By Weichen Zhao
The trip to Senegal gave me an opportunity to think about my future plans with no distractions, but inspirations.
I don’t really have anything to write. I’ve expressed much in daily discussions, which Mr. Alter and all the faculty members could prove true.
Now is just the time to really ‘digest’ the thoughts and ideas into actual life as a student at CCS who is going to face midterms in the rest of the 2016.
Then, after putting real effort to practicing the thoughts from the trip, I want to share my experience with my family from across the Pacific.
We are back on campus, and the stories are flowing in and out of classrooms, the dining hall and everywhere else that friends are reconnecting. Though the trip is over, its impact will linger. Here are some pictures to help us all remember moments from this excellent CCS adventure.
(Please note that these are only Mr. Alter’s and that they do not represent anything more than one person’s attempt to capture an experience that was different for each participant – more to come from others!)
By Lexy Carr
The group went through many endings during this trip, leaving our hearts full of hurt and sadness as well as happiness and new knowledge that will affect us as students and people for the rest of our lives. We may be happy about ending the abrupt early mornings that the donkeys and chickens brought at Kecouta’s Village, but we will truly miss the warm coat of love from the adults and the smiles of the jovial children of the village. Leaving the village may have been the saddest part of the trip, tears from everyone and small comments, most being “I’ll never see these people again.” Though we were reassured that there are other ways to keep our relationship with Ngognani, Kecouta’s village, strong.
The next saddest moment followed shortly after our departure of Ngognani: dropping off a friend that had spent most of the trip with us, Bandia. Not only was he a respectful young man who determinedly practiced his English, but he was also a cool guy to hang around. Darius could vouch for this, being as though he had many silent conversations with Bandia during our time in Ngognani. Through hand movements and a little bit of charades, they were able to build what one can describe as a brotherhood. As they shared their last hug I realized that a strong friendship can be maintained with little to no words.
As the group comes to final day in Senegal, we begin to reflect on the various challenges and experiences we faced and how quickly we were able to adapt. Dodging street vendors became second nature. Ice is now a figment of my imagination. The phrase “Thank you” has been replaced by “Mercí” and bucket baths aren’t so bad. My first time out of the country has been an eventful and emotional one and the start of many travels.
We are all safely in Brussels, enduring our layover as best we can (eating chocolate at 6:00AM est très difficile, by someone must do it).
Leaving Senegal was not easy. It holds onto our hearts in its own special way. Kecouta’s village, the seemingly endless feasts, and the adventures have touched us all. Our final day consisted of a trip to Goree Island, a place with both an extraordinarily painful history and beautiful vistas. There are only a few more students whose voices have yet to ring out from the trip, so be on the lookout.
For now, à bientôt.
By Caitlin O’Reilly
When I think back to these past few days spent in Senegal, I am lost to find words to capture everything that I have seen and felt. From our first night in a luxurious house right next to the ocean and two nights on an island which felt like paradise, we finally arrived at Kecouta’s calming village after a long seven hour drive. There is no doubt in my mind that our time spent in this village was the most meaningful; relationships between our cultures formed and they exposed their personal traditions to us. No story I tell or picture I took will ever be able to capture the nature of life in the village.
After spending a total of 4 days with no running water or electricity, I couldn’t help but realize how grateful I truly am. Through conversing with the people of the village and playing with the children, I felt calm and refreshed. The people in this village seemed so free and at peace. It felt like for the first time in my life, every person I interacted with was so full of life and just happy. The people were so welcoming and truly opened themselves up to make us feel at home. Seeing this really made me think about the differences between our society and theirs. I sat watching the women cook our meals throughout the long, hot days with the most positive energy I have ever seen. I played duck duck goose and ring around the rosie with the most outgoing and playful children I have ever met. Being in this village showed me how complete your life can be without having all the materialistic things we find to be so important. There was something so freeing about the dirt that covered my feet and fingers. There was a feeling of comfort when the villagers treated us as locals rather than seeing us as foreigners. Our time in this village was definitely the most impactful part of this trip. I was able to see how the simplest of lifestyles is actually the most fulfilling. In life, I find that I am always searching for larger things to make my life feel complete, knowing that we only have one shot, but these past few days showed me that all you really need to be happy are the people around you. As one of the villagers, Kecou put it, the only two things needed to live a fulfilled life is to have love and friendships.
Coming to Africa has been an experience like no other, and I have no one to thank but my parents and the faculty members that made this happen. Coming to Senegal has allowed me to first hand witness the shattering of all the stereotypes. People say that Africa is poor and that Africans are all sad and starving. I am so lucky to have been able to come here and say that that is 100% false. I have never been around such positive energy in my life, and I wish I could thank everyone in this county for showing me the true meaning of life. I found myself reflecting a lot about my personal goals in life. I continued asking myself: Do I want to follow the standards that society has set and live a fairly average life or do I want to focus on what makes me happy and what makes me feel alive even if it goes against what society sees as correct? I envy the lives of those in the village, and I somewhat fear going back to structure of the American lifestyle simply for this reason. As I know I must return back to reality and our final day is coming to an end. I am certain that these experiences will stay with me forever. I simply hope for myself that I will begin to feel less pressured by society to do what is expected and instead live a life driven solely by my passions and things that make me feel complete.
By Amanda Freeman
When I told people I was going to Africa instead of traveling home to Florida, I got many mixed responses from my family and friends. They asked me, “why do you want to do this?” and “Won’t you miss your family? You haven’t been home since August.” First, I told them I was presented with this special and unique opportunity that I will never be able to experience. Then I said that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn and challenge preconceived notions about Africa. And yes, I do miss my family, and I will miss them over break, but I know that they understand and support my decision. In these three short days, we have been confronted with many difficult topics concerning race, morals, priorities, and personal happiness. When our group has been faced with these challenging questions, we have been able to have meaningful conversations.
With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, most of us have been thinking about what our families are doing at home but another larger question stemmed from this topic. What is home? I personally struggle with the question of what my home is. I was born and raised and South Florida, have never moved in my entire life, and considered it my home. However, when I left Florida and came to Christchurch I began to also consider it my home. When Christchurch offered me the opportunity to travel to India last spring, I once again found a home that is so different than my North American homes. Once again I have found a home in Senegal.
So, what exactly makes a place home? I have come to a conclusion that home is not exactly a place but instead it is where you can be at peace with yourself and be surrounded by the people with no judgment.