Photo of the Week
West Africa
Photo Title


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Bleary eyed and peckish, we wander down the first street of this boom town. Kedougou, flooded with rural migrant workers brought by the gold mining in the hills, offers plenty of cheap breakfast options. Three sided stalls made of cotton sheets are erected temporarily and stand alongside more permanent wooden slatted huts, each selling sandwiches of beans and omelettes. Their interiors are bare bones, just a table with a couple benches or perhaps a rickety chair or two.

The routine at each is fairly uniform. You sit at one of the benches where some regulars eye you with vague curiosity before returning to their bowl of beans and potatoes. The proprietor sits behind a table, piled high with eggs, spices, tapa lapa and various twisted and worn cooking implements. She smiles and the creases all over her face fold into each other. She motions for you to sit as she quickly assembles her ingredients. You watch her cut the onions with speed and dexterity, dicing them completely in 20 seconds without putting them down once. She cracks the eggs and beats in the dirt colored Adja spices that she sprinkles in from each small recycled container of chocolate spread. When she reaches for the homemade mayonnaise that has likely been sitting in the stall for a few hours, you interject 'tutti rekk' attempting to control the ratio of mayo to filling.

You can choose your own ingredients: nebe, beans slowly simmered in tomato sauce and spices, often leftover from last night's dinner: potatoes cut chunky and cooked til golden: the omelette itself, usually more fried than sauteed in the generous helping of oil heated on the furno's glowing coals. She roughly flips the rapidly cooking eggs with with one hand as she reaches for the thick short loaves of doughy tapa lapa. A deft slice and the whole loaf is ready to absorb the excess oil leftover from her ministrations. The slightly crispy and salty eggs go in first followed by spoonfuls of beans packed alongside. She rips a piece of butcher paper or foreign language newspaper off the crackling pile and wraps the middle to alleviate the oily fingers, which the average toubab cannot avoid. 'Am' she says 'take this.' The question of beverage soon follows and you will inevitably consume a significant amount of spicy sweet Cafe Touba or kinkeleba tea. The first bite is to be savored, then you quickly chow down on the rest in order to make it back to the campement for morning check in.

The woman (Awa, Fatou, Ramata) continues the dance of the tangana (the name of these stalls, literally 'it is hot') as you munch the sandwich. You sip the thick coffee while her hands dart around the table. She can converse freely, accustomed to these motions from years of experience. She has seen the success of the gold mining rise and fall, the somber men who visit her benches coming and going with their fluctuations. She sees the new arrivals to her hometown, from the Malian migrants to the foreign companies to the Nigerian prostitutes, and continues frying and pouring. There's peace in the routine, a beautiful choreography of clicking and stirring and greeting all at once. And then you pay your 400 CFA (maybe 300 if you have the same last name as she does) and draw aside the Spongebob sheets, back onto the dusty red laterite roads of Kedougou.

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Best Notes From The Field, West Africa

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Tangana Tango

Claire Rivkin,Best Notes From The Field, West Africa

Description

Bleary eyed and peckish, we wander down the first street of this boom town. Kedougou, flooded with rural migrant workers brought by the gold mining in the hills, offers plenty of cheap breakfast options. Three sided stalls made of cotton sheets are erected temporarily and stand alongside more permanent wooden slatted huts, each selling sandwiches […]

Posted On

10/31/14

Author

Claire Rivkin

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    [post_content] => "You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." -Jane Goodall

We are now back from our week in the lush greenery of the Fouta foothills. This week we explored mining issues and modern day slavery, sat with and heard the story of a young woman who had exchanged her youth for opportunity and was instead indebted into prostitution, walked through villages with pointed thatch roofs adorned with vines and plump green gourds, climbed mountains, visited Bedik communities with inestimable vistas, swam in waterfalls, and had the opportunity to speak with volunteer conservationists at the Jane Goodall Institute in Dindefello. We ate countless tapalapas (like small french bread, but doughier) and traipsed through small earthen pathways through grasses of multitudinous reds, golds and greens. We worked our bodies and let our minds wander.

The Fouta Djallon region was a dream. The group is operating beautifully. We are back from our week-long trek. Tomorrow we will be in Kedougou and then will begin our route west towards the Kolda region and our rural homestay in Manthiankani.

We'll keep updating when we can, until then know that 'our cup runneth over,'
Yours in Senegal
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Fouta Djallon Mountains

Instructor Team,West Africa

Description

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” -Jane Goodall We are now back from our week in the lush greenery of the Fouta foothills. This week we […]

Posted On

10/31/14

Author

Instructor Team

Category

West Africa

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    [post_content] => Hello family and friends!

It's day 3 of our  trek, and today the group enjoyed trekking from Ibel to Dindefello. We are safe and sound! We'll spend two nights here exploring the area before continuing up the mountain to the small village of Dande on Thursday. We'll travel back to Kedougou this Friday.

Much love from Dindefelo,

Team West Africa
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West Africa

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A trekking update

Emmy, Rebecca, and Samba,West Africa

Description

Hello family and friends! It’s day 3 of our  trek, and today the group enjoyed trekking from Ibel to Dindefello. We are safe and sound! We’ll spend two nights here exploring the area before continuing up the mountain to the small village of Dande on Thursday. We’ll travel back to Kedougou this Friday. Much love from Dindefelo, […]

Posted On

10/29/14

Author

Emmy, Rebecca, and Samba

Category

West Africa

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    [post_content] => Oktoberfest in Senegal!  We celebrated with fantastic (non alcoholic) attaya tea brewed in the Baye Fall community of Ndem.
    [post_title] => Sampling the Local Brew
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Sampling the Local Brew

Claire Rivkin,Picture of the Week, West Africa

Description

Oktoberfest in Senegal!  We celebrated with fantastic (non alcoholic) attaya tea brewed in the Baye Fall community of Ndem.

Posted On

10/24/14

Author

Claire Rivkin

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    [post_date] => 2014-10-23 12:29:31
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    [post_content] => 

"Fahu laa dëkk!" is my proud response every time a skeptical Senegalese person asks me where I live. "I live in Fahu!"

"Fan ci Fahu?"

"Between the radio tower and the mosque, right at the border of Fahu and Sud-Stade," the Senegalese aversion to maps makes this the only practical way of describing where I live; if my street has a name, I don't know it.

The house is quite small in comparison to the other houses on its street. The Baldé-Banora clan moved here in 2008 from the bustling, central Diakhao neighborhood a few months after the passing of the family patriarch. The house is pretty bare. Nevertheless, the family has managed to leave its absurdly organized, obsessive-compulsive mark on it. Under néné Baldé's strict watch, the four Banora children mop the floors, sweep the courtyard, and dust every surface in the house twice a day, never missing a beat and not once catching their breath before néné inspects their work to make sure that everything looks presentable. This doesn't even include the perfectly choreographed cleaning rituals that come before and after every meal. The one area of the house where the family has adopted an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality is the garage, where they store their charcoal. Otherwise, the garage is really only used by néné's husband once a week When he drives in with his white Citroen minivan. He is a big man, about néné's height, with a strong grip and a powerful laugh. He lives in a small town near Dakar with his first wife. He spends most of his time there, stopping by Fahu about once a week, when he and néné drink attaya (Senegalese tea) in the courtyard and enjoy a late-night meal, as he typically arrives after sunset and leaves before dawn.

In Senegal, a man generally spends holidays and special occasions with his first wife, so he is not around too often. “I waited six years, you know,” she said, almost defensively, when I asked about how the two had met. “It's hard on your own with such a large family.” Néné is a very collected woman, so seeing her facial expression or monotone change is rare, unless she's watching a soccer game, of course—she happens to be the most passionate Senegal Lions fan in the house.

She and Adama, the youngest and only male member of the family fill the house with their screams while the rest of the family sits outside, under the stars, waiting for the game to end. Adama is about five minutes younger than his twin sister Awa, who cares as much about soccer as her sixteen and nineteen-year-old sisters, Filli and Fatou. Her interests are more school related. She was the only one in the house who managed to solve my Rubik's cube and the only one determined to follow in her father's military footsteps. Adama, meanwhile, wants to be a pediatrician and stay as far away as possible from the army. Filli is deciding between architecture and law, and Fatou, the oldest, has yet to make up her mind. For now, she is busy preparing for the Bac and deciding between colleges, a topic that has created somewhat of a rift between the two oldest sisters. Filli wants to go to Saint-Louis for the small-town vibe and the city's history. She feels that if she goes to Dakar she'll be just a number among thousands of students. Fatou, on the other hand, thinks she belongs in the busy capital, and is already itching to get out of Fahu and experience big city life. Filli thinks she'll get a taste of that when, “Insha'Allah,” she studies in Paris like her cousin (and my Senegalese namesake) El Hadj Baldé. The two manage to bond, however, giggling over the fact that their sixteen-year-old friend is getting married so early. Independence and education are priorities for both sisters.

For now, though, one thing is certain. That from the hours of 8 to 9 p.m., every Monday through Friday, the entire family will huddle around the television to watch the low-budget West African equivalent of Modern Family, Les Bobodiouf, a Burkina Faso based sitcom revolving around the crazy shenanigans of of the Bobodiouf family and the trouble-making Siriki and Souké, the latter of whom has been labeled by the family as Adama's doppelganger, prompting Adama's household nickname “photocopie!”

In Senegal, a common greeting is “Naka waa kër gi?”. This is the equivalent of “How's the fam?” in English. However, the exact translation would be “How are the people who live in your house?”. Kër means “house” and waa is a word used to describe the people of a certain place. For instance, if I wanted to say “the Senegalese people,” I would just say “waa Senegal.” This is a lot more efficient in Senegal, because people who live under the same roof may not always be blood relatives or part of the same family (ηaboot), but that doesn't mean they don't matter. Néné Baldé and the Banora kids welcomed me as part of their waa kër these past five weeks. They opened their doors, their hearts, and their kitchen to a toubab with broken French and almost no Wolof, and made me feel like part of the family. I'll always remember them and hopefully come back to visit some time soon, because once a waa kër always a waa kër.

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West Africa

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Sama Waa Kër

Daniel Buchman,West Africa

Description

“Fahu laa dëkk!” is my proud response every time a skeptical Senegalese person asks me where I live. “I live in Fahu!” “Fan ci Fahu?“ “Between the radio tower and the mosque, right at the border of Fahu and Sud-Stade,” the Senegalese aversion to maps makes this the only practical way of describing where I […]

Posted On

10/23/14

Author

Daniel Buchman

Category

West Africa

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    [post_date] => 2014-10-23 11:46:03
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    [post_content] => 
Greetings from Kedougou The last few weeks have confirmed intimately for me that there is truth in Glasser’s theory that one of our basic needs, beyond survival, is for a sense of loving and belonging. To merely describe what we have been up to the last few days would lose the true tone of the experience. Beyond mere activities, it is the quality of living here in Senegal, of interacting with communities that stands out to me. Recently, this was epitomized for me most during our 5 week stay in the Thies region. After driving from St Louis down Thies , we found a vibrant community of folks waiting to invite us into their world. At first, they were ‘strangers’ to most of us but we were quickly drawn to their warm smiles and willingness to open their homes and hearts for our students. The following morning, each student returned to the program house with new Senegalese names –Siga, El Hajj, Fatou, Awa, Dibor, Aida, Ramatha, Maimouna. Fast forward to three days ago. As an instructor, I could not have been prouder of our student group who stepped up to the challenge of organizing the homestay farewell party. In their “Tabaski” outifits, each student said a thank you note to the host families  in Wolof or French to express their gratitude. Our  host sisters, brothers, cousins and parents nodded enthusiastically  “Jerejeff”! It is the plethora of moments like this, where we find ourselves lost in a collective experience so rarely felt, for me, in my life back in Rwanda, that encapsulate the tone of my time here with my students in Senegal. It is a simple sense of love and belonging that is offered me daily. It was felt so strongly each time we went out to the “ Marché de Thies”, and quickly found ourselves surrounded by Senegalese shopkeepers eager to help us practice our Wolof. It is quality of this connection across languages and cultures that I know myself and my students feel, when even after a hard day of discussing Muslim brotherhood, they ask not for time alone or time to play, but time to go out into the community, to connect with strangers who welcome them in to these ever unfolding moments of collective joy and shared sense of belonging. So, know we are here in Kedougou. Know we are thriving. Know we are asking hard questions of ourselves, of our group, and of our time here. But know too, there is joy, there is shared vibrancy and aliveness. There is shared responsibility for each other maintaining good health and finding good meals. There is much learning, and even more playing. In Thies, there were early nights of restful sleep, abundant plates of good Senegalese food  like Maffé and Yassa poulet pushed on us by kind homestay mothers, and bellies and hearts that are filled in inexplicable ways. We can't wait  to see how our experience unfolds here in the Kedougou region. For those of you back home in the States, Canada and Switzerland we wish you a similar taste of our experience of love and belonging in your days. These are things I know we treasure, and soon, will miss more than even the landscape of Senegal.

Attached Documents

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Goodbye Thies….Hello Kedougou

Emmanuel Dukundane,West Africa

Description

Greetings from Kedougou The last few weeks have confirmed intimately for me that there is truth in Glasser’s theory that one of our basic needs, beyond survival, is for a sense of loving and belonging. To merely describe what we have been up to the last few days would lose the true tone of the experience. […]

Posted On

10/23/14

Author

Emmanuel Dukundane

Category

West Africa

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    [post_content] => It is during the quiet moments of digestion right after dinner Khadi will slip a crumpled note to Maimouna.

At 39 Khadi is the eldest of the Ly daughters. Bestowed upon her is the role of the accountant, a responsibility usually given to a father, but my father prefers to stay in his painting studio, uninvolved with the economics of the household.

So it is Khadi who dispenses the coins and bills for the errands that feed, clean, and entertain the Lys.

As the youngest it is our job, Maimouna and I, to run them.

With our stipend and instructions we set off into the dusty orange-lit streets for our Alimentation Boutique. The brothers who run the store, and all the merchandise rest behind a wire cage, with a little opening to conduct business through.

The store smells like Madar allpurpose detergent, mosquito coils, and sometimes freshly baked bread. Everything I buy from the store, envelopes, sachet ndox, Biscreme, has this odour. The sweet smell even sticks to my hair and clothes for the walk back home.

Maimouna tells me what to order in Wolof. I almost always mess up in some way, saying the wrong thing, letting people cut in front of me, not understanding a follow up question. Like the perfect teacher, she gives me a moment to try and save myself before swooping in to rescue the situation.

Sometimes we leave with ataya supplies, sometimes with condesned milk and sugar, but every time we come home, the second I kick off my shoes, Maimouna tells me we are going out again.

Maybe to buy couscous from a compound full of kids who whisper "toubab" at me like its a secret.

Or maybe we cross the laneless lawless dirt lot in front of the hospital to buy bread from the vendress who's stall is a little room stuffed ceiling to floor to wall to wall with baguettes.

On the way home we stop at the neighbours' for handfuls of freshly roasted peanuts. They burn my hands and I crack them open messily and awkwardly, but the nuts - and Senegal - danu neex!

 

 
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West Africa

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Oct.18.2014

Megan Kamps,West Africa

Description

It is during the quiet moments of digestion right after dinner Khadi will slip a crumpled note to Maimouna. At 39 Khadi is the eldest of the Ly daughters. Bestowed upon her is the role of the accountant, a responsibility usually given to a father, but my father prefers to stay in his painting studio, […]

Posted On

10/21/14

Author

Megan Kamps

Category

West Africa

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    [post_content] => I got a package last night, which was in itself an adventure, but it was totally worth it. Not necessarily because of what I got, but because of the scene that occurred last night after I received it.
I was in the middle of unpacking and throwing away all the extra garbage that comes with a package when my 7 and 8 year old cousins walked in. They were about to walk out when I noticed the bubble wrap in my hands that I was about to throw away, so I called them back over to play with it. And man did those girls light up when I told them to try wringing it out "like laundry."
We were all sitting happily in my room popping bubbles when Fatou, my late 20s sister, stopped by wondering what the hubbub was about. Out of courtesy, I offered her some thinking she'd refuse, but I think she was legitimately excited to get a sheet for herself. She even called over Jouma, a 19 year old family member, to come and join the fun. From her expression, she clearly thought we were being ridiculous, but she took some anyway. Even though she never smiled, she stood there until all her bubbles were popped.
Eventually, others joined in and some took seconds (including Fatou), and even after I'd long since finished, I could hear my brother Ndiaga diligently popping his last sheet clean. As of writing an hour later, all bubbles have been thouroughly popped.
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West Africa

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Bubble Wrap

Alexis Russell,West Africa

Description

I got a package last night, which was in itself an adventure, but it was totally worth it. Not necessarily because of what I got, but because of the scene that occurred last night after I received it. I was in the middle of unpacking and throwing away all the extra garbage that comes with […]

Posted On

10/20/14

Author

Alexis Russell

Category

West Africa

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    [post_date] => 2014-10-18 07:28:34
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    [post_content] => Dear families,

We hope you've been enjoying hearing little bits over the past six weeks from your children and loved ones.  Firstly, we want to say, thank you for sharing them with us and with Senegal.  This is an impressive group and our time together thus far has been enriching for all of us, including the homestay families that have cared for your lot over the past five weeks.

A quick note on the second half of course: We will have substantially less internet access throughout the next six weeks.  While in Kedougou on our trek we won't have access for over a week, and then when we head to Manthiankani the internet will be similarly sparse. Stay tuned, as we'll let you know more about our student-led expedition phase plans in the coming weeks. So do check back with us here on the Yak board and know that we will post on the days in between where possible, but it may be less frequent.

Sending our warm regards and excitement as we prepare to hit the road next week!

Team Senegal
    [post_title] => A postscript to our updated itinerary
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West Africa

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A postscript to our updated itinerary

Instructor Team,West Africa

Description

Dear families, We hope you’ve been enjoying hearing little bits over the past six weeks from your children and loved ones.  Firstly, we want to say, thank you for sharing them with us and with Senegal.  This is an impressive group and our time together thus far has been enriching for all of us, including […]

Posted On

10/18/14

Author

Instructor Team

Category

West Africa

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    [post_date] => 2014-10-17 11:32:43
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    [post_content] => As we come to the end of our five week homestays, we can reflect on the many excursions and sights we have taken in since arriving in the country. After flying into Dakar and spending a brief day there, we drove north to Zebrabar on the coast where we spent five days of orientation. During our three days in nearby Saint Louis we toured the city and experienced the old colonial center. After accustomizing ourselves, with initial Wolof lessons and cultural seminars, we were introduced to our host families in the city of Thies.

The next five weeks included many new experiences, from cooking ceeb with our host families to going to the market for wax print cloth. On the Muslim holiday of Tabaski we spent the day eating sheep and dressing up in our Senegalese best. In-city activities have included a visit to the artisanal village, daily language lessons, and talks with speakers on topics ranging from religion to politics to women's roles.

We also left the city to explore surrounding destinations. Our first day trip was to the city of Touba, the center for the Mouride brotherhood. We spent a magical couple days in the town of Dene, a Sufi village devoted to praising God through chanting and dance. More recently, a visit to two villages, Ndem and Thiame Saware, yielded a better awareness of the process of development in Senegal. This past weekend we saw the Lampoul coastal desert where we rode camels and trekked to the beachside through hot sands.

With a week left of our homestays here, we are wrapping up our study of Wolof and bidding a hard goodbye to our host families. Now we look forward to the next half of our trip, described below.

October

17 Goree/Dakar: A day visit to Dakar and Isle de Goree, an island dominated by changing colonial powers and used for the Atlantic slave trade.

22-24 Kedougou: We depart Thies on the 22nd for a long drive to the southern city of Kedougou where we will spend a few days preparing for our trek and exploring the town.

25-31 Trekking: A week of trekking in the region of Kedougou, through green hills, villages and waterfalls.

November

1st Kedougou: Arrive back in Kedougou on the 1st to prepare for the journey to our rural homestays.

2nd Route to Manthian Kani and Tambacounda: Stop in the crossroads town of Tambacounda on the way to rural homestays.

3rd Tambacounda to Manthiankani: Arrival in Mathiankani, our home for the next two weeks with a local family.

3rd-17th Rural Homestay in Manthiankani: Our two week homestay in a rural village where we will be placed with families, take classes in Pulaar, and continue to learn about the culture through music and dance lessons.

18th-19th Kolda: After finishing our rural homestays we will stop in the central southern town of Kolda to explore and prepare for X-phase.

December

20th-Dec 1st X-phase: 10 days of adventure to be planned entirely by students. We have already begun initial planning and several possibilities are in the works. This will test the skills we have accumulated over the entire course in a culminating trip.

2nd-5th Toubab Diallo (transference): After X-phase is completed, we stop in this beautiful oceanside town south of Dakar to orientate towards bringing what we have learned and experienced home with us.

6th-7th Dakar: Two days in Dakar before departing for last minute shopping and city exploring.

Late on the 7th, early morning of the 8th Students Depart: Our flight leaves from the airport in Yoff in the early hours of the 8th.
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View post

Second Half Itinerary

Claire rivkin,West Africa

Description

As we come to the end of our five week homestays, we can reflect on the many excursions and sights we have taken in since arriving in the country. After flying into Dakar and spending a brief day there, we drove north to Zebrabar on the coast where we spent five days of orientation. During […]

Posted On

10/17/14

Author

Claire rivkin

Category

West Africa

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