The Senegalese word for hospitality, teranga, does not even begin to describe the warm welcome that we have received since arriving in Tambacounda yesterday. Anita (my teaching partner while in Senegal) and I boarded a small plane in Dakar, along with 3 other people including 2 Muslim holy men, to fly to Tamba. After a short hour flight we arrived to meet our host teacher, Salamata Diallo and her husband and family friend Ishmael, at the airport. To begin to describe the teranga, Ishmael has been so kind to volunteer to drive us around during our stay since most people do not own a car. The temperatures here hover around 110 degrees most days with the hottest sun you can imagine. Because of this, Anita and I have affectionately decided to call our time here insta-summer. Also, it is the dry season so we are constantly covered in a thin coating of red dust hence "dust as bronzer" (girls, I know you will understand this more than the boys! :))
Yesterday, Anita and I were shown around Tambacounda a bit before speaking on a local radio show that broadcasts in English to listeners in a wide area who simply want to listen to English being spoken. Mr. C., the show announcer, interviewed Anita and I about our purpose for being in the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program as well as what our stay would entail. Salamata discussed how happy she was to be able to have native English speakers in her school and community. Every week during the program, Mr. C. makes it a point to encourage people to practice and speak English no matter their mistakes; English is looked at as a key to success here in Senegal. Students start to learn it in the 9th grade but it is very challenging given the poverty circumstances, lack of resources, lack of quality teacher training, challenging family and personal situations, and high enough exam scores to stay in school so many do not learn it successfully. But people here truly see travel to the U.S. and the ability to speak fluent English as a dream. I wish that all of my GRHS students could experience this to see how exceptionally fortunate they are to have access to free, quality public education in the beautiful high school building with trained teachers.
After a wonderful night’s rest at our hotel in Tamba, Anita and I traveled to Salamata’s house in Kothiary to spend the day and meet her family. Anita and I were practically moved to tears at the generosity of her family and her extended family (who live with her). We were treated like royalty as food and tea were prepared constantly for us. The children crowded around us and greeted us excitedly and we them! I requested a ride on a donkey carriage (more on that for another post) and they were delighted to give us one! :) We ate in the traditional Senegalese style, on the floor with our hands out of one large, communal dish. The food was the best we have had since arriving in Senegal! We had chicken yassa which is a traditional dish of Senegal; chicken boiled and then fried in oil with white rice and a sauce of onions, pepper, vinegar, ginger, and some other delicious things. We also had bissap, which is a common red drink in Senegal, made with hibiscus flowers and sugar; absolutely amazing! We also ate, and I am not even joking when I say this, the BEST mango I have ever had in my life. The mangoes are perfectly ripe right now on the trees in Kothiary and posses the taste of everything amazing about Africa; warmth, sweet, and memorable.
My ending thoughts for today are this: we must not take for granted the things that we have in the United States but we must also not let those things define who we are. Salamata and her family expressed multiple times today the fact that they understand that they do not have much in terms of material items but that they have family, love, and motivation to maintain a happy and content life. They work hard for what they have and take in others (literally) who are lacking in resources, family, food, etc. Sharing their wealth of love and support for all people is important to their existence.
GRHS students: What motivates you most in life? Why? What do you possess that you can share with the world?
This blog is not an official U.S. Department of State blog. The views and information presented are the grantee’s own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program, IREX, or the U.S. Department of State.