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Kaitlyn Johnke

Kaitlyn is passionate about traveling and educating others though community service. She is involved in service with BuildOn, and in high school completed 275 volunteer hours at local service projects, including tutoring at an elementary school and sending books to prisoners. With the Oakland Zoo, she was able to volunteer in Guatemala and Borneo. Her main goal for this year is to have no regrets about missing opportunities to try new things and assimilate into a new culture.


(Not) The End

August 3, 2014

I started crying on the morning two days before I left Gale Neenang Dialamba et Babang Sori, the place I have called home for the last eight months and always will. “Wataa wulu, wataa wulu. A wuli. Yewni.” (Don’t cry, don’t cry. Alright, you’ve cried, enough.) My family, outside the kitchen, was telling me, waiting...

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Halugol, Famugol

July 15, 2014

(Pulaar to English title translation: To Speak, To Understand) In February, I alone headed out to Dakar to meet my family as they arrived in Senegal to visit me. Being fourteen hours away by car from my host family, I called them on the phone and my host mother, Neena Dialamba, asked “A suusi lootade?”(Are...

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Where Time Takes Us

February 23, 2014

I wade across the Gambia River, not bothering to roll up my pants because I know the water will eventually be higher than I can roll them. A cow leads the way across the river to where Sadou is in the garden on the other side, and I can see the red speck that is...

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Aissatou’s Wedding

February 3, 2014

When holidays or special events arise, I view them with significantly more apprehension than excitement because for a whole day or even week, I have yet again landed in another world: different greetings are said, I am supposed to follow a course of actions everyone understands but me, we wear different clothes, and I am...

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A Quick Preview of Home

October 2, 2013

When I hear “Mariama(my name), ar nyameng(come eat),” from my host mother, Djalamba, I am immediately tremendously grateful for the opportunity to actively engage with my family members and community, even if I’m not really very hungry. Last week I was in my host site of the rural city of Kedougou and I was told...

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Navigating a Jungle

July 18, 2013

On my trip to Guatemala with the Oakland Zoo, we released two parrots into a mangrove forest. Because they had not been properly rehabilitated, our guides suspected that there was a good chance that the birds would get caught again by poachers. The parrots did not know to be afraid of humans, which was demonstrated...

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