Wolof of the week: Bekk na- I am happy
Greetings from little Holland! The compound here is overflowing with Dutch people. There are four adults and around 11 students here to experience Senegal and lend a hand wherever it is needed. Around the dinner table, 5+ languages are used and I understand around 10% of what is said which is a lot more awesome than it sounds. I can feel myself becoming more of a person who values actions over words to express sentiments. I feel close to so many people who I can speak very little with. I guess there is no such thing as small talk with body language. It has also been so interesting to watch the Dutch group take in and experience Senegalese life. Many of them have never been in a developing country before, and may not have even seen poverty like we have in the States (Holland seems pretty pristine, if you ask me). They are kind, eager to learn, and are driven by a strong love of God that I find endearing and confusing.
Yours truly is still steadily hiking up the culture and language learning curves. It turns out that I have a knack for Wolof, something that is really surprising for someone who speaks a grand total of one language fluently in a family that speaks six plus. The people that I am surrounded with are just so patient, interesting, and kind that I can't help but learn it quickly so that I can eventually pick their brains. This kind of environment is hard to emulate in a classroom.
Moments of note:
-Nights with the moon so bright that you don't need a flashlight to climb a steep ladder to the roof. There, people with guitars are waiting to share soft music into the night.
-Words of enlightenment from those who's hearts have been filled by Senegal's bustling environment. Words that change from discomfort and confusion to appreciation, wonder, and peace. A mother and daughter from Arizona came to visit for a few days, and their reaction to Senegal was so touching and beautiful. Kelley, the mother, spoke often of how her eyes had been opened.
-A concert, lit up on a basketball court, played by my talented friends and a few visiting artists. Knowing that this music needs to be shared, nurtured, and disentangled by the static inconvenience of broken equipment and lack of space (fundraiser coming soon).
-Deep talks about the beauty of the world, differences in beliefs, and the goodness of people with Dany and Alfred. I am so thankful to Dany for being the bridge for me to come to Senegal in the first place, and doing everything possible to make sure that I have what I need and more. Nadine, his wife, and Herma, his mother, have also been guiding lights for me and I could never stop being grateful.
-Finding myself sitting at the front of a community health program's closing ceremony. I watched as young women put on a wonderful skit detailing what they had learned about women's health, sexual harassment, violence, prevention, and rights. I got to meet a few inspiring leaders of the project at World Renew, people's who's names I had seen many times on health surveys I have been (slowly) compiling.
-Gazing out over the blue and green ocean to a lighthouse that Dany says is the Western-most point of Africa. Feeling like Rose at the helm of the Titantic/Africa (minus Jack and minus capsizing). Eating my weight in fresh shrimp and Thiouf fish.
-Moments of connection around lunch bowls, on drives to and from the airport, over attaya (sweet sweet sweet green tea), through music, on walks to the beach, on hot hot days, on hot hot hot days, while helping to prepare lunch in the kitchen hut, while slicing mangoes and fingers in the house, while sitting around a campfire, while sitting near the dying embers of a campfire hours later, in English, in broken Wolof, in broken French, in the mispronunciation of common Dutch phrases, over candlelit dinners, through prayer, through pain. I am with good people.
We had a great first outing in Senegal! After breakfast, we took a drive to see how oils are extracted from local plants like the baobab tree and hibiscus plant. While on site, we got to watch a woman soaking the dried hibiscus leaves in preparation for processing. We were then shown the machine used to press and extract oil from the seeds. The baobab oil we witnessed being extracted will be shipped to France, Spain or the US for commercial sale.
The next stop on our journey was to the village of Dany’s old friend, Ndeye. We were welcomed wholeheartedly by the entire village. After Ndeye and her family gave us a tour of their village and surrounding land, we were presented with an amazing feast of rice, chicken and watermelon. As we began to leave the village, the community gathered around us and started singing. All it took was one woman to grab a metal bowl and start drumming to get all of us to take turns dancing in the middle of the crowd.
We ended with a quiet dinner, some card games, and a Wolof/English language exchange between Alfred, Jibby and all the students.
Africa was everything I had hoped for but nothing I expected. You can study a country for an entire semester, as our class did, and still be completely blown away upon arrival. The very first group of students of the University of Cincinnati’s S-Project (Sustainability Social Entrepreneurship in Senegal) arrived in the city of Dakar, Senegal on December 12, 2013. For the next ten days, we had a whirlwind of experiences that gave us a new outlook on life, as well as the purpose of our project. I will now attempt to express what I took away from the trip into words.
1. Outdoor hanging plant
The idea of this is to draw interest to the building and add a sustainable aesthetic to the exterior. Information on the different plants could be painted behind or hung so people can learn from even just passing. Locals could also buy seedlings of plants within “pots” like these to begin growing their own produce. This has been done locally with an aquaponics method to teach locals about the benefits of cyclical agriculture systems containing fish.
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