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    [post_date] => 2009-07-23 00:00:00
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My name is Eva Jahn and I will be one of your instructors for this coming fall’s experience in West Africa. We are going to enter in a new world together, experiencing the simple way of being and learning from each other, while dancing to ancient drum beats and enjoyingimmense hospitality. You will be surprised, but I’ve never been to this part of the world before, like probably most of you, but feel completely blessed to have two awesome co-instructors by my side who can expose the wealth and beauty of African culture. I have learned that my role as instructor is not so much to teach you about the country where we are traveling and living, but rather to lead you to ask the important questions yourselves.

My goals for this fall are to keep you safe and healthy while exploring new territory. To provide you with skills to embrace a new culture, to restore yourself in a new challenging place, so different from what you define as “normal”. I am there for you, as your mentor, as your friend, as your cheerleader. I encourage you to be present, to absorb this new world, this new culture, this new life, and to stay present, to observe and to acknowledge your own challenges. This is your adventure and I invite you to choose the beauty and challenge of diving into it completely, to ask questions, to dance, to be authentic and find the person you really are when “home” is far away. I am proud of you for choosing this program, choosing to take thisspace before entering or returning to college life and giving yourself time to breathe, to look into yourself, to keep your senses and your mind open for a new challenge, for a different beginning after high school and for a new you. Congratulations!

I would like to encourage you to take a bit oftime to prepare yourself for this journey -read some of the books that are recommended to fill your head with more ideas and questions, pack light, and post your intro on the Yak board. I know you can’t prepare yourself for everything new and unknown that is going to happen and the emotional states that you will go through experiencing the lack of personal space, having to wait for transportation that seems never to arrive or not having a flush toilet when you really want one! And you can’t also prepare yourself for the feelings and emotions that will pass through your body when you experience unexpected kindness and generosity from people you barely know, seeing more smiles on children’s faces than you can count, being blown away by the drum beats and finding yourself dancing in a circle while everybody is looking at you….what I ask for you to bring is an open heart and mind, curiosity, authenticity and the desire to leave your comfort zone for the complete unknown. Be ready to give up some control and let yourself flow. We instructors are here to support you.

Now a bit about myself… I was born in Western Germany, but spent the past 9 years in steady movement, traveling and living in different parts of Europe before I moved to Barcelona for one year. The last 3 years I’ve spent living in Guatemala, working as a volunteer coordinator in a German NGO, as social worker in a local school and as a tour guide before entering in the Dragons world. The past winter and spring I spent time working in the Dragons office in Boulder, CO and right now I am leading my second Dragons summer trip in Guatemala. I like hiking, playing volleyball, spending all of my time at the beach. I love surfing. I like languages and I am really excited about refreshing my high school French, hoping not to get too confused with my Spanish.

Mes amis, thank you for choosing this adventure, thank you for choosing Africa. Time is passing by quickly and sooner than we know it we will meet in the dusty Dakar airport and begin a journey that will change all of our lives. Please use the Yak board to post your introduction, questions and doubts. We will be more than happy to answer them for you and it’s a great place to get to know each other.

Be well and stay healthy.
Eva Jahn

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West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

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Welcome! Instructor Letter of Introduction

Eva Jahn,West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

Description

My name is Eva Jahn and I will be one of your instructors for this coming fall’s experience in West Africa. We are going to enter in a new world together, experiencing the simple way of being and learning from each other, while dancing to ancient drum beats and enjoyingimmense hospitality. You will be surprised, […]

Posted On

07/23/09

Author

Eva Jahn

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-22 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

Hello, fellow wayfarers!

I'm from New York and I graduated HS in June. I decided to take a year off before college because I don't think I'll ever get another chance to do projects like this one! I'm spending this summer at a boring insurance broker job in the city and am currently keeping myself awake by sneaking reading breaks when no one's looking - I'm determined to finish Crime & Punishment by the end of this week. Not exactly fun summer reading!

I think my favorite part of what I've heard about this trip is the opportunities we'll have to teach English. I love tutoring and I'm especially passionate about language education (as of now, I envision myself concentrating in Linguistics in college).

I also love popcorn, tea, canoeing, outdoor concerts, memorizing poems (seriously!) and long walks on the beach.

Can't wait to set off and meet everyone!!

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West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

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Hello!!

Lynne Peskoe,West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

Description

Hello, fellow wayfarers! I’m from New York and I graduated HS in June. I decided to take a year off before college because I don’t think I’ll ever get another chance to do projects like this one! I’m spending this summer at a boring insurance broker job in the city and am currently keeping myself […]

Posted On

07/22/09

Author

Lynne Peskoe

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Hi! I grew up in Los Angeles and just graduated high school in June. I'm working as a counselor at a summer camp in Yosemite for the summer and I've been here for about five weeks. It has been an amazing experience-- I climbed Half Dome overnight to watch the sunrise from the peak just last week and swam under a waterfall yesterday!

Random facts about me: I like pretty much every kind of food; I really like science and math; I just got into the Harry Potter series this past year (late-bloomer, I know) and am on the sixth book right now; I woke up last night with a spider bite on my leg; I really like hiking, bike riding, and eating chocolate; I'm really excited to meet all of you and to explore West Africa together!

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West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

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Hello!

Ariana Sopher,West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

Description

Hi! I grew up in Los Angeles and just graduated high school in June. I’m working as a counselor at a summer camp in Yosemite for the summer and I’ve been here for about five weeks. It has been an amazing experience– I climbed Half Dome overnight to watch the sunrise from the peak just […]

Posted On

07/13/09

Author

Ariana Sopher

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Nah ngayn def? (“How are you?” - in Wolof)

I’m Mbouillé Diallo, one of the three West Africa Semester instructors. I’m Senegalese and I was born and grew up in the south before moving here to Thies (70 km from Dakar the capital city) to finish my high school studies before going to Dakar university where I got my B.A. in British and American literature and civilisation. I speak 6 national languages and three other foreign languages (French, English and a bit Spanish). I’m a returning instructor and I have been working with Dragons since the summer of 2005.

I would like first to mention how happy and excited I always feel to work with Dragons and meet the group with which I’ll share great times. It can be hard at times, but at the end you’ll always come to the conclusion that it’s worth doing.

After 4 years of experience with Dragons, I have a feeling that my personality, maturity and sense of humanity have widened so much so that I can’t help thanking God and the people who gave me the opportunity to meet such great people. Actually, my meeting with Dragons, to my mind, has been a turning point of my life thanks to the strong bonds that exist between me and all the different people I’ve met through the program. And the community is getting larger and larger. And I think my story or the story of my family makes me feel like I was meant to be a Dragons member. Because there are many things in the West Africa program that are related to my life. My grandfather (my Dad’s father), is from Guinée, a country south of mine; and my Mom was born in Mali, a country east of Senegal. And also my family’s Totema is “ Dragon” (It’s part of African animism). So, isn’t it normal that I define myself as West African?

I’m so excited to know that some of you who are reading this will soon be part of that community. Also, I have a feeling that this next program is going to be a great one too. For, with my two other co-instructors I can see that we have various and different skills that will help us make this trip a very exciting and rewarding one. By the way, I already met and worked with one your other instructors, Piper, at Peace Corps a few years ago.

Coming back to myself, I live in Thies with my small family (my wife and two sons). And I can’t wait to introduce them to you all and have you share your first days in Senegal (Africa?) with them.

I also run two radio shows on Sunday and Wednesday. I even invited some of my co-instructors and Dragons students several times on the radio. I also enjoy playing soccer, traveling, meeting and talking to people (about politics, history, development, life itself), and…hiking. Actually, the first time I started hiking was when we were running our first summer program and, believe me, I was so scared and nervous about it; but now I find it as one of the best parts of the program!


There are so many things I would like to share with everybody that I can’t wait to meet you all in a few weeks.

If you have any question, feel free to post a Yak Yak.

Mbouillé Diallo

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West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

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Nah ngayn def? Instructor Letter of Introduction

Mbouille Diallo,West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

Description

Nah ngayn def? (“How are you?” – in Wolof) I’m Mbouillé Diallo, one of the three West Africa Semester instructors. I’m Senegalese and I was born and grew up in the south before moving here to Thies (70 km from Dakar the capital city) to finish my high school studies before going to Dakar university […]

Posted On

07/13/09

Author

Mbouille Diallo

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    [post_content] => Hi everyone!
I'm Trina. I'm from New York City and just graduated in June. I'm going to be a freshman at Middlebury starting in February (they have a separate entering class then) and I'm so excited to spend my semester off in Sengal! I don't know any French so I'm curious to see how that will work out. I'm also tone/rhythm deaf so I'm sure I'll be a constant source of amusement during all the dancing I've heard goes on in West Africa. I have no idea what I want to study, but I've been slightly obsessed with Africa since I was little (but I've never been), going through a Jane Goodall-wannabe phase in elementary school. I like to read, run, swim, and do other outdoorsy stuff when I can get out of the city. My favorite food is a tie between ice cream and cherries and I can't think of any more random facts about myself to share with everyone so I hope you're all having a great summer so far!
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West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

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Hi!

Katrina Thornburgh,West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

Description

Hi everyone!I’m Trina. I’m from New York City and just graduated in June. I’m going to be a freshman at Middlebury starting in February (they have a separate entering class then) and I’m so excited to spend my semester off in Sengal! I don’t know any French so I’m curious to see how that will […]

Posted On

07/9/09

Author

Katrina Thornburgh

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Greetings Fellow Traveler!

For several weeks now I have been dreaming once again in Pulaar. They say that’s the sign that you have mastered a language—when you begin to converse in that language in your dreams. I dream that I’m walking the peanut fields with my father, the village chief, discussing how the heat has affected the year’s crop. I’m joking with my mother, sisters, cousins, as we make cous cous, commenting on the size of one another’s rear ends and who has been eating more rice. I’m at the roadside bus stop, asking the locals where I can find the best bean sandwich. The smells, tastes, sounds, and landscapes pour over me and I count down the moments until I step foot in the blissful nation of Senegal once again.

The melodies of Viviane Ndour and Babba Maal flow from my Jeep, and I have dug out all my old photos, committing to memory the best I can all of my relatives’ names, though I will undoubtedly forget a few. The infants I once carried bundled on my back are now young ladies themselves, and in a bizarre yet pleasing way, life in my village and the familiar neighborhoods of years ago will have changed greatly yet stayed so much the same.

Together we are embarking on a journey. We will be temporarily leaving behind our comfort foods, Facebook friends, air-conditioned cars, and shopping malls. In their place, we will find an appreciation for rice and chicken that took an entire day to prepare, beginning with the women’s journey to the forest to gather wood for the fire on which they will cook. We will make new friends, surprisingly some of which speak few words of any language we may be familiar with at the moment. We will travel by bus, car, perhaps bicycle or boat, the way the locals do, allowing us breathtaking views and time to reflect along the way. And of course, we will lose ourselves among the rows and rows of stalls at the marketplace where one can buy anything, from fabric and handmade peanut soap, to goats and unique spices. Most importantly, we will be temporarily leaving behind our schools of chalkboards and desks in place of the shade of a baobab tree or a thatched hut. Of course the real, true learning takes place in the conversations we have with our host families (language errors and all!), mastering the art of pouring tea so that it has an adequate amount of foam on top, and the excitement of realizing that the vendor at the market is asking you to pay $10 instead of $2 for a pair of flip flops and bargaining a lower price! As we journey together to learn from cultures and traditions much older than our own, it is our responsibility to keep our minds and souls open, incorporating what we learn into our own lives.

I vividly remember my first few days in Senegal years ago. The family that I lived with, the Li’s, just could not comprehend the concept of vegetarianism, my host brothers and sisters kept me up half the night dancing and telling stories on school nights, and the daily Islamic call to prayer at 6:00am woke me up even on days when I didn’t have to be at class. Our journey will absolutely have its challenges, which is necessary for our growth, both as individuals and as a group traveling together. It is through these challenges that we become more aware of our own selves, our strengths, weaknesses, fears and skills, and that we identify our place in the world, in relation to our host families, the Islamic leaders that we will meet, the beggar children on the city streets, and the kora player in the rural village.

Rest assured, some aspects of Senegalese culture are identical: children behave like children, curious, innocent, and sometimes mischievous, and grandmothers behave like grandmothers, offering their wisdom even when not requested, instructing their daughters-in-law how a meal “should” be cooked, and reminiscing about the days of yore when life was simpler and easier. Do not be surprised if you find a child gently grasping your finger as you stroll through a village, or if an elderly woman insists that you take an ear of corn that she has just roasted. Senegal is known for “La Teranga” or hospitality. Regardless of how much or how little a Senegalese has, he will offer you whatever is in his means, a glass of water, a hot meal, and a place to rest your head.

Each individual you meet has a different story, and holds a different worldview. My village father was certain that each family in America owned their own airplane and my dearest Senegalese friend was sure all American women wore and danced the way women do in MTV videos. By listening to others’ stories, a new space can be opened for reflection on our own belief systems and cultural habits. I am so grateful for the years I spent in West Africa, as grateful for the misunderstandings and cultural blunders as I am the weddings and holidays and soccer matches to which I was invited, for it has only strengthened my adoration for a people and a nation from whom everyone can learn.

My story is this: I am a native of the Midwest, I spent my college years in the South, my summers at camp in the Pocono’s, a few years in Southern and West Africa thrown into the mix, and now I find myself in Central California. I currently teach English as a Second Language at a local community college and spend my precious free time submerging myself in the waters and mountains surrounding me. I enjoy hiking, kayaking, seeking geocaches, and taking afternoon naps with my beyond-spoiled cat, Jones. I’m a collector of art, and love to experiment with textures and textiles, producing “wearable art.”

I received formal training in African and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University before joining Peace Corps and discovering all that which I wasn’t taught in lectures and textbooks and ridiculously long term papers. I spent just over 2 years working with a Senegalese doctor to educate and train rural populations on matters of nutrition, hygiene, maternal and infant health, HIV/AIDS, and vaccinations. Major projects included Red Cross first aid training for rural health workers, AIDS mural paintings, regional midwife training, village latrine construction and pharmacy upgrades. I can tell you that, without a doubt, I felt more joy in teaching my 20-something year old brother how to write his name in Pulaar than I did completing any of these health projects. Behold each instance as a learning moment or a teaching moment, and do not let an opportunity escape you! I am eagerly anticipating all that I will learn on this trip, for though it is my third tour in Senegal their are countless individuals whose stories I have yet to hear, including your own.

You will be hearing from me shortly, as I will be calling to introduce myself and answer any questions or concerns that you may have. I’ll also be recommending some essentials to pack for our journey and some useful pre-course reading. Please do not hesitate to call or email me for any reason, as I want you to be prepared to submerge yourself in all that you will be sensing, the rhythms of West Africa!

Looking forward to seeing you in Dakar!

Piper Scott
805.717.7565
saisaimawdo@hotmail.com

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West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

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Greetings Fellow Traveler! Instructor Letter of Introduction

Piper Scott,West Africa Semester, Fall 2009

Description

Greetings Fellow Traveler! For several weeks now I have been dreaming once again in Pulaar. They say that’s the sign that you have mastered a language—when you begin to converse in that language in your dreams. I dream that I’m walking the peanut fields with my father, the village chief, discussing how the heat has […]

Posted On

07/9/09

Author

Piper Scott