9-4-17 Theis, Senegal.
Let’s go back……
I arrived at Stanford University for the orientation last Sunday. Between now and then a lot has happened. The orientation week (or Global Launch) was very busy, there are about 140 “fellows” in total, but only 23 of us are in the Senegal Cohort (we are the elite cohort for sure); and we were busy all week with different speakers and sessions preparing us for the next eight months. The speakers we had were all amazing, inspirational and uplifting about the journey that we would be taking. By far the most important aspect of global launch was meeting all the different people that would be with me in Senegal and other fellows that would be visiting India, Brazil, or Ecuador. The way global launch was set up, I was able to connect closely to not only the people in my cohort, but also form great friendships with people that I was only with for a week; I miss them already and I’ve only been away from them for two days.
Our flight was scheduled for 8:30 on Saturday (9-2) meaning we could be waking up at Stanford at 3:00 to make it to the airport on time with a large group of 23 people plus Caroline (our Senegal Team coordinator, aka mama duck, but seriously Caroline is an amazing human, I’m so lucky that she’s my team coordinator). Naturally waking up at three am sucks, so Nick (new found best friend from Kentucky) and I got pretty much everybody to pull all-nighters, whether they were waking up at 3:00 am or not, we had a chant—“No sleep ‘till SENEGAAAAALLL” that powered us through the night. Then at 4:30 we were on a bus headed to SFO.
It didn’t feel real. I kept saying to myself, Erik you are living in Africa for the next eight months, but it never sounded real to me. I considered myself lucky, a lot of people at global launch were nervous about the upcoming eight months, but thanks to the amazing friends I made that week, I was somewhat blinded by sheer confidence and cool. (not a bad thing for the record) I feel like some of this confidence rubbed onto other people at global launch as well, on that bus at 4:30 pretty much all 23 of us were feeling good. Caroline was Impressed that Nick, Avi (other new best friend from Houston), and I had enough energy to still be singing at the top of our lungs after 22 hours no sleep.
A six-hour flight to JFK went by smoothly. Our five hour layover there went by pretty fast, but by the end of it, we had adopted a new slogan with slightly less enthusiasm “No sleep ‘till the….Plaaaane”. Nine hours after that we touched down in Dakar, Senegal.
Our Cohort as a whole has adopted a slogan “we out here”. After an hour long bus ride out of Dakar to the city of Theis (pronounced Ches) I can officially say: we out here.
Now that we’re in country we have what we call “country Launch” which in Senegal is held in Theis at a training center that reminds me a lot of my hotel in Kathmandu, very nice, but you can always tell that you’re in a third world country; no clean running water, no AC (and WOW it is hot, maybe only in the 90’s during the day but it is toward the end of the rainy season which means humidity, and a lot of it, something that I’m not used to at all. I’ve just realized that I’m going to be sweaty as all hell for the next eight months so I might as well get used to it.) Also, something that is new to me, no toilet paper…. After being here for two days, I can officially say that using your left hand to uhh… cleanup is not as bad as it sounds, but I’m open for debate.
Of all the new “experiences”, food, culture, ect. I can officially say that the best part of my Global Citizen Year so far is the people I get to share it with. Caroline our Senegal coordinator is amazing, we have two team leaders who live in country, Georgia and James, both of which are amazing humans. Also the other fellows in the Senegal cohort are some of the best people I have met in my life. I have made friendships in a week that I know will last a lifetime. Izzy (other best friend from Wisconsin), Wyatt (Still another best friend form North Carolina), Nick and I have already started talking about taking a massive road trip when we get home. To say the least, everybody I’m here with is great to spend time with.
The first evening we were here in Theis we had a pickup basketball game with three locals about my age which was a blast even though I’m terrible at basketball, but the hoops are only 9 ft, so I can dunk which is awesome. I ended up rolling my ankle pretty well during the game, which turned out okay, because the next night the three of them brought what seemed to be all of the best basketball players from Theis, I’m dead serious the shortest one was about 6’3”. I watched my cohort get smoked at basketball (being polite), but even with the hurt ankle I had to defend our honor on the football pitch, and we only ended up losing by several goals, which was nice.
To bring this entry to a close all I can say is that I’m so happy to be here. Every day I’m learning so much, whether is the local language (wolof), the new foods, or just new people, everything is amazing and exciting. I’m already falling in love with this country and its people, and its only day two.
Cool things I’ve seen – Baobab trees
Chameleon (it changed Colors!!!)
Nick trying new foods