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Emily Hanna

A life-long resident of Seattle, Emily loves the outdoors, volunteering, reading, and the arts. She was inspired to take a gap year by her involvement as a volunteer counselor at YMCA Camp Orkila and her experiences teaching school in rural Cambodia in the spring of 2010. A graduate of The Overlake School, Emily hopes to pursue a career in education focusing on women in the developing world.



May 2, 2012

What’s in a name? For me, at first, nothing. My Senegalese name was bestowed upon me by a random man who happened to be in the offices of my apprenticeship supervisor on my first day in Sebikotane. “What’s your name? Emily? Here you will be Aminata – Ami, for short. Ami, Emily…you see? They sound...

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Stairs to Nowhere

March 23, 2012

They’re a common sight along the road to my village, the stairs to nowhere. They dot the shoulder, sturdy cement constructions that lead only to thin air. Once upon a time, someone thought it would be a good idea to build pedestrian overpasses at the locations these stairs now occupy – but the money ran...

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Walking the Walk (and Living Up to My Stickers)

February 17, 2012

It’s 7:50am and nearly time for me to leave the house. I take one last glance in the mirror and survey my outfit for the day; black leggings, dusty pink tank top, faded denim shirt, and a loosely knotted cotton scarf are hardly professional, serious, or teacherly attire, but they’re the best I can do...

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My New (Gap) Year’s Resolutions

January 17, 2012

Whenever people ask me how I’m enjoying Senegal, I unfailingly respond that taking a bridge year was the best decision I’ve ever made. And I stand by that statement. But, I’ll admit, over the past four months, I’ve occasionally lost sight of the bigger picture and instead focused in on the things that make life...

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We Heart Reproductive Rights!

December 11, 2011

How does one talk about family planning and reproductive rights in a country where it’s taboo to acknowledge that a woman is pregnant? Loudly and enthusiastically, as it turns out, with lots of important people for an audience and plenty of media coverage to help spread the word. This uncharacteristic openness was but one of...

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Dance, Tubab, Dance

November 15, 2011

I will never be able to dance like a Senegalese woman. This rueful and self-defeating axiom runs through my mind over and over, growing steadily more certain the longer my friend – and fellow Fellow – Fatima Ndiaye (Natalie Davidson), her host sister Fatou, and I watch the sabat (drumming-and-dancing ceremony) the inhabitants of our...

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Senegalese Cinderella

October 25, 2011

I plunge my dirty rag into the bucket of soapy water in front of me, holding back a wince as the soap suds and lye find their way into all my cuts and scratches. My hands are raw from scrubbing, and my left eye is red and weepy from my unwise attempt to rub it...

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Africa Contains Multitudes

October 1, 2011

“Ami! Aminata! Viens ici! Come here!” My 18-year-old Senegalese sister Aicha, calls for me, then, unsatisfied with my speed, pulls me from my room and plops me down in front of the television. “You won’t believe this” she tells me in French. A documentary is playing on TV, narrated in hushed tones by a solemn French actor,...

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September 14, 2011

Since arriving in Senegal, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the concepts of privilege and luxury, and how drastically their definitions can change depending upon one’s environment. Personally, my perception of what constitutes a “luxury” has shifted dramatically since my immersion into Senegalese culture. There are material aspects of of this duality of luxury, of course;...

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One Week Down…

September 8, 2011

I wanted to wait until I’d been in Senegal for a week before writing my first blog post, and I’m happy I did. Leafing through my journal entries from my first few days in Dakar, it is striking how a seemingly simple change of location ( U.S.A to Senegal) totally threw me for a loop. Those...

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The Experience of a Lifetime

July 11, 2011

Growing up, it seemed like every single one of my peers had a special talent; each friend had something they excelled at, something that set them apart from the rest. There were my athletic friends, my musical friends, my academically successful friends…but try as I might, I could never quite find the discipline that suited...

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