You guys!! I am going to Africa tomorrow! I can't believe this day is almost here. Since learning of my Teachers for Global Classrooms selection last June (see "The Travel Bug" blog post below), I have eagerly awaited this departure. After an intense eight-week course last October through December on all things related to globalizing education and a trip to Washington D.C. to meet my other fellow travelers (see "Teachers for Global Classrooms Unite in D.C." post below), this is a sweet culmination.
The preparation for this trip has been an incredibly reflective experience as I prepare to travel to a developing country for an extended stay for the first time in my life. While preparing, I have been reminded time and time again of the absolutely thought-provoking video from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called, "The Danger of a Single Story" (video found here http://tinyurl.com/hynmrmd). As a Nigerian, Chimamanda reminds us that having a single story about any one place or people is dangerous because it is not the reality; people and places are so much more than the stereotypes that exist and are perpetuated by the media and popular culture and by people themselves. Her message has truly been life-changing for me, so much so that I show the video in my Sociology class when we discuss personal identities. I know Senegal struggles with various challenges that plague many nations in Africa and life in many places there is difficult including the town, Tambacounda, where I will spend a week. Knowing that, I have had to remind myself many times that those challenges are just a piece of the story of Senegal, not the whole story. Therefore, packing for the journey to Senegal has been exciting and challenging at the same time. I know I need to be prepared for the challenges I will face (lack of clean, accessible drinking water, aged infrastructure, and malaria and yellow fever-infected mosquitoes to name a few) but I also have tried hard not to let those challenges define my upcoming experience.
Below is a small sampling of what my luggage contains: my passport and yellow fever card (proof that I have been vaccinated for yellow fever), Euros for our layover in Paris (everyone needs to buy a crepe while in Paris), CFA francs (Senegalese money given to me by a friend who has been there!), a water bottle complete with a purifying filter, a small pharmacy of medication (malaria pills, anti-nausea medicine, travelers diarrhea pills, motion sickness meds, and more..), mosquito repellant for the already mentioned infectious diseases, SPF 70 sunscreen (since I will only be 14 degrees north of the Equator versus Grand Rapid's latitude of 45 degrees north AND the fact that my malaria pills make me sensitive to the sun...this could be interesting!), a selfie stick (you are all making fun of me now but just wait until you see my pics!), and Jelly Belly jelly beans (a U.S. made candy to give as gifts).
Tomorrow I am off! My flight path is as follows: Hibbing to Minneapolis to Atlanta to Paris and then 36 hours later......DAKAR, SENEGAL!! :)
Lots more to come. Check in often and I will post when I have Internet availability.
Love to you all,
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.