At last night’s Rotary meeting here in Dakar, we all sang, clapped, and toasted to one hundred years of service, friendship, international bridges, and peace building. As I stood among my club members trying to piece together as much French and Wolof as I could, I was overwhelmed with thanks and appreciation for my Cultural Ambassadorial Scholarship. This opportunity is allowing me to experience life in Senegal in a very special way. I feel extremely lucky to be part of the worldwide Rotary Community. It is truly an honor.
There is a ton going on in Dakar this week in celebration of the 100th anniversary. On Saturday there was a 10K and a big press conference (the Rotary scholars were on SNTV- Senegal National Television!), and this week is chock full of blood drives, musical performances, photo exhibitions, peace marches, cocktail parties, and meetings. Busy, and so much fun! The photo that I have attached is of myself and the 4 other Rotary Scholars, along with one of Dakar’s club presidents. We are all at “A Taste of Africa”, which was a huge soiree for all 5 of Dakar’s clubs. (From left to right: Me, Aimee Gallagher (USA), Emily Smith (USA), Tomo Toku (Japan) and Bobbie Wofford (USA).
The 4 other scholars are wonderful, which is a good things, as we spend tons of time together. We are spread between Dakar’s five different clubs, but over the past 3 weeks we have each attended the other’s meetings as well as two Roteract meetings. Additionally, we are volunteering at an orphanage together and working to start a sustainable lunch program at a very under-funded elementary school here in Dakar…and so, more days than not we are together!
My classes are going well at ACI. I just passed 65 hours of French, and I finally feel as though I can put together a few decent sentences!! Its coming more slowly than I had expected, but I am learning a fair bit of Wolof as well as so many other things, so I have no complaints. Family life is hectic, all-consuming, and very much fun. I help cook when I can, watch a lot of soccer and bad Senegalese soap-operas on TV with my mom, play cards and soccer with my little brother nearly every afternoon, and study around our big living room table with my sisters. I eat all of my meals at home around a big communal bowl. Everyone sits on the floor, eating with their hands, and although I certainly cant hold a candle to the Senegalese, I can finally get the food from the bowl to my mouth without dropping half of it on my lap!
This past weekend was Tamaxarit, the Senegalese fete that marks the Muslim New Year. The day is celebrated with lots of eating, singing, dancing, praying, and more eating! I spent all day Friday helping my family prepare a huge cous-cous and goat feast. Tons of family members came over, as well as two of my friends from school who live in Christian host families, and therefore weren’t celebrating the fete at home. The Senegalese put our thanksgiving appetites to shame on a regular basis…its really unbelievable! We ate and ate and ate…and then we ate some more. After the big meal, all of the little children dress up and go from house to singing and dancing for coins. (Very similar in concept to Halloween in the States.) I went around with my sisters and little brother. The streets were jammed with people till the wee hours, and the beating drums could be heard until the daily call to prayer at
And now I am off to Tomo’s Rotary meeting, so this is all for now. Three members from her sponsoring club in Japan are here this week to celebrate with us in Dakar. Its great having them here. And with that, I’d like to formally invite any and all of you to Dakar! I would love to be you tour guide here in Senegal. :0)
I will write again soon to report on the rest of the Centennial Celebrations.
I hope that this email finds you all very very well. And again, Happy 100th Anniversary!!