Our first full day in Senegal is over, though we haven’t all fallen asleep quite yet (this group has a lot of positive energy – right now they’re looking up at the incredible stars!). It has been a powerful 20 or so hours for the group. Here’s a quick snapshot of what we’ve done:
- Eaten incredible food – we’ve had chawarmas at 1am on the way back from the airport, delicious French break for breakfast, thieboudienne (Senegal’s national dish) for lunch, and rice with meat and lemon sauce for dinner. Each meal has been a truly Senegalese experience.
- Met welcoming people – we have gotten to know Olivier, a Frenchman who is joining us for our time in southeastern Senegal (to translate and facilitate the experience), spent time with Bandia and his family in his village, gotten an intimate tour from a guide on Joal Fadiouth Island (an island made of shells), and been welcomed at our Airbnb by generous hosts. Students already feel like they’re at home!
- Seen beautiful sites – the coast of Senegal is beautiful and we’ve gotten to see many sides of it – sleepy villages, tidal deltas, the crashing waves of the Atlantic, boats coming back from fishing, and much more.
- Discussed important things – this group loves to share their ideas and to think about what we’re seeing and doing. It has been awesome.
To understand what the first day has been like, we recorded some of the students and adults as they discussed their favorite aspects of the country so far.
Kobe: “Being in Bandia’s village and his compound felt like being at home for the 4th of July, with my entire family together. I felt like I was surrounded by family in the same way.”
Jack: “I liked that the soccer and the wrestling brought both our community and the community we were visiting together in a real way.”
Sally: “I really enjoyed the interactions with the children at Bandia’s house and felt so welcomed by them and their presence.”
Azalia: “I liked being on the shell island and experiencing the Christian and Muslim faiths mixing together. It reminded me of my family, that has the same mix of religions.”
Jacob: “It was a very, very small moment but when we were eating lunch, Olivier tricked Annie into thinking that the hot pepper was a sweet pepper. The anticipation of who was going to end the joke was really fun – it made us feel together around a Senegalese meal.”
Annie & Betsy: “We both enjoyed being in the kitchen space with the women and the girls.” Mrs. Schaefer “I really wanted to connect with people and felt that working and helping was the deepest way I could connect without language to use.”
Connor: “The whole time we were there, I just kept thinking about being fortunate and appreciating what we have and what we saw people in Senegal having. It was about taking opportunities and people seeing the way that we are privileged in different ways.”
Joy: “I enjoyed meeting new people.”
Zach: “I enjoyed playing soccer with the guys and that was the closest I felt to the people of Senegal on our first day.”
Kobe: “Bandia reminded me of my father because he was quiet and humble but also really proud of his family and his ability to provide for it. He didn’t have to be the center of attention and was often quiet but he carried the group.”
Olivier: “This group provides hope for the future, that foreigners can be in a foreign land and still be totally open and kind and present.”
Mr. Schaefer: “In that small game of soccer and the wrestling match, I experienced the joy of rooting for someone and being part of a community without having to be against someone else.”
Please pay attention to the next post – it will be written by Jacob Osias!