New Day, New Discovery

After eight weeks of classes and one week of orientation, Fall Break is finally upon us! At least, it was two days ago. As much I have loved my classes here in Senegal, it has been really nice to explore more of Dakar and relax before I head into my internship in my village.

Some of the places I’ve been able to explore are places I’ve been to before, while some of them are new discoveries. Here is my reviews for each place, so if you’re ever in Dakar, check them out!

Île de Ngor

This Saturday, four friends and I went to Île de Ngor, which I have been to once before. To get there, you have to take a pirogue or a private boat. The pirogue is 1000 CFA (~$2 USD), while the private boat is 2500 CFA  (~$5 USD). Both of these options were super cheap, but we chose to go with the pirogue. It’s about a ten minute boat ride and we were dropped off on the main beach that houses many restaurants and a hotel right on the beach.

We opted to go exploring first and walked around the island. The views of the ocean are absolutely gorgeous no matter what point of the island you are at.

From the back of the island

Additionally, there’s several residential houses on the island that area beautifully constructed and decorated. There’s even a school we passed by that was painted like a boat.

Ecole la Maison du Bonheur

We just happened to come by at the time that the kids were coming out, so we had a chance to use our Wolof language skills to talk with them.

There’s two beaches that you can swim at, although there might be more that we didn’t discover.

One of the beaches we accidentally came across while exploring

Both beaches are essentially right next to each other, but are separated by a house in between them.

Voile D’Or (Monaco Beach)

I came here with one of my friends on Sunday and we LOVED this beach! The area is Voile D’Or, but it’s also referred to as Monaco Beach.

Entrance to Monaco Beach

We paid 2000 CFA to get in, but it was well worth the price, because we were able to put our stuff under a palm tree and go swim without worrying about someone taking it. It was a super clean beach and wasn’t super crowded in the morning, although it did start to get crowded in the afternoon. Many families brought picnics and fruit while they were at the beach, so if there is a next time, I would love to bring a watermelon and some snacks!

Monaco Beach

Île de Madeleine

This is a national park in Senegal that is known for its beauty and the wildlife that calls it home. The cost was 5000 CFA (~$10 CFA) for boat ride with 5000 CFA tour for the whole group. We departed on a 20 minute pirogue ride from Soumbedioune, the fish market. Once we got close to the island, we were able to see the rock formations that were present throughout the island, which were breathtaking.

Approaching the island

And the water surrounding the island were beautiful shades of blue.

View from the cliff

On the island, there are many baobab trees, in which Phaetons, the birds, make their nests.

Bird Nests in the Baobab
Baobab Tree

No humans live on the island and human activity is prohibited on and around it, because of the spirits that move throughout the island and are unwelcoming of it. You’re also not supposed to take anything from the island as well, because bad luck will come upon you. There are even two shipwrecks that can be seen from one of the cliffs from ships that have run aground on the island.

Turtle Cove with the shipwrecks

At the end of our tour, we were able to swim in the place where our pirogue docked in a beautiful natural pool.

Swimming Pool

The water was freezing, but against the hot sun, it felt really nice. We were on the island for a long time, because they had to wait on the right time for the tide in order to bring the boat in. This is probably one of the prettiest places I’ve been to in Dakar!

The American Food Store

Located in the Almadies, this store is the place where you can get all your American food needs. From pancake mix to sodas to candy to even fruit, it’s very overwhelming when you haven’t seen these products in two months at least. I bought some skittles to bring back to my host family!

The Almadies

After going to the American Food Store, we wandered down towards the coast and found a place where we could walk on the rocks alongside the ocean.

Almadies

There’s tons of oceanfront restaurants along the shore and even a few surf schools. We were able to watch a bunch of people learn to take on the waves as we walked past.

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Surf’s Up!

It was a beautiful view of the ocean and you could see the African Renaissance Statue and the Mamelles Lighthouse in the distance.

Marché Soumbedioune 

Near where we boarded the pirogue for Île de Madeleine, there are two markets: the fish market and the artisanal market. The artisanal market is a very touristy market, but it has everything one could ever want in terms of souvenirs. From bags to clothes to jewelry to wood carved animals, there’s a lot you can get here.

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Soumbedioune

Compared to other markets, like Sandaga or HLM, this market is much more laid back. Yes, shop owners constantly are trying to get you to come in their shop and sometimes work together in trying to persuade you to buy something, but for the most part, they aren’t super pushy unlike in other markets. Additionally, shop owners are willing to bargain and all you have to do is be confident and persistent in the price you want to pay. Most of the time, I am able to get the price down to at least half of what they ask for. This is where I bought most of my Christmas presents today!

Additionally, the fish market is just down the street. Fish that are brought in from the fishing pirogues are laid out for sale.

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Fish for sale

It also offers an amazing view of the ocean and hundreds of pirogues are laid out on the beach.

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Fishing Pirogues

This is only a small glimpse into my world in the past few days, as it is Thursday and I leave next Tuesday. However, I hope you enjoyed reading this and seeing my pictures! As always, feel free to leave a comment or question and I will get back to you when I can!

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Field Trip to Toubacouta

Last weekend, I went on a field trip to Toubacouta, which is about four hours south of Dakar, in the region of Fatick. Unlike Dakar, it is a very rural part of the country. Goats and sheep still run wild, but somewhat paved roads become complete dirt roads and the dynamics of community change to become something that is familiar, yet very different.

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The view from our hotel in Toubacouta

We went to several places during our four day stay, including a poste de santé, a jardin communitaire du femmes, an école coranique, a community reading center funded by USAID called Nos Enfants Lisent, and a community radio station.

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Watering the garden!

We got to see an 800 year old Baobab tree and ride a boat through the mangroves.

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800 year old Baobab tree
Boat ride to see the mangroves

We had the chance to attend a lutte match between two villages, one being Toubacouta (In case you don’t know what lutte is, it’s traditional wrestling that was created in Senegal).

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Lutte match

We also got to watch a dance troupe perform traditional dances.

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The dance troupe we got to see!

Overall, the field trip was a wonderful learning experience and I began to put things into perspective in regards to what I am learning about international development.

My main track is Public Health here, as I am a Global Health major at Allegheny, so seeing the poste de santé was really interesting for me. The post de santé in Toubacouta was funded by Senegal, Belgium and France and is located centrally for access between 12 villages.

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Poste de santé in Toubacouta

There are 7 poste de santés total that serve villages throughout the region of Fatick. One ambulance is shared by 6 poste de santés. Healthcare costs anywhere from 500 CFA (1 USD) to 2,000 CFA (4 USD), depending on whether the family has health insurance or not. While this seems very affordable in the US, many families here cannot afford it. Additionally, the more serious an individual’s illness is, the more it is going to cost. And the more urgent a situation is, the more it will cost as well, especially if it is outside of the doctor’s regularly scheduled office hours. Lastly, the poste often has to pay for the medicine they need for patients, in which they are supposed to be reimbursed, but often times they are not.

Learning these things, you can see where the lack of resources, personnel and access can become barriers to families receiving the healthcare they need.

One of the rooms in the poste de santé

Another barrier that I haven’t mentioned is the stigma of certain diseases, like HIV/AIDS that may discourage an individual from getting the care they need in fear of losing support from their spouses/families. As a result, the disease can be further spread within the family.

It was important for me to experience this for myself. It is one thing to learn about it in the classroom, but another to see it first hand. It further demonstrates how healthcare and health coverage is important for development, because it breaks the barrier of affordability and access. But there’s still the issue of staffing and resources.

In a few weeks, I will be traveling to a poste de santé in a rural community for my internship. It’s not in Toubacouta, where we were last week, but it’s about an hour south of there. I hope to be interning specifically with the maternity ward to learn more about maternal health and midwifery, but I will also be learning about family planning, accessibility and more. I am very excited for this opportunity and will continue to update on this blog when I am able to.

Hope you enjoy my pictures and if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I will get back to you when I can!

Thanks for reading!

Four Weeks in Numbers

As some of you may be aware, I am currently living in Dakar, Senegal for a semester studying international development with the MSID program. I left the United States on September 1st and will be approaching the one month mark in just a few days! I have meaning to update everyone on how I am doing, but I function very differently here, meaning that time gets away from me more than I would like. However, to summarize my first four weeks here in Senegal, I will be doing it in numbers! So, here we go…

85 Days left of my study abroad program. I am not counting down, I promise. I really do love it here. It’s definitely different from when I spent two months in Morocco, but I have enjoyed finding similarities between the two countries and cultures.

50 times I’ve tripped walking. Very much like Morocco, the sidewalks and concrete tend to be very uneven and me being clumsy, well, it’s a fun time. Every time I get confident about where I’m going and look up from the sidewalk, I usually trip. It’s not that I’m avoiding eye contact with anyone, it’s literally because I’ll fall on my face if I don’t watch where I’m going.

35 minute walk to school, well, from school. So, I live in a neighborhood that is about 35 minutes from where I have classes. Luckily, I get driven every day with one of my friends to school, because her host sister’s son goes to school close to where we do. I’m very thankful for this on the rainy days and the really humid days.

29 Packets of Nescafé Original Instant Coffee consumed. I just actually wrote a paper about this. We had to analyze Senegalese consumption patterns and I chose to write about how the only brand of coffee that I really have noticed is Nestlé’s Nescafé brand. You can buy these individually in the boutiques or there are roaming vendors all over the streets throughout Dakar that roll these red-painted Nescafé carts, selling coffee to any paying customer.

28 Baguettes Consumed. Each morning, I have a full size baguette with chocolate and a cup of Nescafé Original Instant coffee. This is a pretty standard breakfast among most of my friends in the study abroad program.

17 other students in my program. We come from all over the United States and I’ve really enjoyed going through this experience with them so far! It’s really helpful to have a built-in support network, because we are all experiencing the same things at the same time.

14 classes of Wolof had (so far, I think). Wolof is one of the several languages of Senegal. Yes, French is spoken in the city and my program is taught in French, but a lot of Senegal speaks Wolof. I thoroughly enjoy my Wolof classes and my professor is wonderful! I may not be the best speaker of Wolof, but I am very excited about this class and love learning it!

classes during the week. For this program, school operates a little differently. Rather than a typical college schedule, MWF and TTH, it’s more like I have certain classes once a week, and others two to three times a week. I am taking Country Analysis, which is about Senegalese history and culture, International Development Theory, Wolof, French, Research Methods, and then my main track is Public Health and Social Services. I am also auditing a class in Education and Literacy.

6 times I’ve run into sheep or cows wandering the streets. And when I say streets, I sometimes mean major interstates (I also have seen this more than six times, but I needed to put a number on it). It’s normal here for animals just to kind of roam around. I was walking home with some friends from the mall the other day and there were three cows that crossed the road to get to a small grassy area on the other side. It’s very much become a normal occurrence of my everyday sights.

5 members of my host family. I absolutely love my host family! I have a mom, two sisters, one niece and one nephew. I have really enjoyed watching telenovelas and French kids shows with them.

4 meters of fabric bought. I went to Marché HLM last weekend, which is a market specifically known for buying fabric. Women here buy fabric to have dresses custom-made by a tailor. Some of these dresses and fabric patterns are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen!

3 goats that I thought were sheep. So, we have sheep behind my house, but for the longest time, I thought they were goats. I also thought all the other sheep that I saw on the streets were goats, the reason being that these sheep don’t have the thick wool coats. One day in class, one of my professors explained to us that the goats have the short tails, while sheep have long tails and it finally made sense. But still, if you saw these sheep, you would think they are goats too! Another funny story is that one day while we were eating lunch, one of our sheep just ran through the house. I was the only one who really had a reaction to it, everyone else was like …and?

cafés discovered. Well, three if you count the gelato place some of my friends and I like to frequent when we have a lot of homework. What can go wrong with a couple of scoops of gelato and homework (and air conditioning)? Gelato can go for about 2-3 USD for about one to two scoops.

time I’ve been lost. For those of you who know me well, this is a big accomplishment to only get lost once. Like Morocco, I walk everywhere I go, but Dakar, I’m finding, while walkable, is still a much bigger city than when I lived in Rabat. I only got lost the second or third day of school and my friend who lives in my neighborhood with me, thankfully was with me. We were shown how to get back home from school by our host siblings, but it was a lot to remember and therefore, we ended up very close, but not quite where we needed to be. But I want to emphasize, I only have been lost once so far!

??? Pounds of couscous and rice consumed. These two things are staple parts of the Senegalese diet frequently paired with lamb, chicken or fish. Ceebu jen is a dish that is popular, which is rice and fish. Yaasa is another one, which is typically fish in an onion sauce. Onions are used a lot here.

These are very much random numbers that describe this new chapter of my life. While it is only a glimpse for now, I hope to continue sharing my stories with you as I continue on this wonderful adventure this semester (hopefully more frequently). If you have any questions, feel free to ask below and I’ll get back to you when I can!

Ba benneen yoon! (See you next time!)