Showing posts from May, 2017

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