also give us new names. My three girls all want my name to be their names, so my name changes depending on which one I am talking to. Sometimes I am Fama, sometimes Koura and sometimes Maman. The kids are all really nice to us, (except for the times when we are pretty sure that they are making fun of us in Wolof) but they are often pretty mean to each other. Last night I was with a group of about 20 little kids. One girl who is not one of my girls gave me her bracelet so I decided to give her one of the bracelets I was wearing in exchange. The other girls around me got mad and took the bracelet away from the girl and made me take it back. I tried to hold that girl’s hand again later, but the other girls hit her and made her go away. I really liked that one little girl but I didn’t even get a chance to ask her what her name was. None of us really understand why the kids are so territorial. They are all so sweet and friendly when there are only a few of them around, they just get so crazy and territorial when there are tons of them and few of us. If the kids could just share all of us then the village stay would be perfect.

                ~Nicole R.



Posted by on Saturday July 2, 2011 at 08:51AM
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Stickers are seemingly useless, seeing as they provide minimal decoration and then peel off before you get the chance to enjoy their plastic beauty. Back home in America, teachers give their students stickers for a job well done, or parents use stickers to motivate their children at home. Whether sparkly or holographic, scented or scratch and sniff, stickers are easily accessible and relatively cheap.

However, in Senegal, stickers seem to be viewed as prized possessions that only come along every once so often. While it was easy for Jenna to go to CVS and buy a 1200 book of stickers for $2.99, when we tried to distribute one sticker to each child in the village, chaos ensued and mayhem broke out. Jenna, Nicole, and I tried to separate the sticker sheets and hand them out evenly, and the kids saw the three of us as an opportunity to grab more than one. While I understand that stickers are rare in Senegal and therefore seen as more special and elaborate than they are in the US, these children would go to extreme lengths just to get their hands on one. “The sticker fiasco of Senegal ‘11” made me realize how we take the smallest things for granted, as cliché as that may sound. As I sit here and type, the children are still banging on our gate and trying to climb the wall in a desperate attempt to acquire more of the rainbow plastic that Jenna so casually brought along her journey to Senegal. While the riot noises have died down, I still see a little girl’s head peaking over our 6 foot cement wall, eagerly trying to strip Jenna of her prized stickers.

Conclusion: In America, stickers make the world go round because they motivate children, signify success, and add a spark of excitement to everyday life. In Senegal? Stickers start fights and cause tears. Riots go down, and we Americans are left feeling shocked and dumbfounded, all for the sake of sticky sheets of paper, covered with lady bugs and ponies.



Posted by on Thursday June 30, 2011 at 01:50PM
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Stay tuned in for news on our Service Project

Posted by on Wednesday June 29, 2011 at 04:29PM
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Football, that's soccer to you


I played soccer off and on from the age of 5 to 13. From center defense, my favorite position and the one I perfected, I could constantly keep my left and right wing defenders in check, as well as follow where the midfielders, and their opposing team counterparts, were heading with the ball.

I learned soccer in a very calculated and orderly manner. The #1 rule for me: pay attention. Rule #2: stay in motion. If the ball stayed on the left side of the field, I moved towards the left, and simultaneously checked which forwards and midfielders were open so as to prevent the ball from getting anywhere near the goal.

I always had to anticipate the other team’s plan, probably the biggest part of defense, since failure in my job meant an easy point for them, and more work for our team’s forwards to get another goal.

In some ways, this mindset became difficult to translate in Senegal, even though playing with them was a great way to end a long day in the village.

First, the smaller children have never attended soccer camp, and only know how to play the game from TV, radio and newspapers. There is no “structure” to the game, except people who score goals, and people who don’t. “Goalie” was the only designation for a player that I could recognize.

Due to the lack of organization, I had trouble keeping a few of my teammates on our side of the field. Defending a goal is not as glamorous as scoring in one, and it’s easy to run to the ball as soon as it gets close to you.

It takes patience to step back and let the game play out. Unfortunately, I played for “Le Petit” team, where all my teammates stood less than 5 feet tall, and were under 12 years old.

Personally, I don’t know any 10-year olds who can sit still for 5 minutes, let alone wait for a good opportunity to take control of the ball.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I didn’t enjoy playing with the N’diawdoune boys. In fact, I ended up playing for 2 hours because I had so much fun.

I paled in comparison to their talent, so I decided that I would become more of an obstacle to the opposing team than a threat.

I ended up taking my role so seriously that I body-checked an amazingly talented forward that came a little too close to the goal for my taste. The look on his face was priceless when he looked up, not understanding how this little American girl had just made him dive headfirst into the sand.

With infinite energy and spirit for the game, the boys kept playing long after I had to go back to our group house to reconvene with everyone else. In the end, not playing by the rules worked out in Senegal much better than enforcing official rules, choking the fun out of it.

-Nicole B

Posted by on Wednesday June 29, 2011 at 04:27PM
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I think we all agree that Saint-Louis is the bomb. The city has a very different atmosphere than Dakar—it is definitely more French. We stayed in a hotel on the water and ate Vietnamese, Moroccan, and traditional Saint-Louis ceebu-jen—a mixture of fish, rice, and root vegetables. Like Dakar, we walked through markets and haggled for fabrics and jewelry. At lunch on Monday, a new contact from Ndiawdoune, Ousseynou, came to talk to us about what we would do in the village. We then visited an organization located in the “ghetto” of Saint-Louis, Pekin, AFE (Action Woman Child)—an organization which helps pregnant women before and after their babies are born. And finally, we visited another group of women who have formed a sewing club to help women of the lowest class, maids, become more independent, so hopefully one day they will have a business of their own.

At night, we attended a traditional Senegalese sabar—a dance with African drumming. Many of us found the nighttime excitement one of the best experiences so far. We showed off some of our own talent to give Americans more credibility when it comes to African dancing—Jenna did flips and we all released our own African swag. We met Maren’s friends from Saint-Louis, the Saint-Louis Soldiers—a semi-famous Senegalese hip hop group, and they attended the dance with us and gave us insight into the modern Senegalese youth culture.

Saint-Louis felt much more intimate than Dakar. The city is gorgeous, much more Western, and very spread out. When we arrived, we did a “silent” walk from one end of the island to the other. We arrived on a Sunday and walked through streets of children playing soccer and other games. When we walked along the water, I saw three little boys who hardly wore any clothing and were playing soccer with bare feet and a beat up plastic water bottle. All I could think about was how little the kids had and yet how much fun they were having. The intensity of their game and their content really struck me because I could never imagine playing with a plastic water bottle myself. Amanda and I sat with Ousman on the water and discussed the contrasts between Saint-Louis, Dakar, and Senegalese culture in general. When I mentioned the three boys playing the street, Ousman told us about his own experience in Gambia, and he described how he has had surgery on his toes due to the effects of playing on the street. His own personal experience brought to life the children I saw playing on the street.

As we sat under the stars and chatted about other issues, we discussed one of the most apparent issues in Senegal—trash. Ousman explained how there is no system to channel the trash and how trash removal is not a priority when many people are just getting by. The river bank in Pekin was a complete dump by American standards—we walked along the river next to trash pile after trash pile and the smell was suffocating. My immediate instinct was that I wished I could do something about it. Yet I came to an important realization. Westerners come to countries like Senegal, see the problems, and want to “fix” them. Yet by simply isolating the issues and focusing attention, one can unintentionally disregard traditions and how the Senegalese themselves view the issue. An example is the stray cats and dogs. When we saw a cute litter of puppies and their mother dog, all strays with fleas and carrying who knows what, we wanted to do something about it. Yet to the Senegalese, it is not a problem—they don’t seem to mind. Ousman told us that the most important way to effectively become involved is for a country to send their own people to Western country so that they will return and bring change with them. His passion as he talked and his emotion for both Senegal and the Gambia moved us. He has brought a group of girls from Holton for the past 3 years to Senegal to educate us and do his own duty to his people. In Saint-Louis, organizations asked us for help, and I hope that in the future we can and will bring change.


Posted by on Wednesday June 29, 2011 at 04:24PM
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Away from the urban city we had become used to, we ventured into a neighborhood of adobe houses, narrow streets, and sandy roads that usually comes to mind when picturing Africa. We avoided getting hit by soccer balls of every shape and type (plastic bottles included) to slip into the cool, dark house of Adnad, our guide of the day.

Adnad has run a workshop for Senegalese girls for several years now to teach them to make batik fabric, in turn teaching them independence and self-sufficiency to sell their own artwork. Today was our turn to create individual works of art with wax, cloth and dye.

We divided in half, with four of the students practicing the folding method with one part of our cloth, and the other half experimenting with paintbrushes and stencils on the second part. Jamie, Amanda, Rachel and I started off with the latter method.

I decided to free-hand my design, painting hot wax with a paintbrush on my blank, white canvas. I ended up with a series of curvy lines connecting together like branches on a tree. I added a splatter effect as a final touch.

Amanda incorporated a palm tree, flowers, and various other designs, also with a paintbrush, and Jaime used mostly stamps to create vivid patterns on the cloth. She also utilized the splatter of the wax. Rachel’s cloth was a combination of all of the elements, with a partial border of stencils and free handed suns, with, of course, splatter.

For our second piece of cloth, we decided on a folding method, whether in triangles, rectangles, or staircase. From there, we could dip the cloth into the wax however we liked to create a pattern when unfolded.

The last step, dyeing, was like watching a magic trick unfold before your eyes. The final color rarely matched the initial color when the cloth was pulled from the tubs of dye. The red, for example, at first looked like an army green, nothing like the beautiful brown-rouge color that finished pieces boasted.

And the green? It was blue.

At the end of it all, we looked on at the clotheslines filled with yellows, greens, blues, and reds of dots, squares, painted designs and stenciled pictures. The cloth themselves wouldn’t dry in time for us to leave, but we anticipate seeing them on our return to Dakar for the last time before we board our plane to Paris.

-Nicole B


Posted by on Sunday June 26, 2011 at 06:47PM
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Lessons of Language, Service and Courage

Goodbyes can be both painful and rewarding. They give us closure, and at the same time, saying goodbye opens up new avenues and gives way to fresh experiences. Today, we departed from our host families, giving our gifts and taking pictures to preserve our memories. Kayla and I had our final breakfast and hurried to the Hotel Oceanic for our morning meeting. Even after we were clearly gone and would be leaving Dakar altogether in 2 days, I still could not transition away from our family. When leaving the American Ambassador’s residence, I thought, “Okay, so now we will take a taxi back and Kayla and I will walk home to our family from the ACI center”, and then I had to stop myself because home was no longer home. Only after saying goodbye did it strike me how much I will miss staying with our family.

The American Ambassador’s residence was absolutely beautiful and shockingly contrasted the dirty, inner city of Dakar. We were all in awe as we entered. The richness of the decor, the elegance of the “tea”, and the eloquence of the Ambassador’s speech differed greatly from a family meal with our Senegal host family. We had forks and knives, napkins, and even glasses for water—simple aspects of eating I used to expect but now recognize as unnecessary. Although I must admit, I very much welcomed the air conditioning.

During the “tea”, the Ambassador embraced the subject of our trip and relayed what she obtained from her 3 years of residency. She explained how foreign service meant so much to her and how her future in Washington would involve recruitment for the State Department. If there is one thing that I have taken away from Senegal, it would be the importance of language and how language is a fundamental part of a culture—one cannot truly understand a different people if she cannot understand the local language. In only 6 days, we have learned so much Wolof. I pick up new words every day and relish the arguments that Maren gets into with our taxi cab drivers. The Ambassador and her staff speak French, yet when discussing Wolof, the Ambassador told us, “I know the greetings in Wolof”. She did, however, acknowledge the importance of the local language. She described how the Senegalese responded when others attempt to learn their language, and she claimed that they are so pleased when one makes an effort, encouraging us to do the same. I immediately thought of Maren. She so clearly stands out, yet at the same time, because of her passion for Senegal and Wolof, she fits in so well.

Although the Ambassador’s residence was an exciting visit and very different from Dakar, the most exciting experience was the market we went to this afternoon. I have never come face to face with so much begging, persuading, and following in my life. We had two or three men tagging behind us, speaking in limited English, and never leaving us alone. The market was a jungle and we were the prey. I know that even a month ago, I wouldn’t have been able to handle the intensity of the hustlers, but this trip has made me stronger. I managed to keep a straight face and stare into the eyes of the hagglers, never wavering and demanding my price. Nonetheless, I was still ripped off, but the experience was so exhilarating that I believe I gained something very valuable—courage. I’m now more equipped for the busy streets of Paris and crowded sidewalks of New York City! Vendors and street sellers came up to our faces, thrusting their merchandise at us and speaking in different languages until they got our attention. At one point, holding my bag tight against me, I said to Ousman, “Isn’t this fun?” He responded, “I HATE this”. I’m not sure that I would ever return to the market simply because it was so stressful and tiring. I will say, however, that I never expected the strength that I found, and confidence is priceless.

Upon returning to the hotel and heading out for dinner, I realized that the day was both sad and rejuvenating. Though we all lamented leaving our host families, goodbyes gave us a new beginning. Contrasting experiences, such as visiting the Ambassador and haggling at a crazy market, ultimately shape our world view in different ways. These experiences have taught us not only about Senegal but also something about ourselves.


Posted by on Sunday June 26, 2011 at 12:49PM
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La Famille

Today we had planned on visiting a market and meeting with a famous, female, Senegalese journalist. However, because of the protest taking place downtown, we were unable to meet with her or go to the market. Although the protest did not physically affect us, we later found out that the journalist was one of the main organizers of the protest because she is actively involved in the Senegalese government. Since our plans fell through, we decided to have a long and leisurely lunch (to aptly capture the concept of “Senegalese time”). After lunch, we had the day to spend with our host family since tonight is the last night we will stay with them. We wanted to compare how various families in Dakar live and we wanted to meet the other girls’ host families, so we visited the other homestay families.

It was really interesting to see that although the families vary in terms of things like religion, the size of the family, and various ages of the members of each family, every single house welcomed us openly and sought to make sure that we were comfortable. In Senegal, this hospitality is known as “teranga” and is one of the most important underlying values of the Senegalese culture.

When we got home, we spent time with our own family. One of our host sisters was returning to Paris tonight where she studies at a university. Before she left, the whole family, some cousins, aunts, and uncles included, sat in a circle in the courtyard and prayed for her safe journey. They sang in French and then sent her off.

After dinner we sat with Luisa and Karl, our host siblings, and taught each other card games and magic tricks. Although not all the members of our family speak English, communicating with them has become easier as we spend more time with them. Just before we went to bed, our host brother Nicholas told us that he’d never forget us. His comment made us realize that although we have been nervous and hesitant at the beginning of our home stay, we were able to form sincere, solid bonds with the members of our family. We plan to keep in touch with them via mail, email, and Facebook.

--Aashna and Amanda

Posted by on Sunday June 26, 2011 at 12:44PM
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Way to Go Holton Ambassadors

Dear Melissa,

I was so happy to be able to host your students again this year after being out of the country last year. Thank you so much for the invitation; I would love to visit Holton-Arms School and meet more of your students and staff. This year's group was, again, delightful.

Best regards,

Marcia Bernicat

Marcia S. Bernicat
U.S. Ambassador to
Senegal and Guinea-Bissau

Posted by on Saturday June 25, 2011 at 03:39PM
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Gore Island



We started our day with a ferry ride to an island- specifically El de Goree. We saw the true beauty of Dakar and gained greater appreciation for not only the privileges we have at home but also the rich culture and tradition of the Senegalese past and present. The experiences we had occurred both at the designated sights we visited and the travel in between. As we embarked on our journey, we were accompanied by a man on the ferry who constantly played rythms with a type of Senegalese instrument . Though he was clearly trying to sell the instrument, his playing set the sporadic tone for our entire visit to Goree Island.

We found the slave and women museums easily, yet we had trouble finding a guide who was willing to give a tour in English. Ousman and Mr. Guanire eventually became our tour guides and translators. Though we were frustrated, we did our best to dig deeper and find the significance of the museum while stepping back and examining how the information was presented. After leaving the Slave Museum, we visited the Women's Museum and furthered our understanding of Senegalese culture. Similar to the Slave Museum, the Women's Museum gave us greater insight into the role of women within the different Senegalese tribes. The tools and duties that women had throughout history enhanced our understanding of the past, while in the process furthering our understanding of Senegalese culture today. As we discussed at lunch on the coast of the island, many Senegalese men take for granted what the woman does and the number of duties she must juggle. As a result, we saw the understated importance of the woman's role in Senegal while appreciating our greater freedom as dynamic young women in America.

Everyday it becomes more apparent that we cannot make direct comparisons between Senegal and the United States because they are so different, but we have developed respect and appreciation for both cultures. We ended our day at Goree island by climbing to one of the highest points of the island, and standing near a humongous cannon where we viewed Dakar from above. We could observe how the breathtaking surroundings contrasted with the crowded, busy streets of Dakar. At the sound of the ferry arriving, we ran to avoid waiting another hour and luckily made it just in time. As we returned to Dakar, with the wind whipping against our faces and the calmness of late afternoon settling among us, we reflected on the places we visited and how so much we take for granted, such as the simple concept of freedom, we must now view from a different perspective.

-Jamie and Kayla

Posted by on Thursday June 23, 2011 at 06:49PM
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Ice cream and Reggae

After our first night in our homestay, Jenna and I were treated to a breakfast of French bread with Nutella. Despite the French language barrier that we faced, our host family remained patient and understanding, and even walked us to the Baobab Center, our unofficial headquarters where we meet before we go out.

We debriefed as a whole group on our home-stay experience and headed off to the Senegal Peace Corps HQ. We got a presentation on Senegad, The Senegal Gender and Development Project that helps women throughout Senegal to fight gender issues, by Ellen,  a Peace Corps volunteer. She discussed significant statistics on gender roles and problems like how 65% of women in Senegal believe that men have the right to beat them, and only 7.5% of employed women have formal wage jobs, or jobs outside of domestic services. It was eye-opening and hard to take at times, but gave our group a real context that wouldn’t be talked about anywhere else. Plus, Ellen, who had worked in Senegal for 36 months, had great personal insights to share.

Everyone returned to their homestay for the rest of the afternoon to spend time with their family. Jenna and I played with a little girl named Marigama, who thoroughly enjoyed playing “jump over the rope”. The game entails tying the rope to a chair, one person holding up the other end, and a second person jumping over the rope. It’s the reverse of limbo. We had a photo-shoot with my camera where Marigama became quite a direct photographer, ordering Jenna and I to pose: with water bottles, with sunglasses, with her.

-Nicole B

Later that evening, after chillin’ at the house all afternoon, Nicole and I quickly ate dinner and then began the challenging task of finding our way to the Baobab Center. Luckily after Ousman’s help earlier that day, we ‘found our way’. We all met at the Baobab Center, with the addition of Kayla’s host brother Mohammed and his friend Abdullah who made our trip all the more exciting. We then walked down the street and waited while Maren, our Putney leader, Abdulla and Muhammed found a ‘car rapid’. During our wait, Ousman bought some kind of tropical fruit for which you suck the fruit off the seeds (I personally found it too tart while other members of our group were bigger fans).

We finally began our journey to the concert, and Ashna displayed her hair braiding talent when she managed to braid my hair while the bus moved the streets of Dakar, as only a "car rapide" can.  We arrived , discovered we were a bit early for the Reggae, and embarked on an ice cream trip for Jillian’s Birthday. At the ice cream shop, we discussed a flavor which reminded our group of America, Obama, chocolate mixed with vanilla. Unfortunately, our group managed to discover how badly I eat ice cream when I got it everywhere, including my shirt, my face, my hair and my arms. Luckily, between Jamie’s napkins, Amanda’s wipes and a cup, we got my situation somewhat under control. Upon finishing our ice cream, we walked back to the concert and found it in full swing. Maren took Nicole, Jamie and me and ‘forced’ us to dance front and center. A quick glance around showed us everyone was enjoying the concert including our wonderful dancing trip leaders. Amanda showed her wild side and got on stage, dancing and displaying her peace sign…however, she was promptly ushered off. After the concert we went around the corner and waited for the ‘bus’. During our wait, Maren, LAge and Muhammad showed off their superior dance skills…

Posted by on Wednesday June 22, 2011 at 03:40PM
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SOS Orphanage and Homestays

Today was our 1st full day in Senegal and man was it full, from treks through Dakar to wedding proposals from taxi cab drivers all of my sense have been on overload! In our morning meetings Aashna and I worked with a 25 year old college student who had 4 sisters and 1 brother. All of whom are either in college, graduated or on their way. She seemed very proud of her family, and really I was too! We also met a college student named Fernando who is here studying Wolof for 3 months from Boston University. It was really cool to talk to another American about the reasons why he wanted to come to Senegal.

We went and visited the SOS orphans village and I’ve gotta be honest, I feel like the U.S. should take some notes. They’ve organized the center so that the kids (10-15 of them) into homes, each with their own SOS mother to help care for and love the children in their house. The kids stay until they’re 16 and even after that their clothes, school fees, and care are still provided by for the center. It seemed to me like one of the best systems to raise orphans that would still allow them to properly integrate into general society without too many difficulties.

Okay, now the fun part, HOMESTAYS!!! Today is the first day in our homestay for Nicole R and me. I was really nervous, especially since our short visit during the day had only introduced us to our two sisters. But when we finally arrived I was slightly un-nerved when it became clear that no one in our house really spoke English. Not to mention the fact that all the Wolof I had learned, which granted wasn’t much, seemed to go out the window when they would only respond in French. Well now it’s 11pm and I still haven’t heard any Wolof, and maybe…5 english sentences, tops, but one thing I do know is that I LOVE my family. I have a 12 year old sister, and college sister, and a mom and grandmom, although the mom seems more like another sister most of the time. They are so funny, thoughtful and kind even though I know it must be frustrating to have 2 people in your house who don’t understand a word of even the simplest things that your saying. We showed them pictures of our family and they really seemed fascinated by my pictures of my grandma and mom…they thought my mom and aunt were my sisters and that my grandmother was too young to even have kids. I don’t know what they were expected but the confusion I think we all felt trying to figure out who was who but it was really funny to all of us. I think it’s safe to say that I’m really going to enjoy living here in my house with Nicole.

Posted by on Tuesday June 21, 2011 at 07:05AM
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Girls have arrived safe and sound in Dakar

I have just spoken to Ousman Sallah and Maren Larsen (Putney's representative).  I am sure they are all tired and will sleep well tonight. 
Posted by Mrs. Melissa A. Brown on Sunday June 19, 2011 at 06:51PM
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Bonjour from France and Happy Father’s Day!

It’s the Senegal Global Ed kids signing in for our first blog post! We are currently in the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. If I had to sum up today in one word, I’d definitely pick “surprise.” No matter how many times they prepared us to expect the unexpected and to learn to go with the flow, I don’t think any of us realized just how often those words would apply to our daily activities. For example, we set out this morning – all eleven of us, unleashed on the city of Paris – to locate and travel to a West African market near the airport by metro during our lay-over. We wanted to see what life was like in an African community in France, so we could later compare the culture with what we will experience in Senegal. Unfortunately, since we arrived early on a Sunday morning, the market was still closed, but the vendors had begun to set up for the day. Determined to make the most of our experience, we bought a bag of delicious red cherries that we shared on the metro on our way to the Notre Dame.

                From the Notre Dame we embarked on a full-fledged walking tour of Paris led by Senor Guanire that included the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Besides the obvious surprise of switching our itinerary from exploring the market to marching around the city, we learned that the small surprises are often also equally delicious – specifically, in my opinion, the small detour we made to purchase hot crepes near the Tuillery Gardens. There were times when we boarded the metro without the slightest idea where we were headed or we seemed to walk for miles on end in no particular direction, but we learned that with a little patience and trust in our chaperones, going with the flow may not be as hard as it seemed. Of course, we’re still getting used to the idea of not knowing where we may be in the next hour, but after all, what’s life without a little of the element of surprise?

-          Aashna Rao


Posted by Mrs. Melissa A. Brown on Sunday June 19, 2011 at 11:35AM
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Bon Voyage Les Filles!


Bon Voyage to the Senegal group of Amanda, Aashna, Jamie, Jenna, Kayla, Nicole, Nicole, and Rachel.  The group just took off for their adventures in Senegal.  Ousman, Ezequiel, and Jillian called at 5:45 to say that their final goodbyes and to assure that the girls are in good hands. 



Posted by on Saturday June 18, 2011 at 05:23PM
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