RebeccaT's Travel Journals


  • From Vermont, United States
  • Currently in Vermont, United States

Living Routes Senegal Fall 2009

Living Routes study abroad program in Senegal, Fall 2009 (September-December 2009)

My Birthday, Halloween, Disappearing Money, Etc.

Senegal Dakar, Senegal  |  Nov 02, 2009
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 We were scheduled to leave for Guédé Chantier today (Monday), but the money that Living Routes in the U.S. transferred here just disappeared somewhere in cyberspace. So we will probably leave on Wednesday instead. (Imchallah...) 

My birthday was on Sunday, October 25.  My parents called me from the U.S.  My sister also called me.  It was her birthday, too; although she's three years younger than me, she was born on the same date.  Some of the other American and Senegalese students organized a little surprise party for me in the evening.  I wasn't completely surprised, but anyway it was very nice of them.  We had cake and little frozen juice popsicle things.  (These are little plastic bags of juice that have been frozen.  You bite off the corner of the bag and suck it out.  They're really good on a hot day.)  I also got some presents.  The present from the Americans (consisting of various pieces of beaded jewelry) was wrapped in the Burlington Free Press (the local newspaper from my home in Vermont) with a little fall maple leaf taped to it!  (Sam(antha), another student from Vermont, had gotten the newspaper and leaf in a package from home.) 

After dinner I went out for drinks with some of the American students.  We went to Via Via, a hostel in Yoff that has a mellow restaurant/bar/café area.  (I've been there several times before, but I think this is the first time I've written about it.  There are always a lot of toubabs there.  I've heard that rather than being a for-profit business, the hostel raises money for an NGO.)  And the night after my birthday, the French girls (who still haven't left for Casamance yet) had a friend of theirs come over and play the kora (a traditional stringed instrument) for me.  Overall it was quite a nice birthday.

Two weeks ago I started a dance class with some of the other American students.  We had two one-hour classes the first week and two the second.  The first week we worked on a couple of traditional Senegalese dances, and last week we learned a dance from Guinea.  It was fun - and very tiring! 

On a somewhat random note, I recently bought a bar of "savon carotte" - carrot soap.  Actually the first ingredient is coconut oil, so it's a lot like the coconut soap that my host family in Paraguay often used.  But it's very orange.  It smells a little strange, but other than that I like it just fine.  Anyway it's interesting; not something I ever heard of in the U.S...

Things are very colorful here.  The clothes are beautiful, and even shoes come in lots of colors.  I've probably seen as many purple shoes for sale in a couple months here as in my whole life in the United States.  And even everyday things like buckets, brooms, and trash cans are colorful.

I guess I haven't talked about attaya yet.  Attaya is a kind of tea that they drink here.  I think the tea itself comes from China, but there is a special ritual for preparing it.  They serve it in small glasses (about the size of shot glasses).  There are usually two or three glasses, and before serving the tea they pour it back and forth between the glasses a bunch of times to make a layer of foam.  Then they reheat the tea and serve it in the glasses, where the foam floats on top.  They serve two or three people at a time, depending how many glasses there are, and then refill the glasses for the next person.  They usually serve two or three rounds.  The attaya can either be just straight tea, which is pretty bitter, or it can have (lots of) sugar in it, and/or mint.  My family in Yoff usually makes the attaya with just sugar, while my family in Guédé Chantier often puts the mint in it as well.

Last week we spent a lot of time working on our projects in preparation for the second and final trip to the village.  Each group has had interviews with various NGOs, companies, and/or individuals relevant to their projects, and we've also been doing research on the internet.  One of the interviews my group (biopesticides/organic agriculture) had was with the development/environmental NGO ENDA Pronat.  We went with another group of students that is working on a local ecology guide, and As and Brooke (Living Routes staff members/teachers) were there, too.  I thought it would just be a regular interview with the students asking questions of the NGO workers, but it turned out to also be a meeting regarding the relationship between ENDA Pronat and Living Routes.  It lasted about three hours, and there was some fairly heated discussion at some points.  As explained to us afterwards that the head of ENDA Pronat is from Guédé Chantier and that her brother is a big political rival of Ousmane Pame, the mayor of Guédé Chantier and academic director of Living Routes Senegal.  So I guess there was a lot of unstated village politics behind what was actually said.

I don't feel entirely prepared for our project.  We were not able to schedule interviews with SenChim, Biogen, or any of the other companies that produce agricultural inputs.  We have been doing some general research on the internet, but we can't get too specific since we don't know what fertilizers and pesticides are actually available or in use in Guédé Chantier, and once we arrive there we won't be able to do research on the internet.  We also need to do more research in the village (talking to farmers, etc.) before we can really decide what to do for the action component of our project.  I'm worried that once we do our research and decide what to do, we won't have much time to actually do it.  But I guess we'll see what happens when we get there...

On Saturday night there was a Halloween party at Brooke's apartment.  She invited all of the Senegalese students as well as the Americans, but it was only the Americans that went.  (A lot of the Senegalese students went to their parents' houses in Thies or other places for the weekend since we will soon be away for three weeks in the village.)  There wasn't any candy, but we had music, drinks, and some interesting costumes.  (I've been trying to post some photos, but no luck so far.  I hate technology...)

We were scheduled to leave for Guédé Chantier today (Monday), but there is an issue with money.  I first heard that Living Routes in the U.S. had transferred money into the wrong account.  But apparently they actually transferred it to the right account and the money just disappeared somewhere in cyberspace.  In any case, until that gets worked out the staff here in Senegal don't have money to pay for the bus to Guédé Chantier.  So we will probably leave on Wednesday instead.  (Imchallah...)

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