Asalaa Malekum! Hey parents, hope all is well back home. Things are running smoothly across the Atlantic Ocean besides a few protests running against the Gov’t (don’t worry, we will get back to the US…eventually). In Senegal for the past three days, we have lived in a residential with a very sweet “mama” named Aida. Every morning, we hike a mile to the ACI Baobab Center from our home before heading to start our daily routine. Recently, we have been traveling by taxi to an international private school in Mariste, St Marie de Hann, which has students from 48 different nationalities! The school is actually quite nicely put together, the students are from fee-paying families. Spending our days at the lower, middle and upper schools really has given us a feel for the nature of Senegalese students as well as their learning system.
Charlotte and I have spent most of our time with an excitable group of girls. They were open to welcoming us into their classrooms and their smiling faces helped us feel more comfortable with our surroundings. They loved hearing about the United States, and incessantly asked to hear stories from back home. Yesterday, they searched my mobile photos and were inquisitive about every single picture. It was funny because whenever they spotted a picture of a guy on my phone, I was mobbed with girls asking, “Is this your boyfriend!? He is cute!”. The girls, I noted, were very influenced by Western music and television as well. They are crazy about the legendary Justin Beiber, Selena Gomez, Harry Potter and the Twilight series (“Charlotte looks like Taylor Swift!”). Another story I recall exemplifying their fondness for America, which made me laugh, was when one girl told me she called a random American number and screamed into the receiver: “This is my first time calling America!”
They were so overwhelmingly friendly, always happy to chat with us. After lunch yesterday, I taught them a card game from home and they taught me a card game that they play together in Senegal. I loved meeting these girls and interacting with them (we even friended some on facebook!)
Taking a step back and looking at the school as a whole, I could point to multiple differences from the school systems we know, which is based on the French education system. For instance, the classrooms were crowded with up to 30 students! After class, the students quickly scooted out with their bags and had a break. They showed us around their campus during this period of time; they had an infirmary building, a garden, a playground, blacktops, a stage, and even a zoo, where we saw pelicans! The school was very large, accommodating about 1,500 students every day.
Before we departed from the school for our last time, we gave a presentation to three classes about what we had learned from Senegal. We skimmed over many topics such as the cultural values, how people interacted, food, and clothing. After our presentation, there was a question and answer section. All the kids shot up their hands and asked us factual questions like they were quizzing us! “What is our president’s name?”, “When is our independence day?”, etc. It was interesting to see that they emphasize facts over analysis, which is more what we are taught to do at home.
Seeing how the kids and education are structured in Senegal give us a feel for the overlying structure of their entire lifestyle. I love the contrasting values and traditions of the culture here and hope to experience more examples during the last stretch of our wonderful journey! Liza