Direct Journal Excerpt:
YMCA and Syto! I’m in Dakar, Senegal. First impressions is that it is poor and dirty. With every step there is a waft of some unpleasant smell. People are constantly hassling me for money and most buildings are rundown. Some are even collapsing in on themselves. I met my Syto (Student Youth Travel Organization) student today. I’ll be staying with her for the next two nights. Sasha is amazing. She volunteers with the YMCA’s Yarts department teaching dance. Today they had a showcase because people from North Carolina’s YMCA had come on an exchange. The dancing was fabulous, I could sometimes understand the singing and best of all is that they invited me into their family and asked so politely for a song from Canada. Further into the night giant circles were formed and dance offs began. I felt so included in the culture. Late night I went to my homestay’s house located in a rundown dirty part of town. However we were only 100 metres from the ocean break. Dinner was served in a dish made to feed everyone (they didn’t have any individual plates).
At this moment I can hear drums playing on the street. Their vibrations echo through my head and shake the bedroom walls. I love Senegal! Sasha took me to the park today and afterwards we talked for hours on end about everything from school to dreams. It’s quite sad to think that Sasha is going through university but at the best she might only get a job working in security or accounting because job opportunities are limited. A rooster and goats on the roof woke me up this morning.
I am writing so much about Senegal and I have so much more to write. I leave my homestay today and it’s obvious that there’s a sort of gloomy tone around the house. It’s only been two days but I already feel like I’ve known my sister for a month. I really hate goodbyes. This morning when I woke up to the rooster again I could hear children playing soccer outside. It’s a really lively neighbourhood. Breakfast was a collection of tasty goods from the baker down the street.
We went to the zoo in the afternoon. Sasha was really excited to show me the tigers but I couldn’t help except feel sorrow for the small cages they were contained to and the skinny bodies. The cages were no larger than an average sized dining room.
Our first service project in Senegal took place today. I think it went well. It was just night being able to meet the children and communicate with the staff at Empire des Enfants. We played with the kids, worked in the kitchen, and asked a multitude of questions. Empire des Enfants was designed to take street kids off the street and reconnect them with their families. Many of these kids come from Darrahs which are schools which supposedly teach the Coran but these schools are corrupt. Instead, they take students and force them to beg for money. If they don’t collect enough then they are beaten and must go without food. It’s awful what happens, but Empire des Enfants will not take these kids off the streets themselves. Rather kids must come themselves. In my opinion it’s a great organisation.
We also had lunch with the students which was cool. The eldest boy would take his bare hands and break the chicken apart so that it could be dispersed evenly to everyone. This really is the country of sharing and hospitality. Cool Fact: When eating on the floor I had to kneel because crossed legs meant that my parents no longer owned me and it was a sign of disrespect at my age.
It’s 12:30 in the morning and I can’t fall asleep. Life in Senegal is sweet. I visited the Fann Hospital’s infectious disease ward and helped in the garden. We watered, planted, and cleaned out lemon grass. My hands still smell sweet.
I hate to leave Senegal, but I know that I’m leaving to head towards home and Christmas. I have left with so much more knowledge and some great connections. Thank you to Sasha and her family for hosting me. I will never forget the amazing time’s that I have had. I really do love Senegal and especially the Senegalese.