Last night we danced. Senegalese pop music bounced off the trunks of centuries-old redwood trees as we encircled a campfire and attempted to follow the lead of our dance instructor Christian, a fellow Senegal Fellow from Germany (I’m still not sure why he knew the routine, but he sure knew it). Our feet moved quickly and our arms flailed wildly. I got a hang of the dance after a little while, but it didn’t matter— there was no right or wrong, no good or bad, just dancing. We repeated the same song over and over again until our brows were sweaty and our legs were heavy. We laughed. Passer-byers laughed. We were together. We are the 2016 Senegal Cohort, and we are ready.
We’re ready to meet our host brothers and sisters, to eat from a shared bowl, and to feel the warmth of the Senegalese sun. We’re ready for language barriers, upset stomachs, and long, hot days. We’re ready to learn French, Wolof, Pulaar, and Serer. We’re ready to be called “toubab.” We’re ready for uncertainty. We’re ready for fun.
The 2016 Senegal Cohort is warm and inviting. We hail from California to Connecticut, Norway to Costa Rica. We speak Spanish, Norwegian, and Mandarin, to name a few. We like to talk. A lot. We feel at home in the mountains, by the ocean, and with our families, including friends and animals. We swim, we hike, we read, we write. We give and receive big hugs (sorry Eirik). We ask questions and we tell stories.
We haven’t know each other for very long, but as the days start to drag on and the year starts to fly by, we’ll need one another. All 14 of us belong in the 2016 Senegal Cohort. So that’s my motto for now: you are where you belong. Say it with me everyone: you are where you belong.