Bonjour Dakar!

“Lara, we’re going to Senegal!!” I yelled as soon as we got the email. Going to West Africa was not something I expected to do this year, so when Fulbright emailed us to invite us to an ETA Enrichment Seminar I was like “Heck yes, sign me up!!”

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on our way to the pink lake

Senegal is very different from South Africa. English is not widely spoken and we definitely had difficulties getting around with our limited knowledge of French. Dakar restaurant scene is expensive!! Yoh even a little lunch spot is going to run you $15-20 which is insanely different from the $5 I would spend in SA on lunch. Traffic is the wildest thing I have ever seen and I was fearful in more than one taxi ride. Everything, I mean everything, is a negotiation. Trying to get a taxi ride was beyond stressful as the drivers always want to rip you off and make you pay way more than is normal for a ride. Everyone eats dinner around 9/10pm. We never made it out for a night out on the town, because Senegalese people do not hit the bars until 1am and our teacher selves needed to be asleep by 11pm. All that being said, it was wonderful to experience and explore a new city.

Lake  Retba

The Pink Lake is well-known tourist spot due to its unique color. The lake can be seen with a deep pinkish/red color due to the high salt content and something about how the sun hits it. Apparently October is when it is the most red, but we still enjoyed taking a boat ride on the lake. We saw men collecting salt from the bottom of the lake and were able to take a dip as well. When you get in, you can float so easily, you don’t even have to try. The water has a dense viscosity so it just lifts you right up.

African Renaissance Monument

This monument is the tallest monument in Africa. It consists of a woman, a man, and a baby. At first glance, the monument looks to have misogynistic undertones, as the woman looks like she has just been saved. A few Senegalese told us they didn’t car for the monument as it wasn’t created with Africans in mind. It was designed by a Romanian architect and built by a North Korean construction firm. When we visited the monument, the museum guide told us that the woman is pointing to Gorée to represent remembering the past while the baby is point to New York and is to represent hope. The view from the top of the monument was stunning.

Gorée Island

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Gorée Island was of the biggest departure points form the Slave Trade. The island is beautiful, full of unique, colorful houses, and interesting museums. Walking around the island, we were all quiet, somber in our introspective thoughts of the deep, horrible history the island holds. We visited the history museum, some of the forts, and the House of Slaves. In the House of Slaves, you can stare at the infamous Door of No Return, which slaves would go through to get on the ship that would take them to America. Also, in the house, there are rooms for men, women, and children. These rooms were tiny and are where people were kept in holding until it was their time to leave. It was an important moment to reflect on this history.

Women’s Museum

The Women’s Museum used to be located on Gorée but has moved to the mainland and is located right near the water. When we visited, there was an exhibit on AWA, a pioneering feminist magazine in the 60s and 70s in Dakar. The magazine profiled women who were doing amazing things in their industries as well as the blossoming women’s movement in Senegal. The second floor the museum talked about all types of history and cultural aspects for women in Senegal.

Le Lagoon I

Le Lagoon we found on this restaurant list and I fell in love. We went there twice in our short week in Dakar. It has homemade ice cream and a private beach. They have kayaks for rent as well. There aren’t many vegetarian options in terms of real food, but I always down to have a dessert for dinner.

ETA Enrichment Seminar

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ACCESS class students with Fulbrighters

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the seminar. The orientation we went to in DC prior to departure was a lot of “I do, We do, You do” teaching structure, so I was completely bored as I have learned about that way too many times. Surprisingly, the seminar was refreshing and focused on giving us the space to share our experiences. Many of the other ETAs in Africa started in September and are nearing the end of their grant period. It was interesting to hear about how their years had gone. Many of them had been forced to find other things to do as their schools had been on strike for months. The Dakar ETAs talked of the exhaustion from living in the city. They also had lots of great ideas to share that have sparked some things we are now trying to do at Boetse.

One of the days we got to visit a school in Dakar and lead some English games with the learners. It was amazing to see their willingness to learn and I love getting to visit schools in different parts of the world.

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