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24 Jan 2014 Timeline

I apologize for having not publicly documented anything for the past five and a half months. Hopefully this timeline will adequately catch you up on the most important points and periods. 

September: Smelly, sweaty September. I spent the first month in a Wolof family with two American study-abroad sisters. By day I went to French, Pulaar, or culture classes, ate frozen yogurt on the street, wandered down the beach near one of the affluent expatriate neighborhoods and tried my best not to melt into a puddle on the pavement. By night my friends and I explored the club scene and the restaurants where the waitresses speak five languages. Then I would try to sleep during the 30 minute intervals planes weren’t nearly scraping off the roof of my house as they took off from the near by airport. 

October: Equipped with two and a half weeks of Pulaar lessons I joined my Dindefelo family on the 6th. Dindefelo is a village of about 2600 in the Region of Kedougou. It’s the largest village within a radius of about 15 kilometers. Four other fellows live nearby: Alex lives in Pelele, an hour walk to the West, Cameron in Segou, a 20 minute bike ride to the East, Keaton is about three miles past Cameron in Thiabekare, and Vruj lives at the Imam’s house in Dindefelo about a four minute walk from mine. Geographically we live the closest to each other of any of the other fellows in Senegal. There’s a weekly market every Sunday in Dindefelo where you can usually find at least three out of the five of us on any given Lumo day (market day). 

The first three weeks were amazing. I knew I was in the honeymoon phase and let myself enjoy it. Even though my language skills were minimal my family was incredibly patient and welcoming. I live with three sisters, Aminata, Diami, and Adjidiatou Diallo. They are 9, 15, and 19 years old. I’m named after the youngest. I spent my time shelling peanuts, shucking corn, trying to learn to cook, and making tea. 

November: Things started to a little more difficult for me this month. Peanut and corn harvests were siding down and I felt aimless with a lack of activities for me to partake in. I wasn’t progressing as quickly as I would have liked with the language either. Things changed immediately upon returning from the first Training Seminar which took place around Thanksgiving. 

December: I planted tomatoes, lettuce, onions, cabbage, and okra in the community garden with my mom and sisters on December 1st. Since then I’ve been watering and tending to them every morning at sunrise and every evening. I also started working at the middle/high school as an assistant English teacher in the sixth form class, the equivalent of about seventh grade in the US. I have sixty students aged 12 to 17 and I’ve taught three 2 hour lessons on my own so far. School ended because of the holidays about three weeks ago and just resumed yesterday so hopefully I can get back in the classroom soon. Most of my days are filled with watering my veggies, cooking lunching with my sister, making Attaye (senegalese tea), and reading. While it doesn’t sound like a lot, the days are going by faster than I’d like and 2014 is already here. In accordance with a New Years resolution I’ll try to have a new blog up each month from now on. Until then! 

  • avachen1223

    hiya! Glad you’re doing well, and congrats on your progress so far! It sounds like you’re having fun.

    I admire your perseverance in even the “boring things in life.” College kids get breaks from school; but you’re actually living your work. Your work matters; keep it up!

    I sent you a letter a few months ago hoping to make it in time for christmas. Hopefully you got it, or will get it soon. Otherwise, I’ll find other ways to catch up with you. (or maybe you’ve already replied and I’m the silly one)

    It’s very strange, visualizing you in the equator when I’m lighting a wood stove in a ski lodge. The world is big; thanks for the blog! A very enjoyable read.



  • reidmarl

    Hi Emily! Thanks for bringing all of us up to date. We loved reading about your experiences thus far. Your Dindefelo family sounds great! You now have three new sisters, a much expanded family, many new friends, and many unforgettable experiences. What an amazing opportunity this has been…

    Boppa, Nelli, Greta, and I send much love. And please give our love and thanks to your African family and friends for all their kindness on your behalf.

    Grandma and Boppa

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