First Impressions of Dakar

 

 

 

 

First published 4/8/2012 @ Bestbookihavenotread

“Wow!” sums up what my husband and I thought of our week in Senegal. “Wow!” is extra appropriate because in Wolof (the primary African language of Senegal) it translates to “good”!

I had been warned that the airport could be a very trying experience so I was prepared for the worst. I actually found it not much different than the time we had flown to Cabo, Mexico. Quite a few airports that I have been to (including JFK) have poor signage to start with, throw in a foreign language, and a bunch of people who want to “help” you get your bags, and you do get some chaos. The best advice someone gave me was to remain Zen and politely keep saying no to anyone pushy about “helping”.

I could not get over the fact that the ocean could be seen almost everywhere we drove. I know I’m a landlocked Ohioan, but it was beautiful and very present! Some of the beaches were rocky (like the one to the above) but there were also sandy beaches.

There was a lot of construction in various phases all around. As we were landing, my husband did have a “Oh bleeep! What have we done?” type of moment as it was hard to tell if things were going up, coming down, or both. There is a ton of new construction going on as Dakar is growing rapidly. Once we were on the ground, we found the Senegalese and everyone we encountered to be extremely friendly and willing to accept my very bad French.

We were picked up by the head of the school and started our visit with a tour of the school and grounds, including touring the new construction that is taking place (a four story building that will house the middle school and high school students). We even got to meet some of people who were just getting out of the church that takes place (International Christian Fellowship) at the school on Sundays.

I loved the school campus and had the opportunity to spend three days on campus with the outgoing head of curriculum and other administrators from the school. I was even fortunate enough to be present for a half-day professional development day for the school.

I’m used to Ohio schools where the classrooms are around the perimeter of a school and hallways are on the inside. ISD was like many other warm weather climate schools where the hallways were on the outside and open-aired with the classrooms behind (like my nieces’ school in California). I was able to feel the ocean breeze the entire time I was on campus, which I just adored.

Despite that fact that there were a few worries about the fact that it was the election run-off day, everything was very peaceful and there was a general feeling of pride that the Senegalese had an election, not a coup like Mali. While we were eating dinner on the Atlantic, the restaurant staff had the television on in the background and were so delighted when Macky Sall was declared the winner and then congratulated by President Wade, who lost his bid for re-election. They could hardly wait to go and tell everyone in the restaurant the results.

The staff at the school was wonderful and so welcoming and helpful. We were able to visit several of their homes to see the different types of housing provided by ISD. The school staff were all great and even nicer than anything I would have thought to expect. We got to see where we will probably be living and I loved that it was near other staff members and within walking distance of the school.

During our visit we had fun posting things on my Facebook account such as:

Things you’ll never hear in Granville #1-
me “Careful- don’t step on that goat leg?
friend-“Was it just a bone or was there flesh on it?”
Guy-“Hoof, fur, and everything.”

For the most part, it was life as normal (ha, ha) in a warm environment with the sound of French running in the background whenever we weren’t at school. Then there were things like the trampoline park next to the ocean and the mixture of horse-drawn carts on the roads along with the cars, goats wandering freely, little stall-like ‘stores’  alongside the roads, and people peddling items such as cashews, oranges, and other items. It’s going to be an adventure and one I’m very glad I have the opportunity to have.

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About bestbookihavenotread

Kristine has been in education since 1993. She taught fourth grade in Ohio from 1993 - 2008. She has been a Curriculum Coordinator for four years. She is relocating to Dakar, Senegal to be the Director of Curriculum for the International School of Dakar in August 2012.
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