Friday, May 28, 2010

Kevin in Senegal

Hello everyone! I have neglected this blog greatly of late, and for that I really do apologize. With internet difficulties and sheer lack of time, I have been unable to keep it as updated as I had hoped. I hope everyone is doing well and thank you so much for all the comments and birthday wishes. I miss you all very much and am excited to see you in a little over a week! But since it’s getting to the end of my adventure here in Senegal, I thought I would write one more entry before heading on back to the United States. Plus, I know some of you would really like an update on Kevin in Africa :)

The last three weeks of my time in Thiès really were the best three weeks of my entire trip. I really settled in at my internship which I continued to love and I continued to grow closer to my host family each day. My internship ended with their biggest event of the year, the May 1st celebration in honor of the day of the worker. Over 250 young women came out to march in the May Day parade in the morning and the organization put on an entire afternoon event to raise awareness regarding child workers and child rights in the city of Thiès and throughout Senegal and West Africa. The afternoon consisted of dance and theater, both of which I participated in and considering it was traditional Senegalese dancing and the theater was in Wolof, it was quite a sight to see. I made a bit of a fool of myself but in, I hope, an entertaining way (see photos). It was a terrific way to close out the internship though I found it extremely hard to leave. Thankfully I have been able to visit three times since and will visit again this coming week before heading back to the states. The internship really was the most enriching part of my whole experience here in Senegal and I really feel blessed to have had such a terrific experience and learned so much.

I finished the actual program about 3 weeks ago, turned in my 20 page paper on my internship and said goodbye to most of my fellow American students who left as soon as the program ended. Since then, I spent about a week with Elke, a good friend of mine from the states who was also studying with the year-long version of my program at our host family’s home in Dakar before heading to Thiès to spend some time with my family and the students there. Rebecca, another good friend of mine from the states, flew in Friday the 14th and stayed for 8 days. We had a fantastic time traveling around the country, visiting Dakar, Thiès and the Petit Cote. All of our 8 days were fun-filled with meeting my families, horseback-riding, dancing, live music, making friends and a ropes course in the baobabs (Senegal’s most famous tree)! By the end of trip she was speaking Wolof and looking like a local.

Though it was sad to see Rebecca leave on the 22nd, I only had 4 short hours until my dad flew in. I met an excited and fairly unscathed version of my father, having survived a long flight and going through customs in a different language. And the adventure of Kevin in Africa began. We spent three nights in Dakar, seeing some sights and meeting my family and we are currently in St. Louis a smaller town in the northern part of the country, beautifully positioned between river and ocean. We’ve been having a great time and I have especially enjoyed being able to share Senegal and all the things I love about it. My dad is even learning some Wolof. He now knows “Asalamalekum”, the word used as hello (though it actually translates as “peace be with you”) and has decided to use it with any and every person he comes across. Just imagine the two of use walking through a small town where we already look out of place with my dad greeting literally everyone, including those who are not looking at us and those in the middle of conversation or other activities. It’s quite humorous but I think has endeared us a bit to the town’s population as a whole.

Tomorrow, we’re heading on to Thiès so he can meet my family there and visit my internship site. I’m looking forward to introducing him to my coworkers and students. We plan to spend four days there and then we’re back to Dakar for another couple of nights before jumping on a plane back home. I cannot explain how difficult it will be to leave this country that has really become my home and life but I can say that I feel incredibly lucky to have had the experience I did and to come away with the feeling I have for this place. But, of course, I also cannot wait to get home and see all of your beautiful faces! I can’t believe I will be seeing you in a little over week. I really look forward to talking to you and catching up on all of your lives. Leggui, leggui (see you soon)!