“Amnga jekker?”

“Do you have a husband?” is something I have been asked countless times during my stay in Senegal and it is a question that seems to represent the views on marriage and the role of women in society. Teranga – the lengthy process of greeting people through various questions about their health, their family and the weather – is extremely important to the Senegalese and this question seems to slot quite naturally into this conversation. It is posed during taxi journeys by well-meaning old women, at work by students or even across the street, shouted by leering men. So what is it like to be a woman in a community where the most interesting thing about you is your marital status? Equality for women is not an easy topic to broach, especially as it concerns tradition and religion, so I asked students, aged 17 – 24, to give their views on marriage, to find out if their opinions differed from the ones their elders advocate. The responses were surprising but the overall impression is that things are changing, however slowly that may be.
Concerning marriage, any movement towards more progressive attitudes is limited by the involvement of the family. If the couple is following a traditional wedding, the engagement is sealed by the man’s family offering the woman’s parents a dowry, the bride and groom are likely to be cousins and the couple themselves will be chosen by the parents. The couple may have their reception with modern music and dancing but when the bride is taken to the groom’s house, the party changes tone. The elders gather in the garden and, while it’s definitely not a sombre event, with beating drums and singing, it’s clear that it’s very much their own party. The wedding is only made official when the aunt goes into the couple’s room after they have consummated the marriage and retrieves the bedsheet. If it is bloodstained, the celebrations begin, if not then the wedding is a failure. In the UK, our relatives are guests; in Senegal, they control a large portion of the ceremony. With this kind of pressure, it’s unsurprising that the introduction of modern ideas presents challenges.

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dancing at a Senegalese wedding

In the lycée classroom, looking specifically at the importance of a woman’s virginity, it was made clear how entrenched sexism is in Senegal and I began to question the reasoning behind their responses. Sitting in the class, listening to students discuss a woman’s “unfaithfulness” and how she could single handedly ruin a wedding, not once talking about a man’s virginity, was difficult. I thought that the students could have contrasting opinions but the response was unanimous. Coming from a largely secular family, it’s easy to forget that at the weddings I am familiar with, the white dress signifies purity but for the many Christians who choose not to have sex before marriage, it is an important part of the wedding. With the call to prayer punctuating the day in Joal, why is it so surprising that Muslim students think in the same way? The main difference is that in the UK, it’s a choice made by the couple, there is no disparity between the sexes and, while there may be pressure in more religious households, it’s ultimately a private decision. In traditional Senegalese weddings, the wife’s choice to not to abstain from sex would be known by everyone in her family and it would jeopardise her right to go through with the marriage. The opinion that my students stated will have been passed through generations, the question is, with so much western influence, whether they will hand down the same stigma.
The fact that civil weddings are cheaper and that the government offers a pay rise to any civil servant who gets married has influenced the way people choose to tie the knot, but students in the premiere class claimed that it was also due to western influence. Young people are seeing different types of weddings on television and they want to incorporate some elements into their own wedding. I have seen a bride walk down a red carpet in a sparkling white dress, despite the fact that she was not a Christian, joined by flower girls in matching outfits, on the way to a giant stage where she was joined, not by her husband, but by friends giving her presents, all to the soundtrack of My Heart Will Go On. People are definitely beginning to make weddings their own, some students even said that they wanted two. Young people are in relationships and most want to choose who they marry. Despite all of this, the general consensus was that, even with all of the modern elements, it is important to keep tradition alive. How can women begin to hope for change when inequality is part of their culture?
In traditional households, women are seen as things to marry off, their only contribution to society being the children they produce. There is nothing wrong with women choosing to stay at home and have children, but it is important to note that in the UK we are lucky enough to have a choice. While I have seen an encouraging number of female students, there are still families who choose not to educate their girls. If you are a girl, you will grow up and be taught how to be a wife, you will help your mother with the housework until you can be married and then you will start your family or, if you cannot have children, you will be cast aside as another wife enters the home. For too many girls, this is all they know. If you are prevented from going to school, you cannot read about the world and see that you are anything more than the worth someone assigns to you. You are not asked what you want to be when you grow up because it has already been decided by someone else.

 

This is not even an Islamic practice, the only thing holding girls back from an education and pushing them into marriage is tradition and familial hierarchies. The Imams in this area agree that girls should go to school and work, but if the patriarch of the family does not value girls’ education, the rest of the family will follow. The family unit is much more compact, with the typical Senegalese house being full of uncles, grandmothers and cousins and these relationships are so important to the Senegalese that they will go against the advice of their own religious leader, rather than upset their brother. This means that even when the rest of the family has modern views on a woman’s place in the household, the power lies with the male breadwinner. It is estimated that only 20% of women in Senegal are involved in paid employment. When I left the UK for Senegal, people touted the amazing family environment that I would soon become a part of and, while that is partly true, we must acknowledge that this relationship is not always as nurturing as stereotypes would have you believe: the same network that can love and support can overpower and restrict.
Conversely, people have been adamant to tell me that Islam is good for women because, although men can take up to three more wives, against the will of their first bride, the wife can earn her own money for dresses. The debate of equality for women in a country where we are described as “treasures to protect and hide away” and where half of women live in polygamous marriages is often difficult.When the topic was debated by my students, the atmosphere became hostile. The majority of women are against sharing a husband but, interestingly, when one young woman stated quite calmly that it doesn’t really bother her, the classroom bubbled into laughter and confused chatter. The teacher then asked her again if she was sure, as if she had been delirious. Anyone would think that she was a strange anomaly. When 150 students were asked to write a short piece on polygamy, 29% of the girls said that they would not be angry if their husband took a second wife and, while this is half of the number of boys who were for polygamy, it’s obvious that the girl who spoke out was not alone in her opinion. A husband taking a second wife is viewed as something to be feared by women, as something out of their control. The idea that a girl would not mind having a co-wife seemed beyond the male students. Despite this, the percentage of the girls who were for polygamy was worrying. Why they would choose to be treated in this way is beyond my reasoning but, as one student wrote, “It is impossible for a woman not to be jealous, but it is an order.” Many of them have just accepted it: if the man wants, he will get. When he declares to a room that he has more than one wife, he’s met with manly back slaps and low, knowing chuckles. Compare that to the reaction of a woman not bleeding on her wedding day, and the inequality in Senegalese culture becomes clear.

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Fas Jom girls on International Women’s Day

Despite all of this, women are taking ownership over their own lives. When asked to write a community study, it was disheartening to realise that the defining aspect of this colourful, loud and diverse country seemed to be patriarchy. It was not what I had expected to take away from this year. Senegal has left me speechless and frustrated many times and it is easy, from what I have written, to get the impression of a bleak and hopeless situation but my experiences with sexism are not a summary of my year in this bustling little fishing town. When I think of inequality, I also think of the many women who are fighting against it. I am reminded of the wedding where the wife-to-be was studying for her masters in Law, the student who told me that she left her boyfriend, “Because if he doesn’t respect [you], he loses [you]” and Ami Sall, a woman who runs her own restaurant while bringing up her young daughter. Generations of male dominance means that they are still far from equality but women are fighting against stigma and they view themselves as so much more than just “someone’s wife.”
In many ways, with tribal practices like FGM now being frowned upon, Senegal has already changed. In northern tribes, the tattooing of young girls’ faces was once the norm. Elders would pierce the lips of young girls with needles, lacing black ink through their skin until the whole area around their mouth was tattooed. Only then, after months of pain and being unable to eat solid foods, would they be strong and beautiful enough for a husband. Female genital mutilation was once practiced throughout Senegal, with flesh being carved off girls before they reached puberty to ensure that she could be married off. Thankfully, these practices are now widely viewed as backwards and cruel. Both of the practices concerned tradition and elders so if these things can change, the other inequalities surrounding marriage and relationships can change too.
In conclusion, Senegal is performing a balancing act of contradictions which make progression difficult. The creep of western culture into traditional homes threatens to destroy the customs that have been passed down for generations and lycée students are aware that they need to preserve their heritage. I do not believe that this is a bad thing, and as women continue to push for equality, the practices will eventually lose their stigma. Students are questioning polygamy and the fact that it is seen as a controversial topic is reassuring – it is no longer the norm. More and more questions are being raised and as long as there is discussion, change will follow.
Before long, for every person asking “Amnga jekker?” there will be a woman rolling her eyes in response.

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Hi 2D!
The 6e class are about to learn some clothes vocab so I thought I’d write a little bit about what people wear here.

The most interesting clothes are the traditional “boubous.” The men wear a tunic, sometimes the length of a long tshirt, other times it nearly touches the floor, and this is worn with trousers, in the same fabric as the tunic. Men’s boubous can be a plain colour, or they can be in a really brightly pattern fabric. The women wear a wide range of things but the most popular is a peplum top and a long skirt and it’s always made with a colourful fabric. To get them made, people first got to one of the many fabric shops. There are so many of these dotted around Joal which I love looking in and whenever I visit another town, I make sure to check out the fabric shops there for anything new.. needless to say I now have a huge backlog of fabric that I’m frantically trying to get through! After you’ve got your fabric, you take it to a tailor, look through a book of dresses and point at the model you want. You have to be really careful when doing this because they make it exactly like the picture and once I pointed at one with some bright orange mesh on the front, thinking he would skip that part. Well..

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It takes about a week for the tailor to finish a boubou but then, because the fabric here is really stiff with some kind of wax (I don’t know why, maybe it makes the fabric last longer?) you need to wash it with a special soap if you want to be able to breath and move around in it. Despite not always being the most comfortable, the clothes are beautiful and any formal event is always full of crazy patterns and colours.

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The bride in her first dress of the day! There were about 4 more dress changes..

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Mohammed (our host brother) wearing his boubou during Tabaski. And Josie behind him!

Young people wear a mix of traditional and western clothes. There’s a reasonably sized market that sells tshirts and jeans and there are loads of second hand shops that will sometimes adjust the clothes if they don’t fit. Friday is the day that everyone wears their boubous to school but people wear them on other days too. I’ve seen guys wear the boubou tunic with jeans and I’ve also seen girls wearing the men’s boubou, which looks really cool. I’ve been told that these boubous are comfy, and that wearing one is a bit like wearing pyjamas so I might get one made before I leave. There’s also Sidiby, the infamous European tailor. He’s this incredibly chatty guy who specialises in making western clothes, he’s really talented so you can point at a picture in a magazine or draw something yourself and he’ll be able to make it! He makes a lot of stuff for tourists passing through the area but he’s well known throughout Joal and we’ve started to point at people’s skirts saying “I BET Sidiby made that.”

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This is where you go to buy fabric!

Thank you so much for writing letters to your penpals! We can’t wait to receive them!

Emma

What we got up to this month!

 

-We discovered an art gallery on the outskirts of Joal. As well as beautiful art work, the gallery was also home to a kitchen and numerous tents! We got talking to some French and American people there, apparently they were living in the gallery, giving English, French and art lessons to kids in the area and helping at an organic garden across the road.

 

-We ran 10k in Dakar!
-There was a huge party at the church in Joal, to celebrate the start of Lent. Dancers poured out onto the streets to block the road and music played for about two days! It was a huge event, with both Christians and Muslims joining in on the celebrations.
-Owen came to visit us, so we got to show him around the Joal and Fadiouth, the ajoining island. It was the first time that another volunteer had seen our town and it was great to show off the beaches and introduce him to our host family.
-The following week, we had another visit, this time from Dave (our desk officer) which was strange as it marked the half way point of our placement in Senegal! Although it was a brief visit, we managed to get loads of news from Britain and talk about how our project is going so far. He also brought us some Cadbury’s chocolate, which was lovely, even if the heat meant that we had to eat it with a spoon!
– I celebrated my 18th in February! I wasn’t really looking forward to it because birthday’s aren’t celebrated here but Josie secretely planned a whole day of celebrations and I have no idea how she did it. Jack and Owen took the bumpy 3 hour sept place journey from Kaolack to spend a day with us by a pool on the outskirts of Joal. In the evening, Josie took us off to find a tiny house on the other side of town. She had managed to track down someone who could make cakes! We took it to our host’s house, where we were joined by the Fas Jom girls, and ate cake for dinner (the best way to end any birthday!)
– This month we also decided to up the number of hours we spend teaching the Fas jom girls. We’re now teaching French on Mondays and Tuesdays and Maths on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are spent tutoring the older girls and supervising Wolof story telling with the younger ones. We found some story books written in Wolof and, because the older girls can read it well, we’re using them to help teach the younger girls how to read. Apparently it’s easier to learn to read in your mother tongue, rather than trying to associate the alaphabet to strange new sounds and unfamiliar words. It’s also been good for the older girls to get involved with teaching. So far all of the girls have been really enthusiastic about the change! We hope it continues!

Salut 2D ! Merci beaucoup pour vos questions !
What time does school start?
School starts at 8am but finishes earlier (it would be awful to work through the hottest time of the day!) They follow the French system so students go into school on Saturday mornings too. The school year is from October until the end of June but sometimes, if teachers have been on strike and students have missed a lot of school, the school holidays get pushed back.. but that’s not a huge problem considering they get 3 months of school holidays here!
What is the name of the president?
Macky Sall
What is the meaning behind the tabaski celebration? Is it Muslim?
Yes it’s a Muslim festival. Abraham had always wanted a son but he and his wife were old and couldn’t have children so God gave Abraham the son he wanted, but when the child (Isac) grew up, God told him that he had to sacrafice him. Just as he was about to kill Isac, God told Abraham to stop, saying that he did not need to kill him and, because Abraham had obeyed Him and hadn’t even held back his own son from God, he would be rewarded. God said to Abraham that he would have as many descendants as there were stars in the sky. Abraham then went and found a sheep to sacrafice instead which is why every year in Senegal, people keep a sheep for a few weeks and then the man of the house kills it during Tabaski. Although it’s a Muslim festival, most people in Senegal celebrate both Christian and Muslim festivals, regardless of their religion.
How come chicken is expensive when it’s very cheap in Scotland?
I’m not too sure! As far as I know, there isn’t really any kind of battery farming in Senegal, but there is a tradition of rearing herds of cows. So that could have something to do with it?
What do they eat for Christmas dinner?
My Christmas dinner was eaten around a giant shared plate with 5 other people! We had pork for the first course (we were staying with a Christian family) and chicken for the second. Both were served with chips, salad and yassa (onion sauce). We had a 3rd dinner because we went to visit another family, who then insisted that we eat some of their food too!
Children canoeing?!?!
I don’t know much about them because I just paddled past them but I remember that there was an adult on the boat doing the paddling. It must take them a long time to get to school because their village was in the middle of nowhere! I have no idea where the nearest school was!
How do people get water?
This changes from region to region. Some people have running water but others face water shortages regularly. I had running water during the rainy season but since November, the water has only been on at night. This means that either Josie or myself (we take it in turns)has to set an alarm for 3am and fill buckets with water. We usually collect about 40/50 litres of water (for washing clothes, drinking, flushing the toilet, showering.. everything!) and that usually lasts us a day or two, depending on how much housework there is. If we run out, or one of us sleeps through the alarm, then there’s a well across the road from us that everyone in our area can use. We filter the water if we’re going to drink it but we can also buy drinking water in huge 10L bottles at the corner shop. So we’re never without water, it’s just a bit of a hassle to get it!
Are there any other religions in Senegal apart from Islam and Christianity?
In Joal, there are some Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jews, there’s also some Animists but I’ve only ever met Christians and Muslims.
Is Emma going to visit Westhill Academy when she gets back?
Yes, if you’ll have me! I get back on 5th August, it’d be great to visit you after the summer holidays!
Why did Emma decide to go to Senegal?
I wanted to experience a diffferent culture but French also played a big part in the decision. I had heard good things about Project Trust (the charity I’m here with) so I went on one of their selection courses and found out about Senegal for the first time. I liked the idea of actually using the French that I’d learnt at school and had dreams of becoming fluent by the end of the year. In reality, I’m putting a lot more effort into learning Wolof than French right now but I’m using French to chat to people (and to learn Wolof!) so it’s definitely been useful! As for experiencing a different culture: yup! definitely different over here! I’d really recommend it to anyone who is thinking about taking a gap year!

December was a hectic month that pasted by far too quickly!

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a taxi in Dakar

It began with an invite to the British Embassy in Dakar, for an evening of carols, mince pies and mulled wine (which all felt a bit bizarre under the Senegalese sun!) The event was for all of the British residents of Senegal so it was nice to be surrounded by familair accents again. Dakar is beautiful, it could easily be mistaken for a European city – a world away from our lives in Joal – so we took advantage of this opportunity and enjoyed our first pizza in 3 months.

 
The schools broke up on the 22nd, so we jumped in a sept-place and headed for Kaolack, to visit the volunteers there and celebrate Gamou, the birth of the prophet Mohammed, on the 23rd. As we got closer to Kaoalck, we noticed the air fill with dust. The city is futher inland and so much more arid than Joal. There are no trees. Just as we were starting to miss Joal, we spotted Owen waiting for us at the garage. He quickly took us to meet his host family and we realised that what Kaolack lacks in greenery, the people make up for in how welcoming they are! The following day, Gamou was marked by the killing of a sheep, getting dressed up in our boubous and eating more than we ever thought possible. We spent most of the day preparing meals with Owen and Jack’s host family, but we also got the chance to visit Kaoalck’s market – once of the biggest covered markets in the world. It was understandably quite daunting but we managed to haggle for a few things and come out relatively unscathed.

 

On the 24th, at 6am, we began the journey to Ziguinchore, the city south of The Gambia where the other volunteers live. Jack spent Gamou in Touba, the religious capital of Senegal, and planned meet us in Zig on Christmas day, so he managed to escape this.. rather tumultuous journey. It was all going well until we hit The Gambia, first we had to summon all of our Wolof skills and smile through every marriage proposal to avoid paying a “compulsory” bribe at the border, then we joined a queue for the ferry, which confused us because we hadn’t seen any water yet. 11 hours later, on the last ferry of the night, we had a great view of the river for all of the 15 minutes it took to get accross. Excited calls were made to Thomas and Harry, telling them that we were finally on our way and that we’d make it for Christmas, we only had 2 hours left on the road, which felt like nothing compared to how long we had just waited. Then the car stopped. When we asked another woman in the sept-place how long we’d be waiting, she laughed and said “until the morning.” We thought she was joking. The Casamance region of Senegal has had problems with rebel groups in the past and as a result, there’s still a strong military presence in the area to stop any violence from happening again. We were stuck behind a barrier that prevented people travelling at night, in an unknown village at 11pm.

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Zig

Although Christmas day had an unusual start, Ziguinchore made up for it! The previous night we had managed to find a hotel and, athough we weren’t exactly well rested, it was so much better than spending it bunched up in a sept-place. At 8am, the barriers were taken away and by 10, we were being greeted Thomas and Harry as they learned out of a taxi window, wearing santa hats. We were introduced to their host family, Gemma and Thomas, who were lovely, and then, in typical Senegalese fashion, were treated to 3 Christmas lunches. In the evening we took a trip into the city centre and then at 1am, watched a dance competition. Not your typical Christmas but definetely not one to forget!

 
The next few days were spent exploring Zig. I completely fell in love with the place! It’s this huge crumbling city, full of people bustling around on jakartas and, because there are so many tribes in the area, everyone speaks French. In Joal and Kaoalck, Wolof is the main language, but with so many tribal languages in Zig, people use French to solve the language barrier. We chatted over long breakfasts with Gemma, visited markets and one evening we were even invited to a wedding!

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Cap Skiring

 

We spent a few days in a nearby town called Cap Skiring. We’d been told that it was quite a touristy area and it soon became very clear why. Our time there was spent visiting white beaches, artisan markets and stalls selling fresh fruit juice. We drank attaya (super sweet Senegalese tea)with the hotel staff, made mulled wine on the beach and on the last night, sat around a huge camp fire surrounded with drums and hammocks.

 

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the sept-place form Cap Skirng to Zig

After celebrating the New Year back in Ziguinchore, we travelled to Oussaye and spent the next few days kayaking through mangroves. Over two days we kayaked 36k, passing remote villages and canoes filled with students on their way to school. We paddled through tunnel-like arches made from the mangrove branches and spotted a pair of dolphins (Jack later found out that they were Atlantic humback dolphins, only found on the tropical and sub tropical Altlanic African coast. The’re pretty rare, with only 1000 left in the wild – we were so lucky to see them!)

 

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Oussaye

It was interesting to see so many different areas of Senegal and I can’t wait to explore more of the country in the Easter holidays but for now I’m happy to be back in Joal. I’ve begun teaching again, I’m looking forward to getting involved with some secondary projects. I’m also really happy that I can now say “see you this summer!”

Josie and I live on the outskirts of Joal, near the port and the garage. The port is a hectic jumble of colourful pirogues – each painted with a different pattern – and people on horse and cart, coming to and fro, transporting the daily catch. If you manage to zip through all of that unscathed, the coast becomes quieter and you can even see some greenery! The garage is where you’ll find the taxis that can take you around Joal or further afield, but there’s also a little cluster of stalls nearby where you can buy fruit and most necessities.

There isn’t really anything resembling the kind of public transport we have back home. To travel around, people usually get into a sept-place (7 seater taxi) or squeeze into a huge bus. There’s no way of knowing if you’ll be able to find someone to take you where you need to go, you just have to turn up at the garage and hope for the best.

We cycle through the garage when we’re travelling to work but we also visit a few times a week to buy our fruit, this time I decided to take my camera along to show you a snippet of our life Joal!

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This is the road leading to the garage, some of the stalls are in the distance.

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This is our street! Our house is on the right, after the yellow one. We buy our bread every morning from a little stall beside the big tree on the left.

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Miss you all, hope you’re enjoying a festive December !

P.S For those of you who don’t know, this blog is being read by the West Hill Academy’s French students and they asked some questions about my post on Senegalese food:

“The pupils commented on how different this looks to what they had for dinner last night.
Some of them liked the idea of sharing a giant bowl – others weren’t so sure.
Quite a few mentioned that there wasn’t a lot of fish/meat – do you feel like you get enough?
Pupils wondered is there a McDonalds or other fast food restaurants there ?”

-It varies from day to day but the portions of meat are generally a lot smaller here. I eat a lot of fish and a bit of red meat. Sometimes we’ll have chicken but it’s expensive so that’s more of a treat. Senegal is a Muslim country so it’s really difficult to find any pork – we haven’t had any since we arrived. I don’t really miss it though, the new sauces and vegetables definitely make up for it! (I should also probably mention that the photo in the last post was a portion for two, the bowl is a lot bigger when we eat with the family.)
-I haven’t seen a McDonald’s yet! There are restaurants but not like the fast food chains in the UK. When we were in Dakar, our Country Rep took us to a bright green restaurant that only served meat. (Which contradicts everything I wrote in the last paragraph!) The walls were green, the sofas were green… the floor was carpeted with fake grass. It was an experience! We go for our meals at a “restaurant,” but I suppose it’s more like a worker’s canteen. Half of the small room is taken up by one long table that everyone sits at, the rest of the space acts as a kitchen and is full of giant pots and bowls. If people don’t have a family to cook for, they tend to go to one of these restaurants because it’s a lot quicker and easier, so the place in always full of people to chat to in a garbled mixture of French and Wolof. Ami (the talented cook) is lovely to us, she dances her way around the kitchen and sometimes treats us to a cup of coffee or yoghurt after our meal.

After travelling with our host family for most of September, we spent the first few days of October settling into our home for the next year. In Joal, there is a main street which stretches towards Fadiouth, an island just off the coast. The main road is lined with shops, markets and little stalls selling fruit and bread, the beach runs along side it so you can see the colourful boats that line the coast. To travel around Joal, we usually cycle or jump in one of the taxis that drive along the main road but donkeys pulling carts are quite common too.
We moved into our apartment and met the other people who’ll be living there with us. We share the apartment with a maths teacher called Jaques; our landlord; two German Shepards called Jamata and Bella; and countless spiders. The spiders are the biggest I’ve ever seen, imagine a tarantula but not so cuddly. Think spindly sharp limbs and pincers.
In early October, Jack and Owen, the volunteers in Kaolack, called us up and asked if we could meet them in a tiny coastal village called Palmarin. By 6pm that day we were there, after a fairly tumultous journey (the hotel we stayed in was so remote that we had to take a horse and cart to get there!) We decided to explore the nearby village by walking along the coast and then wading through a lagoon, following the remains of what was once a bridge. Palmarin was the first place where we hadn’t heard the call to prayer and, although there are lots of Christians in Senegal, it was usual to find an area where Christianity was the predominant faith.
We began teaching this month! Since we arrived, we’ve been anxious to get started but schools start a lot later over here and everything seems to take a bit longer to get set up so it was great to recieve our timetables for some classes. I teach a 6e, 5e and then two premiere classes. We’re also giving French and maths evening classes to girls who can’t attend school.
October also meant the arrival of Tamaurit, the Senegalese version of Halloween. Kids cross dress or paint their faces and then parade through the town, hitting drums and dancing, asking for money or rice. Since Joal isn’t a huge place, we weren’t expecting it to be a big event but kids were running through the streets for hours!

Internet is being tempormental so I can’t upload many photos but here are a few of our classrooms and our visit to Fadiouth.

 

 

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Thieboudienne

The meals here are all served in a huge bowl that everyone eats from. Some form of rice/couscous/pasta lines the bowl, the sauce is put in the middle and then the meat or fish is put in the very center. The sauce is usually spicy and the most common one is yassa which is caramalised onions with a bunch of spices thrown in. I need to learn the recipe before I leave. Yassa is life changing. I will never look at an onion the same way again.

Although yassa will always have a special place in my heart, the national dish is called Thieboudienne. It’s a fish dish with loads of vegetables thrown in. There’s carrot, aubergine, a more bitter kind of aubergine, yam and sweet potato. You know when you make paella and the best bit is the crispy rice at the bottom? That’s included in the dish but no one in our host family eats it so Josie and I get it every time, it’s so good.

The bissap plant can be used for both sweet and savory things. The berries are used in sugary juices and ice cream and the leaves are ground up with spices to make a paste that you can mix wth your rice. The berries taste a bit like plum but the leaves have this really strong taste that’s hard to describe because I haven’t eaten anything like it in the UK.

Whenever you stop eating, no matter how much you eat, someone will always looks at you in dismay and say, “LEKK! LEKK!” (“EAT! EAT!”) to which you must respond, “Surna!” (“I’m full!”) or continue to trek through the endless mountain of rice.

September was a hectic month full of Senegalese culture and a lot of rain!
We flew out to Dakar on the 12th, where we were met by our country rep, Mr T. Dakar is crazy, I swear no one ever sleeps! I can remember being completely overwhelmed by the amount of people, noise and humidity. On the first day we attended a youth debate called Voix de Jeunes which made me panic because it was essentially 4 hours of French going over my head but it’s become so much easier to understand after a month of hearing the langauge. We saw the President’s palace and were treated to our first Senegalese dish: poulet yassa.
Josie and I left Dakar for Joal, where we met our host family. Amadou is our host dad, Aicha our host mum and then there’s our host siblings, Mohamed (14), Marrieme (7) and Kadija (just turned 2). They’ve all been really welcoming and, although we’re not living in their house, it’s been great to spend time with them.
After two days in Joal, we left for Thies to visit Aicha’s extended family and to attend our first Senegalese wedding. We borrowed some boubous from a neighbour and then jumped in a taxi to the wedding. It was so lively! Everyone was up dancing and then, of course, the toubabs got dragged into the dance circle. Nothing can prepare you for how well the Senegalese can dance, or how stupid you’ll feel next to them.
We went to Dakar for Tabaski to see Amadou’s side of the family. We were sipping our morning coffe when a sheep was dragged into the courtyard and killed, a few meters away from our chocopain! The man of each family has to kill a sheep during tabaski and, because there were a lot of families gathered together, we had two on the first day and then another two the following day. It was all over pretty quickly, it was done in the most humane way possible and nothing was wasted (we had four meals every day.)
On the second evening of Tabaski, everyone got into their boubous and walked around in the street. The kids went round to neighbours’ houses, dressed in their best clothes, asking for money or sweets and then later in the evening, the adults went around to relatives houses and asked them for forgiveness.
While we were in Dakar, we went to the market with Aicha and some other ladies because they needed to buy make-up for another wedding but got caught in a rain storm. When the rain started, I presumed that we’d run into the nearest taxi and call it a day but these ladies were the most determinded shoppers I had ever come across. We ran into the closest shop, wearing plastic bags over our heads but the shop was piled high with nappies and baby products – not exactly what they were needing. The rain was so heavy that a small river was building up through the market, so they ordered a man to wade through the water to find them things, kind of like a personal shopper. Word caught on that they were keen shoppers so people arrived at the shop, pitching their products to us. Beats shopping in Britain any day.
No one here can pronounce our names very well, someone thought that Josie was called Jay Z, so we now have Senegalese names (I’m Amina and Josie is Fatima.)
The schools start a lot later here, so the past month or so has been a great opportunity to experience Senegalese culture and tradition and to get to know our host family. I can’t wait to spend year in this country!

Photos from our roof in Joal:

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As soon as I collect in all of the sponsorship money, I’ll have officially reached my target of £5900! A year ago, the prospect of raising nearly six thousand pounds was pretty terrifying but I have been overwhelmed with everyone’s generosity and I really can’t thank you all enough!

This is a rough breakdown of how the money was raised!

TRUSTS – Summer 2014

My summer was spent researching and sending letters to trusts but it was worth all of the work! I received around £2000 from a variety of trusts. I’ll be sending reports to each one during my time in Senegal.

WALK AND RAFFLE – October 2014

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With the help of Morven, a coach at Curves, a raffle and a 5k walk were organised for the exercise franchise. It was a really successful event! Everyone seemed to enjoy it! The only fatality was a questionable pink cowboy hat but we quickly got over the loss of that wardrobe stable when we realised that we’d raised £525! This was only possible because of Morven!

CRAFT FAIRS – November & December 2014

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My dad was a huge help with this! He made a variety of wooden craft from local, sustainable sources and then we sold them at Christmas craft fairs. Everything he made went down really well, especially the chopping boards! We raised a huge £1500 by selling things at around 5 fairs.

FILM NIGHT AND RAFFLE – March 2015

I don’t have any photos of this event which is a shame because I really enjoyed this event! I showed the film “Little Senegal” and raised £450.

SPONSORED CYCLE – June 2015

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My family and a few of our friends agreed to cycle the 30 miles from Falkirk to Edinburgh and together we raised the last £1000!

I have my training on the Isle of Coll on the 8th – 12th July which is when I’ll be given my plane ticket! Then all I’ve got to do is try not to miss my flight and I’ll be teaching in Senegal come September!

Thank you to everyone who bought/made chopping boards, donated raffle prizes, helped me to organise events, donated money, cycled (in a hot dog suit) and supported me throughout fundraising! Thankyouthankyouthankyou! I’ll be using this blog to keep you all in the loop!