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    [post_content] => 909 Communities Make HistoryThousands in Southeastern Senegal End Female Genital Cutting and Child Marriage in First-Ever Department-Wide Abandonment 
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Tambacounda, Senegal
Building on a growing movement for health and human rights in West Africa, all 909 communities in the administrative department of Tambacounda in Southeastern Senegal have declared their abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage.
At an event hosted Sunday in the city of Tambacounda, invited guests from across Senegal and West Africa joined community members from throughout the department as they publicly declared their abandonment of these practices, marking the first time that an entire department has made such a declaration.
"From today forward, this practice no longer has a place in our communities," said Awa Traoré, who read the declaration to the audience of nearly 4,000 people.
100% of the communities in the department participated--a tremendous achievement in a region where recent estimates put the rate of FGC at 85.6% and the average age of marriage for girls at 15 years old.
Public declarations are one outcome of the Community Empowerment Program, an education program run by Tostan, a NGO which has worked with thousands of communities in Senegal since 1991. Tostan uses a participatory approach to education based on traditional methods of communication such as song, poetry, theater, and dance.
Beginning with a foundation of democracy and human rights, the program goes on to cover a wide range of subjects including problem solving, health and hygiene, math, management, literacy, and small projects.
Tostan's program is perhaps best-known for its long-term, patient, and respectful approach. Sunday's event in Tambacounda was six years in the making, building upon four prior public declarations in the department: Malème Niani (2001), Dialacoto (2003), Sinthiou Malème (2004), and Koutiaba (2006). The declaration welcomed 335 new communities, who joined 574 previously declaring communities in abandoning FGC and child/forced marriage.
The 2001 declaration at Malème Niani was itself based on prior declarations that date back to 1997, when 30 women in a community called Malicounda Bambara surprised Tostan and many others by announcing that they wanted to abandon the practice. Since Malicounda Bambara's seminal decision, 2,996 communities in Senegal have declared their abandonment of the practice.
Tostan representatives attribute the success of this movement to their approach, which addresses many different topics and invites people to join a positive movement for change to achieve their self-defined goals of health, peace and well-being.
Tostan also makes sure that communities are in charge of all activities. Of the 909 villages in attendance Sunday, only 116 were direct participants in Tostan's program. The rest were contacted by program participants during outreach activities organized and implemented by Community Management Committees created within each Tostan village.
Tostan leaders say this network-based approach is not only efficient, but essential to change. "When people come together at a public declaration, they are making a collective pledge to abandon FGC and child marriage. They are not only bringing an end to traditions which can be dangerous to the health of women and girls, but more importantly they are making a positive statement that they care about the health and human rights of their communities. " says Khalidou Sy, Program Director of Tostan Senegal.
It is also important that the events reach as many people as possible, Sy said. "Because FGC, in particular, is generally linked to marriage and social status, abandonment requires a collective decision by the whole intramarrying group. The public declaration offers a way for people to have that collective commitment. Without it, people are left to guess whether or not their neighbors in other communities are really committed."
Sunday's event, hosted in the city of Tambacounda, was a testament to Tostan's positive, collective approach. It began with a peaceful but lively march of thousands of people through the streets of this vibrant, dusty city. Accompanied by traditional musicians and dancers, the crowd marched along the main streets of the town, carrying hand-made signs, shouting - "Health and human rights for our daughters!"
Their route took them by the city hall, down the national highway, and into the Tambacounda soccer stadium, where they were greeted by hundreds more supporters. Once inside, representatives sent from each participating community were recognized for their commitment.
There were many moving moments during the ceremony, including speeches from regional and national authorities, adolescent leaders, traditional cutters, and representatives of the participating communities. The event also included traditional songs and theater, with perhaps the most touching moment coming from a play put on by a local group of adolescent girls, their tiny voices filling the stadium and reminding all present of the real reason for the declaration.
While at times joyous and celebratory, these events have serious consequences in the communities that participate. Recent evaluations have shown that the FGC abandonment movement is having a major impact on the rates of FGC in communities in Senegal. In fact, some communities showed 100% abandonment even 10 years later. The Tambacounda event is an integral part of Tostan's work towards achieving the total abandonment of FGC in Senegal by 2015, a goal shared by one of its most vital partners and donors in the region, UNICEF.
Yet Tostan Executive Director Molly Melching says that people should be careful to understand these declarations in context. "A public declaration does not necessarily mean that 100% of people in every participating village have stopped the practice," Melching said. "Some people may remain opposed to abandonment indefinitely. But what is important is that people see that FGC is no longer the norm--and that this practice is no longer required in order to be socially accepted. Once that transformation begins, it becomes increasingly difficult for people to continue the practice. As time passes, and as more and more people decide to abandon, it begins goes away completely."
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Senegal, Summer 2007

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909 Communities Make History (Tostan News)

Megan E. Fettig,Senegal, Summer 2007

Description

909 Communities Make HistoryThousands in Southeastern Senegal End Female Genital Cutting and Child Marriage in First-Ever Department-Wide Abandonment Sunday, January 13, 2008 Tambacounda, Senegal Building on a growing movement for health and human rights in West Africa, all 909 communities in the administrative department of Tambacounda in Southeastern Senegal have declared their abandonment of female […]

Posted On

01/21/08

Author

Megan E. Fettig

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Asalam Malaakum.

listening to daby balde with a can of nescafe by my side and wearing a pair of my favorite boubou pants compares to anything else in this life. in the next couple of days, during thanksgiving, five of us dragon brothers and sisters shall embark on an epic journey to witness the Great African Ball, hosted by Youssou N'dour. on the way, we shall take mini-trips to places such as little senegal, ny, dine on cheeb and mafe, sip on attaya in central park while we try to not set fire to this beautiful sanctuary with our mini burner, and withstand the ny cold by wearing our boubous. coming from far and wide across this great continent, brothers and sistas have raised the courage against all odds to reunite with their loved ones. in the year 2007, senegalese dragon toubakos will come together in an apocolypse type in manner, rekindling the lost fire with which we had come to sustain in all of us by the end of august. as youssou n'dour sits on his prayer mat with his fellow musicians, the only thing that he thinks of is the tightly knit group of toubobs, excitingly waiting to enter his life through mbalax dancing and swaying to the beat of the senegalese djembe.

Today, after a laborious flight from New Mexico to the immense and threatening city of New York City, I was reunited with my Senegalese brother Thierno, who I met on a dark sidewalk along the Hudson River. Shortly there after Zoe appeared at the apartment in polished boots, a scarf, and black. But Thierno, other than a new haircut and fairer skin, was much unchnaged still wearing the same outfit I last saw him in. He may not have ever changed. As the prayer mat rests against the chest of drawers and Daby Balde, I am reminded of the 42 days and nights I spent with my beautiful Senegalese toubakos and I wish that the three in California, the one in Vail, the two in Senegal, and the one wanderer somewhere in India or perhaps Napal were joining us at Central Park tomorrow in the morning.

Alhamdouliliahi.

Thierno and Sira

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Senegal, Summer 2007

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senegalese toubakos

thierno and sira (cameron),Senegal, Summer 2007

Description

Asalam Malaakum. listening to daby balde with a can of nescafe by my side and wearing a pair of my favorite boubou pants compares to anything else in this life. in the next couple of days, during thanksgiving, five of us dragon brothers and sisters shall embark on an epic journey to witness the Great […]

Posted On

11/20/07

Author

thierno and sira (cameron)

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I am sitting here at my desk, in my house. The house with running water and a refridgerator packed with food. I am crying as I read over all of our posts. They are tears of happiness and longing. I miss everyone that I spent an amazing 6 weeks with in Senegal AFRICA! It all seems like a distant dream.

Readjusting to life back inside of the United States has been quite frustrating and hard, to say the least. But it is these memories that make all of the frustration and hard times worth while. I wanted to thank Dragons for such an amazing expirience that has opened my eyes, and changed my soul.

I will always remember the jog me and Megan took in the pouring rain. We discussed many things about home life, and life in general. But one topic that was always pressing was family and expressing true feeling. So when I say that I love and miss each and everyone of the amazing people I spent my summer with, I truly mean it. Each and everyone of you hold such a special spot in my heart; you all have taught me lessons about yourselves, the world, and myself. Once again, Thank you Dragons, leaders, office workers, students, and anyone else who does anything related to this amazing program. I will NEVER forget any of you, and I love you all!

I especially thought the post that i posted that everyone thought was a "secret stash" of red rule memoribilia was FUNNY! Oh goodness...

ps- I am going to be stopping by the office, so beware!

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Senegal, Summer 2007

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Thank you!

Brendon,Senegal, Summer 2007

Description

I am sitting here at my desk, in my house. The house with running water and a refridgerator packed with food. I am crying as I read over all of our posts. They are tears of happiness and longing. I miss everyone that I spent an amazing 6 weeks with in Senegal AFRICA! It all […]

Posted On

08/9/07

Author

Brendon

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So here we are in the capital of lovely Senegal, Dakar. We arrived here yesterday and I can hardly even explain how strange it was to enter the city once again.

Cars, taxis, and mini cars inched, bumper to bumper, along the main roads that never seemed to end. My lungs screamed as I inhaled the city air, filled with pollution. People moved everywhere. A clashing, dissonant tune including beeping horns, venders, running motors, road work, and yelling tore at my ear drums. Overall, the experience of entering the city was overwhelming to say the least.

At first I didn't know what to do. Everything was so new. I felt discomfort flow through my body and I soon felt sick to my stomach and my head pounded.

All I can say is, thank goodness for this amazing group that I have been traveling with for 5 weeks. Everyone, with a few spicific people especially, supported me, giving me hugs and words of comfort. By the time the ferry ride to Goree Island was finished, I felt like I was ready to approach the city with a different view.

And I have. I can't say that I like it here in Dakar, because, to tell you the truth, no city can ever measure up to the beauty of our homestay village, Mancankani. But I'm accepting what comes my way and I feel like I'm getting used to the bustle and hecticness of the city.

I think it's safe to say that, at this point, I've adjusted to city life once again. Like we say in the good old United States, I'm "going with the flow."

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Senegal, Summer 2007

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Entering Dakar

Jessie,Senegal, Summer 2007

Description

So here we are in the capital of lovely Senegal, Dakar. We arrived here yesterday and I can hardly even explain how strange it was to enter the city once again. Cars, taxis, and mini cars inched, bumper to bumper, along the main roads that never seemed to end. My lungs screamed as I inhaled […]

Posted On

08/2/07

Author

Jessie

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    [post_date] => 2007-07-29 00:00:00
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I can't believe it's over. The village is now just a dream of the past, one of eternal rainy season green, one of falling asleep in my grandmother's bed in the woman's hut, one of outdoor bucket baths under a canvas of stars. It was an amazing week on many levels. Foremost, I overheard two students separately state, "I feel so at peace right now", within a few hours of each other. I think it sums up the group vibe quite well; at peace within themselves, within Senegal, within the group. There have been so many accomplishments; from spending a week in an earthen hut sleeping next to people of such a radically different culture to embracing new foods, languages, mannerisms and ways of perception, to trying out new skills like drumming, dancing, basket weaving, beading and painting.

Our group has hit what we call the "performing stage", where they are leading much of the trip themselves. They have designated two student leaders who serve for two days and carry out all of the logistics, from deciding what type of transportation we are taking, to carrying an entire day's budget, to figuring out where and what we're eating, etc, etc. It was amazing to watch the kids in my car from Kolda to Thies (about a 11 hour journey) have the driver stop for water, and inform him know how to get to Mbouille's house (and he only spoke Wolof!).

As for our time in the village, I have honestly never passed such a pleasurable week there. In the true essence of African culture, we had the peoples of 6 villages all taking care of us. I enjoyed sharing this magical place with our kids who embraced it all, even the inevitable difficulty, with such open hearts and minds. It was difficult for many of us to leave.

We have returned to Thies, the place where we spent our first week, and we have returned different. Last night we gathered on Mbouillé's rooftop and discussed the manners that we've adopted. Someone said that they now share everything and he hopes that when he returns to the states, he'll continue this practice of sharing. There has been a shift in self reliance and maturity as well as a cultivation of generosity within the group.

We are finding it hard to believe that there is so little time left! Tomorrow we head to the sacred mosque in Touba and will continue on to our friend Babacar's village where we will spend 2 nights continuing our study of Islam. Then it's off to the city of Dakar.

I hope this finds you all well and at peace.

Salmini be!

Jamm Rekk,

Megan

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Senegal, Summer 2007

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We’re back!!

Megan,Senegal, Summer 2007

Description

I can’t believe it’s over. The village is now just a dream of the past, one of eternal rainy season green, one of falling asleep in my grandmother’s bed in the woman’s hut, one of outdoor bucket baths under a canvas of stars. It was an amazing week on many levels. Foremost, I overheard two […]

Posted On

07/29/07

Author

Megan

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Hi everybody. This is a quick message in addition to the last one you got Dragons admin. Just to let you know that everybody is trying to use his time fully so as to have fun and learn a lot from the homestays.

So, I'm here to give you a few details about the current activities of the group when I was leaving. So they had to visit a peace corps agricultural volunteer's rice field; so she was to talk about her work as a pc volunteer and her experience in that area, and the agricultural techniques used there. Then they had to head back to their homestay village and continue to work on their I.S.P's and play drums or soccer. Tomorrow, they'll have a guest who works in Tostan, an N.G.O that works in helping mainly rural children and women in education and health care. So, this will give them chance to learn a lot about N.G.O's, health care and education in the rural areas; the dragons students have already been prepared to ask questions.

But, what I can tell you now is that everybody is doing pretty well in that remote village without running water and electricity; but it's amazing to see how these students are using their skills to learn from and exchange with the local people, even though sometimes it's hard for them; but that's "something to crow about".

Thank you for reading.

Mbouillé

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Senegal, Summer 2007

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mise a jour

mbouillé diallo,Senegal, Summer 2007

Description

Hi everybody. This is a quick message in addition to the last one you got Dragons admin. Just to let you know that everybody is trying to use his time fully so as to have fun and learn a lot from the homestays. So, I’m here to give you a few details about the current […]

Posted On

07/25/07

Author

mbouillé diallo

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    [post_date] => 2007-07-16 00:00:00
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I'm sitting in a dirty cyber cafe in Kedougou as the rain pours in sheets out the door, a steady fan wobbling from the ceiling, Senegalese music blaring through a nearby radio, the sound of the rain pounding on the roof and the scent of the rain refreshing me. It has been humid all day, as it often is, before a thick rain. Newly formed rivers line the red dirt road. People gather under the porch rooves of the shops.

I leave Kedougou with both excitement and hesitation. Hesitation because this is my favorite region in Senegal. I adore the intonations of the Pulaar spoken here, the lazy feel of this town and the villages that surround it, and the unspeakable beauty of the landscape(the intricate fences built from sticks, the round thatched huts, the green hills that roll into Guinea). And excitement because our journey will soon take us back to my Peace Corps village, where we will begin the home-stay part of our trip together.

Tomorrow we will get up before the dawn and journey through Tambacounda to the town of Kolda, where we will spend a day resting and exploring and a day with town home-stay families. On Friday, we will continue on to my Peace Corps village, Mancankani, a tiny agricultural village 28 kilometres from Kolda. We will spend a full week there, each student staying with individual families. Students will get the chance to milk cows, work in the fields, play with their siblings, continue their study of Pulaar, pull water from the well, and enjoy the pace of life in a village with no running water or electricity. The group will meet often (almost every day) for soccer games, a Wednesday market, visiting a Peace Corps rice project, discussions on culture/service/development, drum and dance lessons (we are hiring a good friend of mine who plays the djembe to spend the week with us).

The nearest hospital is 28 kilometres away. We won't have phone or email access all week, but there is a phone 5 kilometres away through with the Boulder office can contact us in case of emergency. The village is right off the main paved road which sees cars pass throughout the day. Students will continue to drink treated water and have been prepped on home-stay concerns (we just acted out our home-stay fears in skits and discussed how to address each situation). I know all the villages intimately and am deeply repsected by the villagers (and maintain a deep respect for them) and will head to the village a day before the group arrives to prep the families. Dragons has been staying in these villages for the past two years and the home-stays have consistantly been the most illuminating component of the trip for most kids.

I hope this finds you all well.

Megan

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Senegal, Summer 2007

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Home-stays here we come!!

Megan,Senegal, Summer 2007

Description

I’m sitting in a dirty cyber cafe in Kedougou as the rain pours in sheets out the door, a steady fan wobbling from the ceiling, Senegalese music blaring through a nearby radio, the sound of the rain pounding on the roof and the scent of the rain refreshing me. It has been humid all day, […]

Posted On

07/16/07

Author

Megan

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Our trek to Ibel took place on the second day of the week long trek.

We all awoke at 5:30 am expecting to leave an hour later to begin our hike. As usual, however, following true Senegalese custom, we ended up leaving about an hour late. After finally leaving, we trekked a basic 6 kilometers along the winding dirt road that leads to Ibel. Unfortunately for us, the 6k seemed to take forever due to our newly formed blisters and sores that were caused by our 15k hike the day before. Yet despite our discomfort, we reached the campement by about 10:00 that morning. At the campement, we rested for a little while before being sent to our individual homestay families that would take care of us for the night to come.

During our homestays, each of us encountered all sorts of experiences. We played with children, relaxed on woven mats, ate traditional Senegalese meanls, and interacted in various other ways with the family members.

That afternoon, Team Toubab (our nickname for the Senegal Dragons group) reunited at the campement and set off up the near by mountain to see an Anamist village's harvest celebration. None of us Dragons knew what to expect along the upwards hike, but we were delightfully surprised to find that we were walking nearly vertically the entire way. Our guide had unexpectedly decided to take us up the mountain along the path that the village people use: along the face of the mountain. Of course, we all felt like silly toubabs (the local word for white person) as we saw old women carrying giant logs and enormous buckets of water up the mountain on their heads with ease. They even made it up the mountain faster than we did without taking breaks, complaining, or dropping their items.

Once we reached the village at the top of the mountain, we experienced Senegalese culture once again as we waited for over an hour for the actual ceremony to begin. Once it did, however, we realized that it was worth waiting for. Two men dressed in local cloth and leaves, their heads covered by black cloth and an elaborate hat, danced and chanted in deep, rough voices, keeping rhythem perfectly with the bells on their fingers and canes. With all the exceitment of the festival, the time to decend down the mountain came all to soon.

On the way down the mountain, we visited the largest baobab tree in the area. It was enormous. This particular baobab was about the size of 10 oak trees combined. The sight of it was truely amazing and humbling.

To conclude the evening, Team Toubab ate a wonderful, Senegalese spaghetti dinner at the campement. Afterwards we were escorted back to our homestays for the night.

So there it is, yet another exciting day in our journey to Senegal.

Projected Itinerary by Cameron (or Syra in Senegal!) on 7/16/2007

7/16/2007 11:20:53 AM

Projected Itinerary

August 16th stay in Kedougou

17th leave Kedougou, travel through Tamba, and arrive in Kolda, a small city, to stay in rented house as a group

18th Kolda as a group

19th Kolda with individual homestays

20th depart Kolda for Mancankani, Megan's PCV villqge; begin individual homestays in Mancankani

21st-26th remain in individual homestays in Mancankani

27th depart Mancankani for Kolda for transit early the next morning

28th travel from Kolda to Thiés (perhaps through the Gambia)

29th lunch with artist in Thiés

30th depart for holy city of Touba for the day, continuing to Babacar's village, situated on the ocean between Dakar and Thiés, for the night

31st spend in Babacar's village (whoes father is also a holy man)

1st depart for Dakar to visit NGO's, Goree Island, refugee school, etc

2nd-3rd spent in Dakar

4th depart Dakar to head to the beach for reflection time

5th reflection on the beach

6th depart the beach for a final night in Dakar

7th catch flight out of Dakar to Madrid

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Senegal, Summer 2007

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Trek to Ibel

Jessie and Elanor,Senegal, Summer 2007

Description

Our trek to Ibel took place on the second day of the week long trek. We all awoke at 5:30 am expecting to leave an hour later to begin our hike. As usual, however, following true Senegalese custom, we ended up leaving about an hour late. After finally leaving, we trekked a basic 6 kilometers […]

Posted On

07/16/07

Author

Jessie and Elanor

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2007-07-16 00:00:00
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the sixth day of our trek started out on the interesting side as it began to rain extremely hard for about 5 or 10 minutes. after this surprise shower, the day began to brighten up and we started our trek down to segou. after about an hour of beautiful hiking through the senegalese jungle, clouds began to hover over us and another short spurt of hard rain began to fall. so after about 15 minutes of hard rain and trying to battle through the somewhat slippery terrain towards segou, the rain stopped and a tropical breeze came to greet us.

after an hour and 46 minutes (according to mari-bari) we found ourselves sitting in a somewhat abandoned campiemente about 2 minutes outside of the village of segou. the campimiente overlooked a huge open valley of segou crops encircled by relatively large cliffs.

our greetings from segou were very welcomed by us as we were given maffe and a macaroni style rice from the local restuarant. both dishes were excellent and filled us up for our waterfall hike, which took about an hour to get to and was absolutely beautiful.

our homestays were then formed and we were each paired up with a random dragon-brother or sister. as far as i know, because i was only in one homestay, the expirience was amazing and every dragon was overly satisfied by his or her expirience.

so all in all, day 6 of our trek was probably one of our bright spots, as it was hard to find one spot during the day which we were not smiling or having a great time.

love/hugs/kisses/greetings/goodbye,

alex (yaya) and benjamin (thierno)

xoxoOXoxoxoXOXOXOxoXOXoxoXOxoXOXOxoXOXOxoxox

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Senegal, Summer 2007

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day 6 of trek by

thierno fall and yaya diallo (ben and alex),Senegal, Summer 2007

Description

the sixth day of our trek started out on the interesting side as it began to rain extremely hard for about 5 or 10 minutes. after this surprise shower, the day began to brighten up and we started our trek down to segou. after about an hour of beautiful hiking through the senegalese jungle, clouds […]

Posted On

07/16/07

Author

thierno fall and yaya diallo (ben and alex)

WP_Post Object
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    [post_author] => 39
    [post_date] => 2007-07-16 00:00:00
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    [post_content] =>   

hey y'all (yes i am still on a mission to convert team toubab in to saying y'all)

We have officially completed our 7 trek which was amazing, and i have the battle wounds to prove that we spent 8 days in the senegalese "wilderness". Yes, yes I know y'all are all gasping when i say battle wounds and thinking "what are they doing to my kids" but the battle wounds simply represent the beautiful landscapes and waterfalls we have seen over the past week. We began our trek in Kedougou and as we moved on the landscape became increasingly rocky especially towards day 3 and onward of the trek. Initially it may seem that the trek was just another walk from town to town, but it ended up being much more than that. This region of Senegal is exceptionally beautiful in that the landscape continually changes, while maintaing the greenery. On Tuesday (July 11) the initial team toubab extreme (consisting of Baaba Kaar, Mbouille, Bubba Kaar,Brendon, Ben, Cameron and my self) decided to walk to Chokoy rather than take the bus with the rest of the group. the 15km walk was amazing because after walking on the main road for about 5 km we turned off on to a path that was absolutely beautiful. Having rained the night before the mountains were lined with fog and most of the walk was spent in cool 75*F weather. The rest of the trek was equally amazing, even the day we walked 30km in the intense Senegalese heat!

hope all of you are enjoying the summer!

love

anar

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Senegal, Summer 2007

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battle wounds

Anar Parikh,Senegal, Summer 2007

Description

hey y’all (yes i am still on a mission to convert team toubab in to saying y’all) We have officially completed our 7 trek which was amazing, and i have the battle wounds to prove that we spent 8 days in the senegalese "wilderness". Yes, yes I know y’all are all gasping when i say […]

Posted On

07/16/07

Author

Anar Parikh

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