Sunday, September 19, 2010

Saying My Goodbyes

A few days before our scheduled departure from Dakar, I began to feel a mix of sadness and excitement. The need to absorb the sights, smells, feelings, and to remember the people I'd met was strong. I started to carry my camera with me more often. I know, I know. This blog is evidence that my camera was practically my best friend during this trip, but now it became the tool that would link me back to this place and time, and the moments were coming to an end! These photos are some of the final memories recorded.
While buying my morning paper that last leisurely morning, I made sure I got a photo with my paper guy. He would come to the hotel restaurant each morning, knowing that he had certain sales. (I wish I'd asked his name.)
Cathy and Sue cooperate with me as I take a photo outside a souvenir shop around the corner from our hotel.
Therese, my roomie for the Boston segment of this trip, and I pose at the farewell dinner. Therese is a talented musician and technology media expert. Something about her attracted children (and vendors) in droves. She appreciated the unrestrained joy of the children. In fact, children in Sokone are probably still playing "Duck, Duck, Goose" and "Red Rover, Red Rover" because she and Suzanne taught them how. Talk about leaving a piece of yourself in Senegal!
Chon posed with Jan at our farewell dinner. Jan's plans after the Senegal trip meant that she would not depart with us to New York. Chon and Jan shared similar interests and had spent some time visiting art museums and shops together. They both used Lonely Planet guidebooks to navigate the streets in several of the towns we visited. Being a rookie traveler, I appreciated their leadership when we set out to eat or to take advantage of sights or events which were not scheduled on our program itinerary.

The biggest shrimp I have ever eaten! Note that the heads, eyes, and whiskers (?) are still attached. This would be my last group meal in Dakar.
John, a rare orator, speaks for our group as we present gifts to our directors. John endeared himself to group members with a quick wit, a great sense of humor and a Staten Island accent. Ousmane Sene poses with him as we say our goodbyes. Ousmane brought energy and joviality to the table from the first to the last day of our seminar.

Samba Gadjigo spoke on behalf of the directors at our farewell dinner. He was eloquent, as always, and touched our hearts with the sentiment that our new understanding of Africa goes home with us to our classrooms, our schools, our districts, our communities, our families and friends.
Ousmane Sene and Mbye Cham, project directors receive a framed photo of our group at the farewell dinner on July 3oth. Mame Coumba, in blue, also wove her way into our hearts as she made sure that our time in Senegal was both educational and enjoyable. I shall not soon forget her chastising the young boys who tried to hitch a ride on the back of our bus while we were in route to Touba.

Worth her weight in gold, Mariane Yade, is not only beautiful but resourceful. Her job at WARC was as a, well, um. . . She did everything! As assistant to the directors of the Fulbright seminar, she did whatever was necessary to assist us as we worked on our curriculum projects and visited the sites of Senegal. We took advantage of her as a language translator, coordinator, logistical planner, and in many more ways. This photo was taken as she was saying good-bye to us for the last time.

Morning after morning, Sue and I would pass this woman as we walked or ran along the corniche. She was one of the only Senegalese women we crossed paths with as we endeavored to exercise our well-fed bodies. After several days of smiling and nodding to one another, we began to say "Bonjour" and "Hello" alternately. Sue is special because she is not afraid to say what she thinks or ask questions that occur to her. She is always sensitive and kind in the process. Because our "woman in red" answered "Hello" in English, Sue stopped to ask if she spoke English. Alas, she did (does). That led to the exchange of email addresses the next and last full day of our trip. Our "woman in red" is Ndella, and we have been able to become e-pals. She is gracious and willing to answer our questions about life, customs, family, religion, schools, and more. From this experience I have learned that I should not let an opportunity to meet people and learn their stories pass. My life is richer because I am getting to know Ndella and because Sue taught me not to be afraid to approach people.

Instead of simply heading out on my morning walk with fellow Fulbrighter, Sue, I packed my camera along in order to record the route. While a few still photos can give a glimpse of the environment, I couldn't capture the combined sense of freshness of morning, warmth, and humidity that was the usual climate for these walks. We picked 6:30 a.m. as the time of day which would be light enough to see, but early enough that the streets were not bustling yet. The streets and walkways were already busy with people preparing for the workday, but not like they would be just minutes later. Various combinations of Fulbrighters participated in these morning walks. It was a great time to get to know one another.

Mornings along the corniche were a time for reflection for some residents and for exercise for others. The Porte du Ille Millenaire is representative of Africa's past and global future. Through the door, you can see Goree Island, the island from which slaves were shipped across the Atlantic, representing its colonial past. The view of the ocean represents Africa's global future, and the woman with the horn is welcoming the 21st century. Architect Rock Atepa Goudiaby created the piece, and it was inaugurated by President Abdoulaye Wade in 2001. This structure, for me, has become a symbol of the time one takes for oneself to reflect, to rejuvenate, to prepare for upcoming tasks, and to foster friendships. It is, after all, the people that I miss more than anything else. The places and activities were extraordinary experiences, but the people with whom I shared this adventure, both Africans and Americans, are the true life-changing component of a journey like this.
I couldn't help it. I passed this athlete of stone every morning.

A last look out the window of my hotel room.
I'd grown fond of my home away from home, electrical outages and all.
Each day I passed by this painting in the hallway of the hotel.
Check out the beautiful view of the hotel pool from our breakfast venue. Occasional rains meant only the covering over of the tables with awnings. The restaurant staff didn't miss a beat.

1 comment:

  1. I read your articles on 'Saying My Goodbyes', 'August(17)'. 'March(3)', and 'April(2)'. Three things i learned form reading about Senegal from your eyes would be that you ordered your newspapers from the same person every time, a girl in the yellow selling beads asked you to take her picture, and you passed by the same athlete sculpture, and one day decided to mimic him.. Something i found through thorough research on your blog would be that you thought that going there was an extraordinary experience. my information came from:
    I would like to know if everyday you enjoyed the walks you went on, adn if tyhe food was good.
    Your Student
    Milly Essa