To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story.
--Barbara Kingsolover, The Poisonwood Bible

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sharing My World

This month, we received our first visitor from back home.  I had been giddy with anticipation of the visit, eager to share my world--the culture and customs of Senegal, my new home and lifestyle, the people who have become dear, the challenges of living and working here.  Kara, my long time friend and college roommate was the first one to dare to take on Senegal.  It was so great to have her, to have the opportunity to process my experience with someone who could look at it with fresh eyes, to try to recover so of the goofy side of myself that I've been feeling has been getting lost, and to get to finally do some touristy things in the country I call home.  Kara was a trooper, and she got to experience Senegal Peace Corps style, to come to understand, in just ten days, what we came to describe as the "3 Hs of Senegal" during our last dinner together: Hospitality, Hurry up and wait, and How sketchy is this situation?

Check out our adventures, and remember, you too can visit us!

DAY 1: Dakar

We spent our first day chilling in the wonderland of Dakar.  We took a ferry to Goree Island, the historical launching point of the middle passage of slaves from Africa to the New World.  I had wanted to go for the historical significance, but turns out it is a charming place to spend an afternoon and recover from jet lag as well.  We then spent the evening on Africa's westernmost point before heading inland toward Kedougou. 
View from our hotel

Incoming view of Goree Island from the ferry

Wandering the streets of Goree.

The house of slaves, preserving the memory of the millions of captured Africans that were held here before being shipped to America.
I thought that this was the bathroom for women, only to find out that it was actually where they held the female slaves.  Cue more white guilt than I already have  on a regular basis.

The sunset from Pointe Alamadies, the westernmost point of Africa
 DAY 2: Dakar and Thies
After a morning on the beach, we began the trip inland to break up the coming trip to Kedougou.


DAY 3: Drive to Kedougou....thank God for Peace Corps transportation...I planned our whole itinerary around this opportunity for a ride.

DAY 4, 5: Segou, Kedougou
We biked from Kedougou to Segou, the village that is home to one of the region's beautiful waterfalls.  Public transportation is reaaaaaally difficult to deal with, so we decided to bike if Kara was up for it.  Despite the heat and a migraine, she did great and we made it to Segou for an afternoon of relaxing in what is probably the most idyllic village ever and a beautiful hike to the waterfall the next day.  On the way back, Kara had her first experience with public transportation, which involved a lot of waiting without assurance of a ride back to Kedougou in a thunderstorm, negotiations with police, herds of cows blocking negotiations with potential rides, a crazy sprinting naked guy getting carried away by a crowd of villagers, and finally a deal with a truck full of Guineans to take our bike back while we sat crammed in a taxi and Kara held the door shut the whole time. 
Ready for our grand biking adventure

Post biking laterite-covered legs

Kara's first round of tea

View along the hike to Segou

Pat found a giant leaf, which somehow reinforced the feeling that we had gone back to prehistoric times

There she be, the Segou waterfall

DAY 6-8: Kedougou/Saraya
Welcome to our home, Kara, (or should I say Makhamba?).  Timing worked out really well, and she got to be there for a Celebration of Girls' Education event that we planned to honor the winners of the scholarship program (whole blog post on that topic coming very soon).
On November 7, we woke up to the news that Obama had won the election and that the bathroom in the Kedougou regional house had caved in.

Kara said that one of the lasting images from the trip would be me waiting to get water in the mornings, so I figured I should share the image.

She was very impressed with my water carrying skills.

Kara and Christine, the cutest baby in the world.

Sharing the joy of kazoos with the kids in our host family

Celebration of Girls' Education!

Heading out to the fields.  

Sadio was so happy that Kara helped us with the groundnut harvest that she broke into song and dance as we were heading back into town from the fields.

Learning to be a Senegalese women...harvesting groundnuts, carrying a baby on the back...the people of Saraya loved her and were astounded she was only staying 3 days.
DAY 9: Beginning the journey back towards Dakar and the airport
Just one of our breakdowns on the road.
DAY 10 and 11: Mangroves and lions  
We took a detour off the main drag to Dakar to check out yet another of Senegal's diverse kinds of ecosystems.  Mostly because of the lions, which made the rush to Dakar on the last day very, very worth it.

You can't tell in this picture, but the owner of our campement in Toubacouta had a Montana Griz hat!

Out in the boat for a tour of the mangroves...trying to figure out what to do when the boat wouldn't start for almost an hour.

In our new boat, we made it to the island of shells.

Cruising in the mangroves.

Rhino siting in the Fathala game park! 

Rama, our game park guide trying to find a good path to a good view of a giraffe.

Just chilling with some zebras.
 So the Fathala game park has newly acquired some lion cubs that you get to play with and walk with.  Maybe one of the coolest things ever.

Oh the lions.  A great last African adventure for Kara before she flew out that night.  As she was leaving, I wept.  It was hard to say good bye but even harder to express what her visit meant to me.

So...what do you think?  Are you coming?


  1. Looks like you had a wonderful time with Kara -- I'm so glad! It must have been VERY hard to see her go! I'm looking forward to seeing those sights! I hope we get to see the lions, zebras and giraffes too. I can't wait!

  2. oh that is amazing. i'm glad you guys had a wonderful time. as always, miss you and pat, anne!

  3. Fun talking with you this morning. It sure looks like Kara came at the right time for you and that you had great adventures. So glad you found your goofy side again. Laughter is so good for the soul. Reading this makes me even more excited for our upcoming trip to see you and Patrick. Looks a like you got close to other animals also. When Dad saw you and he lions, he got very excited, saing he has always wanted to pet a lion. I tried holding Sadie's tail like they did in the news broadcast about walking with the lions, but she did not like that. Soon it will be Thanksgiving, then off to France for Christmas. Then we will be showing up for ten days. When we get there, you will have been there eleven months. That is amazing to me. Love you so much!