Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Becoming a Resident

(The first pic is village musicians, the secound is our boat through the mangroves, next is the hotel we stayed in. The sixth pic is of WARC, where I go to school. The next two are my two adorable cousins who stay with us on weekends and Baaly their mom, my host stister)

Well, first of all, so sorry for not updating this for quite some time. It just seems to get busier and busier around here. Things have been a little chaotic over the past two weeks and I unfortunately seem to have contracted a cold but, other that, things are good. Thanks for the comments, I miss all of you and I absolutely love all the minnesota updates and, Mike, Colin's trip sounds amazing! Tell him he should email me about it. That goes for eveyone else too, I love emails!

Shortly after my last post, my family held a ceremony in honor of the four month anniversary of my host father's death. It was an all day event that reminded me very much of Irish wakes, it was definately a celebration. The ceremony consisted of very large quantities of food and hearty conversation. The entire family came, along with many friends so the house was literally filled to the brim with something close to fifty people and, trust me, if you saw the house I live in you wouln't think it was physically possible to fit fifty people in there. It was a definate experience, I had to wear a traditional outfit borrowed from a sister (see pic above) and a veil for the entire day, I had to attempt to communicate in Wolof and I was fed within an inch of my life. I have decided I cannot stay at the house for a full day on the weekend because they simply feed me too much! I met many community memebers and helped with food and child supervision. Helping out is extremely important in Senegal. Without the conveniences of modern appliances, everything takes quite a bit longer and requires more attention. It took some time to get my family to let me help since I was considered a guest but lately they have been letting me do more and more. It seems I am becoming more a part of the family.

So, next on the agenda, my family decided to go to Touba. Touba is a town about 3 or 4 hours from Dakar and has a lot of religious signifigance for the Muslim Brotherhood my family belongs to. Every year there is a huge celebration in the town, that it seems practically everyone in Senegal goes to, in honor of the most important religious figure's birthday. It's this really big deal and my family really wanted to bring me along but since they were planning to be gone for about a week there was no way I could go and miss all that class. This is where things got complicated. After many discussions sliding in and out of Wolof and French, we came to the conclusion that I would stay with my host sister, Ami, for the week. This seemed a little scary since I had only met Ami once and she lived in an entirely different part of town which meant a whole new navigating system. If you have ever been to Dakar or any other big African city you can probably sympathize with the challenges of getting around, there is no such thing as an accurate addresses or street signs. But even with the complications, I made it just fine and figured out the route to and from school. Yay!

Living with Ami was an absolute blast. She is a total sweetheart and has the cutest little 1 year old you'll ever see. My little bother and cousin stayed with her too so it was a lot of kid time but I am crediting them with my newly discovered potential in football (soccer) playing. They are in the fist picture, from the left, that's Ousmane (who is always smiling and laughing but refused to do so for the picture...I think he was going for the tough guy look), Khadim and Fallu (the baby). We really have become the best of friends and both Khadim and Ousmane have talked to my Dad on the phone! This is even more humorous considering that neither of the kids speak English and my Dad doesn't speak any French...

The day after I moved back in with the rest of the family, I left on a extended fieldtrip with the program leaders and local students from the University of Dakar. We went to a town called Toubakouta and stayed in this adorabe hotel for four days. We visited three different villages and toured multiple clinics and schools. I have never felt so welcome in my life as when we pulled up to these tiny villages. Everyone came out to meet us and the kids were so excited to shake our hands and ask what are names were. I had the priviledge of taking part in a community meeting in one of the villages. I listened to the needs and struggles faced in the village regarding pubic health and education. It was incredibly moving to see an entire community gather and discuss issues collectively. I am in awe of the sense of community here. It truely is a society that lives collectively, where everyone is dependent on each other and cares for one another. The hospitality we were shown was overwhelming and wonderful.

I visited the Mangroves on this trip as well. Mangroves are trees that grow in marsh-like ecosystems. The mangroves are extremely important to the environment of Senegal and in stopping the encrouchment of the desert. They are potected on a nature reserve and we were able to take little fishing boats through the area with the director of the reserve. Talk about gorgeous, I think I could have taken a hundred pictures.

We attended a village party later that night and witnessed (along with pretty much the entire town) a drum performances by two local groups. After the performance, the audience was encouraged a dance so, of course, the American students were dragged up to make fools out of ourselves. I have been trying my best to catch on to Senegalese dancing but it's difficult, they dance on to a whole different beat! But, I will keep trying and hope to have it down by the time I leave :)

That's it for now, I have to get to some homework. Until next time!



  1. Yay I'm so glad to hear from you! That sounds crazy - moving back and forth between your host sister, your family, the field trip, and back to your family! I can definitely relate with the no accurate street signs or addresses. If it wasn't for friendly people on the street I definitely would have gotten lost a lot more in Kenya!
    I hope your cold goes away soon, make sure to get lots of rest! Life in another country can wear you out as it is, but especially if you're feeling sick!
    It's really fun to see the pictures of your host siblings/nieces/nephews (hopefully that covered them). They're adorable! And you look great in the traditional dress. :) You should bring one home!
    I don't think I have any updates here that I haven't emailed about... Oh, Happy Valentines Day!
    Keep the posts comin!! :)
    Your movie-watching, card-making, popcorn-eating, gossip-sharing parter in cold, snowy Wisconsin

  2. Thanks for a great post Kaela!

    Loved hearing about the mangroves. Last year I was reading a story with my first graders and it mentioned a grove of mangroves. I didn't know what they were myself, so had to look it up. Now I know a lot more. Cool.

    My favorite pic is of the musicians- I only wish I could hear them too.

    So glad to hear everything went well at Ami's, and we will all be looking forward to a demo of the Sengalese dancing when you get back home. (that still gives you plenty of time to get it down)

    Hope you are feeling 100% very soon!

    Love to you, Maura

  3. Kaela!

    Beautiful pictures and amazing stories about your experience in Senegal! Sounds like life is very busy but also exciting for you.

    I'm also glad it went well at Ami's although I can imagine how nerve-racking that decision was to spend a week with someone you hardly know in a foreign country! The kids are adorable and I laughed to myself thinking about Kevin talking to them and they don't speak English! Cute :-)

    You look beautiful in the dress and I'm so glad you are feeling more and more like part of the family! They are so lucky to have you. Hope you're feeling better and things continue to be exciting for you! It is so fun to hear about your experience!

    Sending lots of love, Katie

  4. Hi Kaela,
    I had to read your post twice to get it all.
    The pictures are amazing.
    What experiences you are having!
    And I learned something too-mangroves.

    What a fun dress!

    I am glad the people are so welcoming.
    That fun call with Kevin must have been wild.

    Sending my love,