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! read more →

With our days in Dindefelo coming to an end, there are many things still to be done and a lot of memories to look back on! I have to say that the best memories I have of the village involve spending time with my family and Walking Tree group!

My family is simply the kindest group of people I’ve met. They always think of people before themselves. When we eat together as a family, they always give the guest the most food! In many cases, I always say mi harti which means “I’m full” in pulaar! Oh, speaking of food, last night during dinner I finally decided to conquer my fear so I put my spoon down..and I ate cous cous with my hands! I have to admit it wasn’t so easy. My little brother Boobah and Alfa are the cutest kids: every time I talk to Alfa and I tell him about my life in our spare time, he always responds with oui and a smiles; and Boobah finally learned how to say my Senegalese name, Addama Sow! Oh and I just learned that my sister got married in the mountains a few days ago! Quite the exciting news in the Dindefelo village!

Photo Courtesy of Walking Tree Travel Blog

I’ve made a bunch of great memories with the Walking Tree crew as well! Yesterday, we had such an exciting and bumpy voyage to the waterfall in the village Sengou! Since the waterfall is a really far hike from the campange we were at, we rode in a trusty big car that surprisingly got us through trees, rocks, water creeks! I must say that I was hanging on for my life in that car! Then when we got dropped off, I thought that we were at the waterfall, but to my surprise we had a long but beautiful hike up there, going through rivers, hills and slippery rocks! Shockingly, the trek up there was more beautiful than the waterfall (= Another shocker was that we had such a rainy day in the blazing village of Dindefelo! So that morning, most of us slept in and had that day to ourselves! It was really nice (=

Tomorrow, we have a pre-dawn hike at 5:30 am to the mountains. It’s going to be fun! read more →

Courtesy of Walking Tree Travel Blog

I still remember the first day we arrived in the village, after a very long ride from the Pierre Eglise. We arrived in a rainbow with our array of colorful dresses. We met our family; our parents, brothers, sisters, or cousins helped us with our luggage and took us to our new home for the next two weeks! It was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.

My host-family consists of one dad, two moms, four brothers and two sisters! Quite the big family I have!  There’s never a moment where I don’t have one of my siblings with me! I have this adorable two year baby brother who eats and drinks so much for a baby! He has big cute cheeks that our leader Christine says (can conquer the world!).

Other than that, the living situation in the village is definitely something different. My room is a small hut, consisting of a bed, moustique net, and a desk. Funny thing is, my hut is isolated with crops growing around it and on the opposite side is my family compound!

Well there’s no toilet or shower here; but the bucket showers are absolutely refreshing! The food I have eaten at the village is simple and healthy! A lot of it is cous cous, rice, millet and peanut sauce. The people in the village are very resourceful, since we just eat our food out of a big pot, no need for plates or washing them! Mostly everyone is my family has been eating with their hands, but I still need to try that! Haha, since I haven’t stirred up the courage to let go of my spoon 🙁

Courtesy of Walking Tree Travel Blog

We are not only here in the village to immerse ourselves in the language and discover a new culture. We are also here to make a difference in the community, our service project on this trip is…(drum roll please) building a library and painting huts for the public hotels!!! It’s probably the biggest service project I’ve undertaken. But let me just say that the work isn’t easy, hauling bricks and digging up dirt in the sun is not the most fun thing in the world, but it’s rewarding to know that your work is towards building a library for the kids. read more →

Well words cant describe the  few days we spent in Dakar, Goree Island, Mbour and a 9 hour car ride to another town. We have done everything from eating Senegalese hamburger (a burger with fries and eggs in it), more yassa poulet (chicken) or yassa bouef (beef), and petits poids et bœuf. But I have to say that the food  here is amazing; very different from what I’m used to. OH! I don’t know what it is in Senegal but they have amazing drinks here! Their Coca Cola is great, because they make theirs from pure cane sugar instead of high fructose corn sugar, and they have this drink made from the sap of this gigantic and beautiful tree, the baobab. It’s sweet and creamy, like yogurt, but nothing you have ever tasted before!

Courtesy of Walking Tree Travel Blog

However, with our nice and relaxing days in Senegal coming to an end. We are going to the small village Dindéfelo to do what we came to Senegal for! We are getting ready to do meaningful community service, meet new people and develop a relationship with them, as well as experience their culture (= I can already say that our time in the village will be most memorable and difficult to leave )= Today the girls in our group are wearing traditional Senegalese dresses, so we will come in the village as what our leader James calls a rainbow. I must say we all look very pretty in our dresses!

Well I cannot wait for the amazing adventure in the village to come! read more →

Today was quite the long day! We had a very french breakfast consisting of crepes, madelines, and fruits. It was really good! Our new hotel resort is beautiful, the hotel “huts” are creative and they have air conditioning! But that isn’t the best part: just outside the hotel is the most beautiful beach in the world. It’s long and wide, and covered with smooth golden sand. Can you say paradise in Senegal? Most of our afternoons were lazy days with hanging by the beach and sleeping under the huts.

Oh, we also went to the safari today. It was a really nice experience, seeing the animals roam around freely; but the best part was driving in a 4 by 4 vehicle with the wind blowing in your face and the guide talking to you. We saw zebras, monkeys, antelopes, and warthogs. I must say that the zebras was the best part, because I can’t recall a time when I saw them in real life!

Now, let’s talk about the food in Senegal. Over the past 4 days, I had the chance to eat fried fish, mango salad, shrimp in garlic sauce and fries. But my most favorite meal so far is the yassa poulet which is a dish with chicken on rice covered in delicious onion sauce. It has a savory taste and I can’t get enough of it! So far, I have had it twice, and I wouldn’t mind going for a third!

The adventure in Senegal doesn’t seem to stop at this beautiful hotel. We’re headed to a new place tomorrow and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next!

VY read more →