It is hard enough to sum up a week long vacation. But, there is so much more involved being the tour guide, translator, cultural Google, for your entire family in a developing country. Thus, the delay in the blog post. That, and choosing only a selection of so many amazing family photos took some time.
Let us begin. The Wallace bunch of adventurers came to visit their missing link in Senegal…aka moi! Two weeks of their Christmas break were spent sweating in the desert sands of Northern Senegal. Since we may or may not have taken the most family pictures circa my college graduation and probably the most family photos we will have until one of us gets married off, I figured we should let photos show our trip.
When they arrived, we spent the first few days in Dakar, Senegal’s capital city. This picture was taken at the base of the Monument de la Renaissance. Look at that wind blown hair and those happy-to-be-reunited smiles. 🙂
Father-daughter photo inside the monumental, La Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) located on Gore Island. This historic landmark preserves history by sharing information about the slave trade; specifically, how this island was used as a port between West Africa and the Americas.
We started this trip in Dakar, a bustling city full of people and traffic. My goal of the trip was to introduce my family to Senegal. Since they may never get the opportunity to re-visit, I thought it would be best to show them different parts of Senegal besides just one small corner of the country where my village is.
Thus, after visiting Dakar, we traveled to a very different city, Saint Louis. This city is unlike any other in Senegal. The architecture is very French based from the colonial ages. Being a vacation destination and home to expats, there are some unique restaurants with foods which cannot be found closer to my village. Another reason we stopped here is because it is a good break from travel. Even though I selected transportation more comfortable than what I typically travel in, ask any of the family, everyone will say transportation takes a toll on your body here.
I do a lot of gender development and empowerment work in Senegal. Apparently, my work transferred to my family as well. Bravo, Dad! That handiwork looks great. Our Airbnb had a washing machine. “Wash everything!” I told my family. Hand washing in village is a tiresome activity so I suggested we take advantage of this rare opportunity to use a washing machine. Because even in cold season, there is sun during the day, I have never seen a dryer in Senegal. Everyone has clotheslines. This one is on the roof, which is common for cities.
Families are big in Senegal. And, being part of a village for almost 2 years, I have become familiar with distant relatives in nearly all parts of the country. Thus, when I travel through, I always try to make time to say hello. Which, is always welcomed and appreciated, Senegal is the country of “teranga” (hospitality), after all.
This photo was taken while we visited Ibulaye at his sewing supply boutique in Saint Louis.
Of course we went fabric shopping. This fabric, Mayloose or Milfe, is worn by many women in the Northern part of the country. It originates from our bordering country Mauritania. It is lightweight and thus great for hot temperatures.
As wonderful as this lightweight, breezy fabric is, it isn’t perfect. This picture clearly captures the biggest downfall. As it is sold in 5 meters of fabric and just wrapped around the body, it needs to be readjusted often. Thus, I learned early on, it is not in fact that wonderful for hot temperatures as it is risky to wear by itself. Typically, you wear a tank top or shirt and leggings underneath as you will be readjusting the wrap often. These layers are hot and thus makes this lightweightness negligible.
“Don’t eat street food!” you will read in every travel advice book ever published. But, our first night in Saint Louis we did just that. Here we are waiting for our grilled meat “kabab” sandwiches to be made. Cheap and delicious! No one got sick, so safe too! On a Peace Corps budget, I know many affordable places to eat. Honestly it was more of a risk when to take my family to any nice restaurant as more than likely I had never been and couldn’t be confident the food would be prepared correctly.
My mom and dad can tell you way more history than I can about Saint Louis. Every day they were providing me with new facts they learned from their tour books. Often, I wouldn’t believe them and would fact check with a local taxi driver. The facts always proved true. Anyways, this picture shows the brightly painted boats you will see all over Saint Louis, an island surrounded by these fishing boats.
Having guests 1) provides you with lots of pictures of yourself 2) helps you realize how “new” some things are to people that don’t live in Senegal. It is really easy to become so used to things once you’ve been in a place for a long time that you forget how different and fresh it was when you first arrived. Fabric shops for instance, something I am quite used to, visitors marvel at. The fabrics that I am pointing to are called Wax. This fabric is made into traditional clothes worn by most Senegalese women. Because the selection of fabric is greater in cities, I recommended those who wanted to get clothes custom made to select their fabric in Saint Louis. Every shop will have different Wax designs.
Because I sleep under a mosquito net every night, it is normal for me. I would’ve never thought to take a picture of it. Here is dad sleeping comfortable because he is protected from mosquitoes and the risk of malaria.
Another perk of having a guest: you get to see parts of the country/ tourist spots you may have never visited. Because it is the first 36 photos shown when you search Senegal on Pinterest, my mother and sister insisted we go to the Pink Lake (Lac Rose).
Because of the high salt content, the bottom doesn’t have sand, it is all salt, the lake is pink. We took this little boat out to the middle of the lake and watched a man pulling salt from the bottom to sell. As you go farther into the lake, it gets more and more pink.
The first night, I had a surprise for my family. We wore our matching outfits and went to their welcome party. I figured this was the most culturally appropriate way to introduce my family to the whole town. Essentially it is a huge dance party. (Our dance moves don’t compare to the local talent, I have video proof but I’ve been warned by my mother about posting them….and thou shalt obey thy mother.)
People talked about how wonderful the dance party was for days. I was welcomed into village with a dance party my very first day. It was incredibly awkward, as I did not know anyone, and can not dance at all! Thus, I had to welcome my family in the same way. Also, it is an excellent opportunity to introduce everyone without having to go house to house to introduce my family. Greetings are very important in Senegal, and had I not had a party, we would have had to walk house to house to allow everyone to welcome my family.
So, that last picture was rare for village- a picture without children. The kids in my village LOVE photos. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them. And, they love my room. Thus, we were always surrounded by children. Because my family couldn’t speak the local language, every time I left them even for seconds, upon arriving back to my room I would find the space crammed with children surrounding my family.
And another, because I am obsessed with matching outfits. So, please admire the creative beauty of these matching garments. Sucraina, my young host sister is being her sassy self between Sarah and I. Sarah is holding, who will become, her favorite child in village over the course of the week.
Here we are sitting in a living room of a house I frequent in village. My mother took this photo, stealthily, to show that in her opinion I am “too comfortable” in my village. She said this in a joking manner, but this picture really does show how familiar and comfortable I am within my village and in Senegal.
EVERYONE LOVES DAD!
The kids loved dad because he would let them take pictures on his camera, then rush it back to him for him to pull the pictures up and allow them to admire their photographic masterpieces.
He went to the fields. One farmer asked him for advice. As I translated for him to my dad, he can tell a hard worker when he sees one. Dad was easy to identify as a hard worker. Thus, he asked my dad what advice would he give to a younger man to be successful in balancing a successful career and job. Deep questions on what was expected to be a quick tour of some fields.
Mom and dad learned new Wolof phrases every day and tried their best to communicate. It is amazing how far nonverbal communication can go. So much can be articulated through charades and smiles. Here, mom is learning how to irrigate the fields. (And indirectly helping me with gender work!)
My sister offered her hand as well.
Then, she told the farmer how he needed to pose for the picture. Oh, sister.
And…here it is. Proof I did work while they were visiting! We made liquid soap for bathrooms and attached pictures reminding everyone when they should wash their hands. #preventativehealtheducation #healthvolunteer
Check! We crossed mom’s biggest desire off the vacation checklist. She wanted to ride on a horse drawn cart, charette. This is not hard to come by. It is a cheaper mode of transportation in cities and sometimes one of the only modes available. In this specific instance, it took us from my village to a neighboring village to drop material off at a tailor. There are very few cars entering or leaving my village every day, most days 1-2 that will leave and 1-2 that will come back. Thus, if you are going to a neighboring village after those cars are gone, you can either walk or hire a charette.
Of course we got another matching outfit. Fabric and getting it tailored is cheap in Senegal. For these skirts, we each bought 2 meters of fabric which totaled $4 each. The, to get them custom sewn, in the style we described to the tailor, we each paid $4-5.
Yes, I was bossy on the trip. I mean, I was in charge of 4 other human beings. That is a big responsibility. Especially, when they can’t even communicate their basic needs as English is not understood in Senegal but particularly in village.
2nd Goal in a nutshell- sharing American culture with Senegalese. What better game to teach than good ole baseball? Truth be told, now I can think of a million easier games to teach. There are a lot of rules in baseball and trying to explain those quickly to kids who have never played or watched the game was quite a challenge.
Closest thing to a safari in Senegal. But hey, who can complain about seeing Camels?? It is so cool seeing animals not native to America in the wild here.
Christmas pic 2018. My camera is way smarter than me so it really is pure luck that the settings were correct and the photo turned out.
Why is dad so happy? Well on this entire charette ride, the sand was too thick and there were too many of us on the cart. So, we all had to continue getting on and off every time we started sinking in the sand or the horse was really struggling to pull us. But, in this culture you would never expect the man to get off, so the driver made sure Dad stayed on the cart every time.
Perks of family coming to visit- getting to buy souvenirs that I don’t have room in my 2 checked bags for when I come home. Since I gave them such strict packing requirements, they all had extra bags to spare on the flight back and I took advantage of that. This beautiful basket is currently waiting for me in America. Also, this is one of the cars that lugged us around on our mini tour of Senegal.
The best photo to end on. We were all exhausted by the end of the trip.