Showing posts from 2017

The Cats of Senegal

(Becca here, as Caryn and Austin do not quite agree with me on this point) Perhaps the most challenging aspect of our time in Senegal presented itself in the form of temptation. That is, the temptation to pet every cat around. In the States, this is of course perfectly normal. People love cats. They're adorable. Who wouldn't want to pet a cat? In Senegal, the story is quite different. Cats are pests to the Senegalese, disgusting, dirty, gross little critters that no one wants to touch. I have received many an odd look from all of the cats that I have pet, be they in the street, outside of the house, at WARC, at my internship, et cetera. I have been warned by many a folk not to touch the cats, as they are dirty and not friendly. I have here photo evidence that proves otherwise. Garbage Cat First and foremost is Garbage Cat, so named because he eats garbage. I see him almost every single day on the way to my internship. I haven't tried to pet him, because, you k

Austin's Internship

Austin is working at Centre Gindi. It is a home for children, mostly boys who are victims of abuse. The home provides medical care, basic amenities such as showers and a place to sleep, and 3 square meals a day. 2 for the older children during Ramadan. It is also a safe place for these kids where no one can hurt them. I said mostly boys because most of them come from a fundamentalist school where the master beats them but because no one outside sees it, the police can't do anything. I work with the kids, play games, and work with the other college volunteers to teach them positive ways to gain control, and feel empowered. We also do conflict resolution so these kids don’t turn to violence as well. The center is a great place and even though the kids come from cruddy situations that are by no means their fault, they still have high spirits. That is all I need to Keep doing the best I can for these kids.

San Louis

This past weekend, the team went to San Louis, a beautiful city north of Dakar. We left on Friday, stopping in Thiess to visit a tapestry manufacturer. We were able to see the process that goes into making tapestries and carpets by hand, and saw some beautiful samples of works in their exhibition room. Next, we stopped at the university and talked with some students in the English department, comparing our experiences and universities. After touring the campus a bit, we went to our hotel for the night, located on the river with a beautiful view of the bridge. On Saturday, we took a carriage ride around the island. We had a tour guide with us, stopping at interesting locations and telling us about their significance and history. We also went to an archaeology/art/hands on astronomy museum for a brief stop. It was a small building, but an interesting view into how these topics are presented in Senegal. Finally, we went to a lake outside of San Louis, near the ocean. We got to e

Becca's Internship

Becca is working at Noor International Academy, a school that just opened this past September. It is a bilingual Islamic school with just 25 students. She teaches a preschool class for 45 minutes a day, mostly reviewing things that the kids learned earlier in the year. Apart from teaching, she also does a lot of work on decorations for the school. A lot of the students speak English and a few of them are from the US. For the most part, the preschoolers she teaches do not speak much English beyond what they have learned in class, though there is one American student. The curriculum is Senegalese, as the school is trying to break away from following the French setup for education. Senegalese teaching styles are quite different from those typically seen in the US, so the main goal of Becca's internship (according to her boss) is to offer a new perspective on learning styles & approaching problems.

A Weekend in Petite Côte

This past weekend, the DIAS group went on a weekend trip to Petite Côte. We stopped for a day in Papenguine, and saw a site where the Virgin Mary appeared as a black woman to a woman and her baby. We also meet Moussa Sene Absa, a Senegalese film producer. We were able to tour his house and watch one of his movies, Madame Broullette. The group was able to discuss the film with Mr. Absa and get a glimpse into his inspiration. We spent the night in a hotel over looking the beach, built by the hands of one man. At 90 years old, he still works on sculpting the hotel. The next day, we went to Fadiouat, a shell island. We toured the island and the cemetery, which is the final resting place of both Christians and Muslims. We were able to take a short canoe ride through the mangroves and passed the island to the mainland. After lunch, we headed to the home of the father of the first president of Senegal, Senghor. We were then able to relax with our fellow students for another evening at a re

Caryn's Internship Experience

The first week here, Caryn interned with le Centre Suivi Ecologie (CSE). She was able to experience how Senegalese business and meetings are conducted. The organization was in charge of making sure the new city the government is constructing gets developed in a way that will benefit the people and the environment. She was able to sit in on meetings and discussions with the firm overseeing the infrastructure construction, the fire department in the area, and the census bureau. It was interesting to see what concerns each party had and how CSE is considering multiple points of view in their investigation. Caryn will spend the remainder of her internship experience with ENDA, an environmental and development organization.

Part of the Program

Part of the program here with the Dakar Institute of African Studies (DIAS) is taking a Wolof class and participating in an internship program. Each of us has a different internship experience, which will be discussed in later blog posts. Wolof is the largest spoken African language in Dakar. Our class is taught mostly in French, with some English classifications, so we're getting plenty of practice in both languages. A typical set of introductions may look like the following: Salaam alekum.        Peace be with you. Malekum salaam.    And with you. Na nga def?              How are you? Ma ngi fi.                   I'm fine, or literally, I am here. We are getting plenty of practice outside of the classroom in both French and Wolof as we meet knew people, greet our Senegalese friends, and talk to our host families.


This past Friday, we visited the city of Touba, which was about a four hour bus ride from Dakar. Touba is the holy city for the Mourid brotherhood, a sect of Islam started by a man known in Wolof as Sëriñ Tuuba. The city is in the desert, and on the particular day we visited, temperatures were around 105ºF. Since the city is sacred to the Islamic religion, any building we visited required that women have their heads covered, as well as wearing dresses that reached to their ankles & with long sleeves. To say the least, it was a hot day for us. Our host families provided outfits for us, Caryn & Becca's mother giving them headscarves, and Austin's family providing traditional male Senegalese robes. We learned quite a bit about Islam and Mouridism, as well as the way life works in different parts of Senegal. The day was also not without its difficulties, as we came across many a cultural misunderstanding that proved more than a little frustrating to work around. Overall, ho

Home Stays

Last Friday we met our host families. Becca and Caryn are together with a host mom who has been welcoming students from all over the globe into her home since 2002. Their mom speaks French and Wolof and is patient in teaching and communicating with them. Her children all have families of their own, so the house is often quiet during the day. Austin's host family has housed everyone from students to CDC doctors for the past ten years. Six immediate family members live in the three-story home, as well as 2 Senegalese students going to university in Dakar and an American also studying at DIAS. Though most of the family doesn't speak English, they are very patient and understanding as he learns French and Wolof. Family is incredibly important here, and members of the extended family often stop by to spend time with each other. We are always meeting new people who are often excited to help us practice the few phrases of Wolof we have learned in our class thus far and expand our v

Gorée Island

On Sunday the DIAS group (all the American and some Senegalese students) went on a tour of Gorée Island, just off the coast from Dakar. This island, pictured below, was one of the main slave trading posts in West Africa. It has seen a history of violence as European powers fought each other for control of the island, and worse, the atrocities committed during the imprisonment and trading of slaves. The group was led on a tour throughout the island, with the main stop being the House of Slaves. The House of Slaves gave each of us an experience they will never forget. We saw the room where humans were weighed like cattle, where they were imprisoned in small, dark cells like sardines, and the door through which there was no return. We heard detailed explanations of what would happen to any who were unhealthy or rebellious. The sick were killed, thrown into the sea for the sharks, to prevent disease from spreading. Any violent or misbehaving slaves were enclosed in a tiny cell, no room

Arriving in Dakar

We arrived in Dakar Wednesday afternoon after a red eye from JFK. We met two other students from the US studying with the Dakar Institute of African Studies (DIAS). Two representatives, Khadija and Barrel from DIAS picked us up from the airport and took us to a dorm for the first few nights, pictured below. Our team, two other students, Khadija, and Barrel ate yassa for lunch, a delicious dish of chicken and rice with a spicy onion sauce. After another student arrived from the US we went out for pizza for dinner with some of the DIAS professors. Our first full day, Thursday, we had our orientation at the West African Research Center (WARC), where we discussed what to expect in Dakar and from this program. We had lunch at WARC and spent time getting to know each other before heading back to the dorm for one more night.

The Team

Caryn I am Environmental Engineering Major. I am heavily involved with the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders. I am involved in undergraduate research with the Great Lakes Research Center on campus, focusing primarily on data processing and analysis. Outside of work and school I enjoy playing rugby and being outdoors. Becca I am an English Major, with minors in French and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I have worked for the past few years as an English coach for international graduate students, and just recently spent time working with kids in France as an English teacher. For fun, I enjoy reading and I am very involved with our theater department on campus. Austin I am Mechanical Engineering Technology Major. I am involved all over campus, from being VP of Pistol club at, the current RA in the Honors House, to work at the Rozsa center as a student technician and electrician. My spare time is used for either reading of all calibers of material, and t

What is the Global Leadership Pathway?

H ello all! We are currently one month away from our scheduled departure to Dakar, Senegal. Final details are being hashed out and the packing process begins. But what is the Pavlis Institute? The the Global Leadership Pathway within the Pavlis Honors College, "inspires and prepares Michigan Technological University students to become leaders who challenge themselves, work effectively on diverse teams, and achieve their goals through life-changing courses, projects, mentorships, and international experiences." After taking various classes and seminars to address some areas of effective leadership and cultural awareness, teams are sent to work on and develop projects using the principles of human centered design. Currently, the program has sites established in India, Ghana, and Tanzania, with additional sites in Senegal and Brazil being explored this year. Our team is piloting the site in Dakar, Senegal this year. This blog is where we will post our progress, our ideas,