I still remember our last day in Senegal like it was yesterday. We had the chance to sleep in until 9:30, then we went to eat a delicious French breakfast of chocolate croissants, yogurt, mango, and bananas!  After a fulfilling breakfast, we prepared for a busy but fun day!

Courtesy of Walking Tree Travel Blog

Our first stop was African Renaissance Monument, a 49 meter-tall bronze statue outside of Dakar. It was huge!  But it was nice to see the statue up close. After walking up and down many stories of stairs, we went back to our trusty cab and we head off to the markets. In my opinion, I love and hate the markets; I love the pretty and colorful stalls of handmade products, as well as having the chance to bargain with the vendors. However, I hate the persistent and too friendly salesmen, who would push you to come look at their shops. Overall, I must say that our shopping experience turned out successful. Many of the girls bought what they wanted, like jerseys, bracelets, man catchers, and ataya (Senegalese tea). After all of the shopping, we went to the best place on earth…N’ICE CREAM! Dakar’s widest selection of ice-cream, that place is heaven. There’s so much ice cream, selecting 2 flavors is already hard! But in the end, I decided on pistachio and a milkshake, let’s just say it was a very yummy lunch. Then we went to our hotel, to spend our afternoon in the pool under the hot sun.

After a good relaxing time in the pool, we had our closing and last meeting. It was bittersweet, I really enjoyed having the opportunity to talk about the trip and everything we gained from it; the lessons learned, the culture we experience, and our overall thoughts about it. However, it was sad knowing that our time in Senegal was coming to an end. Our final dinner was at a nice restaurant near the water, a with a really pretty view from where we were sitting! Everyone had a delicious fresh seafood dinner.

Then at 6 am, we left our friends and the Calao hotel and went to the airport. Farewell Senegal, hello Seattle!

Coming back from Senegal, I had some time to reflect back on this trip. I must say that this was the best trip I had ever taken. This experience was neither a vacation, nor a trip where I can be a tourist. I truly felt like a traveler on this trip. I was immersed in the culture and I had the chance to experience the life of a Senegalese person. I wore pants that were long enough to cover my knees so I could fit in with the cultural norms, I tried eating with my hands, lived in a village, spoke French and learned pulaar. But I have to say that living in the village was the most challenging, memorable and satisfying part of this trip. It reminds me of what our leader James told me on this trip; of how you can go on a trip and have the most easy and relaxing time of your life, but without challenges on the trip, there’s no way it can be satisfying enough.

The challenge faced throughout this trip for me was definitely the new way of living that I had to adapt to. The squat toilets, hot sun, and the food were hard to deal with at first, but after a while I got over it; everything became a breeze. There were days when we were working in the sun which became unbearable because it was so hot, as well as nights where you couldn’t escape the heat! Weird as this may sound, I found it very refreshing when I had limited access to electricity and the internet; since I found other ways to occupy my time without those things that would consume most of my time in the U.S. But thinking about the little challenges on this trip, and knowing that I overcame them made everything worth it. Especially, when I know I put my time in to good use by helping the homestay community build a library, planted plants in the farm, and picked up trash in the village. Knowing that I helped better the community with my group is the best feeling ever.

Courtesy of Walking Tree Travel Blog

However, this trip wasn’t all about the challenges; I had so much fun as well. I love the little moments I had with my family. I remember how I excited I became when I helped my mother make cous cous for dinner. I remember when my mother and brother tried to scare me with the flying bugs in the village at night and everyone got a good laugh from it. I love how my brother Motard was always there to lend a helping hand whether it was doing the laundry or finding one of my missing earrings in my room. I’ll never forget how much my youngest brother Boobah loves to eat food. I’ll remember the struggling moments of our language barrier when I had a hard time communicating with the people in the village. I can’t thank one girl from the village enough who spent 4 hours braiding my hair. Last but not least, I’ll never ever forget how beautiful the stars were at night in Dindefelo!

There were so many memories I made with my family, andI really hope I will have the chance to come back in the future and visit them.

Let’s just say I will never forget this summer; when I went to Senegal, met some of the sweetest and caring people I know, tried out some really good, spoke French and pulaar, and made a difference in Dindefelo!