The volunteers got together on Christmas eve, the 24th, to celebrate the holiday together! In the morning they gathered at Keur Dada, a beautiful hotel at the north end of the city right on the river where they had a delicious and filling breakfast! Some decided to stay and spend the sunny day there at the pool!
In the evening we all met on the boat Bou el Mogdad where we exchanged our Secret Santa gifts to the music of a Christmasy Jazz concert that was taking place! The boat was decorated with Christmas lights and it was beautiful also to see the Faidherbe bridge light up in the background!
Secret Santa was a success--volunteers received Africa pants, bags, perfume, and Fanny's gift was brought from Switzerland by a new volunteer: a bell and Swiss chocolate! We were all happy about the chocolate and Fanny's adoption of Senegalese terenga (hospitality aka sharing!!)
After the concert was finished, we moved onto La Maison Rose for dinner! It was nice to be all togther, and though there might have been no snow or Christmas tree, there was that festive, loving, sharing Christmas spirit!
Chrismas day some volunteers went to the beach, while others decided to spend the holiday with their familes. Our Assistant Director, Fina, had different plans: she decided to get MARRIED!! Joke, our Desk officer, and I took a trip down to Dakar for the day to attend the wedding! The religious wedding at the mosque took place around 17h, but we arrived in time for the reception where Fina's friends and some of her family gathered to celebrate--by giving presents, taking photos, and most importantly sharing stories and sentiments about Fina. Check out some of the photos of the beautiful bride and her wedding!
Yesterday, December 21, was the first meeting of the new Youth Journalism Club, Voices of the World, which is an online global initiative developed by Projects Abroad.
This project hopes to create a forum for youth around the world to exchange their opinions, ideas, and aspirations while exploring the world of journalism and learning how to express themselves through writing. Journalism clubs, like the one that was established yesterday here in Saint Louis, will be created in the countries where Projects Abroad has journalism placements, though youth from around the world will be able to log onto the website, read the articles, and comment, thus sharing their thoughts and opinions. We are excited that volunteers who come to do a journalism project will be able to participate in this club, thus enriching the cultural exchange.
At the meeting yesterday, the two directors, Mr. Amine Sall (left), a high school English teacher and the director of the Projects Abroad Summer English school, and Cheikh Seye (right), a professional freelance journalist who already works with Projects Abroad volunteers, presented the idea of Voices of the World to the packed classroom of more than 60 interested high school students.
They explained how this club would focus on improving both English and writing skills, with Mr. Sall giving English lessons on vocabulary, grammar, etc and Mr. Seye giving lessons on how to research effectively, pick an interesting topic, ask important questions, and write good articles.
We were lucky enough to have been able to borrow a projector, and pick up a wifi network, so the students could see exactly where their work would be published after it was edited and chosen.
Mr. Seye then gave his first lesson in journalism, explaining how we would not elect officers—president, vice president, treasurer, etc—like clubs normally do, but we would instead choose an editor-in-chief, and editors for different topics like sports, culture, environment, politics, etc. This not only would give more students a chance to have a position, but it would also create the journalistic spirit that the club is striving for.
Their next meeting will be after the holidays on January 4! Check out the Voices of the World website here: http:/
Last night at Quai des Arts, the Regional Council of Saint Louis hosted La Fête de l'Excellence! This ceremony recognized those who had excelled in their field: students who came first in their grade, the greatest artists, musicians, athletes, politicians, reporters, and the like from the region of Saint Louis. Excititingly enough, 2 people who were honored at this ceremony are linked to Projects Abroad! Monsieur Naby Sylla and Monsieur ElHadj Tall.
Monsieur Naby Sylla is the father of one of our host families here in Saint Louis. He is the representative for RFM, a radio station based in Dakar, in Saint Louis and he won best Radio Journalist of the year!
Monsieur ElHadj Tall works for the most wide-read Newspaper in Saint Louis and he won an award for best written press! He is a freelance journalist who sometimes works with volunteers who come to do a journalism project, bringing them along to do reports and such!
Congratulations to all the winners! :)
Thursday morning our office had the pleasure of welcoming Peter Slowe, the founder and director of Projects Abroad, for his second time to Senegal. He had been traveling around visiting a number of different countries where Projects Abroad host volunteers, and Senegal was last on his list before he planned to return home to England. His visit was short but full: he visited a number of different projects and met a lot of the partners we work with here--Talibé center staff, French teachers, host families, journalists, our summer English school coordinator, and volunteers too! He makes a memorable impression, full of ideas, visions for the future of our projects, and songs too! He got us all singing around the dinner table Thursday night!
After dinner, despite his long voyage, a day at the office with us, and a nice dinner, he still had enough energy to challenge our volunteer coordinator, Tayib, to a game of pool...and he won!
It was really great to get the opportunity to meet him, and show him all the wonderful things our volunteers are doing here in Senegal! We hope to see him back soon!
Read more about Peter here: http:/
Last Friday, December 09, the volunteers were invited to a Senegalese wedding! The cousin of Adama, who works at one of our Talibé centers, was getting married and invited us to come see how weddings are celebrated here! In true Senegalese fashion, the wedding started late! We had arrived around 20h30, but the bride did not make her appearance until after 23h!! But, in the meantime we were entertained by drummers and dancing, and then we were given something to eat: sweet bread, couscous and meat, and some soda to drink!
The guests had been calm, enjoying the music and their food, but when the bride arrived, we all got excited. First three groomsmen came in
and waited at the decorated altar for their bridesmaid counterparts who made their appearance dancing as well!
When the bride arrived, everyone stood to get a good look at her. She was all dressed up in a beautiful white dress, with white gloves and her hair in an up-do. She was accompanied by her brother who carried a lacy parasail!
She spent a lot of time in front of the camera, dancing around and showing off her pretty outfit! After the dancing, guests got up to give their gifts and take photos with the lovely new bride!
It was explained to us that here in Senegal, the religious marriage takes place around 17h at the mosque, where the husband and wife are married in front of familial representatives who can testify to the marriage. This makes it more than just a union between two people but more a union between two families. After the mosque, the groom most likely stays with his father, uncles, and other wise menfolk who pass on advice and share stories about this new chapter while the bride goes off to the reception, which is what we attended. Usually, the party is for younger friends and family, as the older guests had attended the religious ceremony, or maybe even lunch beforehand.
It was an honor to have been invited and really interesting to see a Senegalese marriage up close and personal. It was an interesting mix between two cultures—from the west: the white dress, the bridesmaids and groomsmen, walking down the aisle accompanied by a man and from Senegal: the dance and music!
Starting December 1st, the Talibé center Association Aider Sans Frontiers now has a trained nurse on staff. This means that now both of our Talibé centers have a qualified nurse on staff at all times! As well as being a bonus for the Talibé children who come to be treated at the centers, having a nurse at each center is extremely beneficial for our volunteers, many who come with little to no medical training and find themselves doing health care. Whereas we used to have one nurse who worked at both centers, who would train the volunteers but was not present all the time at either center, our volunteers will now have a nurse at each center around the clock who can answer questions and be on hand for the more challenging cases that present themselves! We are really excited to welcome Mr. Diallo to the ASF center, and to working with Projects Abroad here in Senegal!
Ashura, known in Senegal as Tamaxarite, is the start of the new Islamic year. This holiday falls on the tenth day of the first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram. Historically in Islam, this was the day that the prophet Muhammed's grandson Hussain was murdered at the Battle of Karbala and it is also the day, during various years, when God had mercy on Adam, when Noah was delivered from the flood, when Abraham was saved from Nimrod's fire, when Jacob's blindness was healed, when Job's illness was healed, when the Isrealites were saved from the Pharaoh's army, and when Jesus was brought up to heaven after attempts by the Jews to capture and crucify him failed. Needless to say, it is a day with a lot of historical significance to Muslims, and prayers made on this day are thought to be readily answered.
Women here in Senegal had actually begun to prepare the "thiéré," Senegalese couscous, on Sunday night, in preparation for Monday when the festivities started!
After a nice meal all together of the beloved thiéré, people headed out into the streets to celebrate. Though not a Muslim tradition, here in Senegal the tradition is that men dress up as women, and women as men. And, that's just what was done--people gathered in their neighborhoods or at la Place Faidherbe and had a good laugh, ringing in their new year together!
Many times when volunteers first arrive, something they fall in love with about Senegal is the bright colors and bold images that can be found easily throughout the country. On Saturday, volunteers participated in a workshop where they learned how to transfer what they see everyday here--car rapides, big-bummed women, market scenes, and the bridge--onto glass.
After cleaning off the pieces of glass
volunteers chose what design they wanted to trace, and then started drawing on the glass with black ink
and then the painting began!
Check out the finished products!
Last night was the opening night of the second annual Métissons Music festival, whose goal is to bring together Senegalese and western music, helping one find inspiration in the other. The overture was held at the French Institute and saw performances by Mister Melvin and the chorus, Urban Twoubadoo and the Steel Drum Street Band, Pretty Killer, and Jac et le Takeifa! Everyone at the institute got moving to great music, dancing and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
The festival will continue tonight and tomorrow with performances by some of Senegal's most well-known and respected musicians; veterans like Vieux Mac Faye and Pape Niang, and rising stars like Jac et le Takiefa! Check out the festival's website for more information!
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