I was lucky to be chosen to participate in an international youth exchange in 2008. This was organised through my then work place so I did not have to pay for any of it. Another employee working at a different branch of the company, Christine, was also selected. We spent a month and a half in Senegal and it was an amazing trip.
I didn’t know what to expect and I tried to carry no expectations with me and just go and take in the reality of the country. I was able to for the most part. Except there were two employees that went the year before and Christine and I spoke to them about their experience. I didn’t find it helpful. They couldn’t have been more opposite to us so of course how we perceive things would be and were totally different.
Senegal is the western most country in Africa and is mostly French speaking. I did struggle a bit but my French improved while I was there. Even though it was a work trip our agenda had built in sight seeing and with weekends and most evenings off who could complain. Christine and I stayed with two families. So for the duration of our trip we were fully immersed in Senegalese life. The first 3 weeks we were in the capitol city of Dakar.
The first family we stayed with was Henri’s family. He volunteered with the organisation we were doing the exchange with. This picture shows our home for 4 weeks though it looks nothing like this now. They were doing renovations to the home near the end of our trip.
Our agenda started off working with kindergarten age kids. While they were cute, Christine and I got bored with this quickly and asked to switch up our schedule. So we ended up visiting a lot of other community agencies.
Christine is fully bilingual and she translated a lot for me during our trip. The health centre we visited was mainly a place where people can get rapid testing for HIV. A group of Gambians also attended and since they speak English there had to be translation for all of us, I was very happy with that.
Liberation statue of the slaves – Goreé Island, a port for the slave trade.
We ended up visiting Goree Island two times. The first time we went late in the day on a Saturday. So it was busy and we had to leave to catch the ferry back. We returned on a weekday and really got to explore at a more leisurely pace. The slave house is preserved as it was used back in the day. It was emotional as one might expect but interesting to see a historical place like that.
Part 2: Senegal – Villages
Part 3: Senegal – saying goodbye