1. IS THERE ANY LIMITATION AS TO WHERE YOU CAN GO..DISTANCE WISE?
There aren’t any limitations where we can go distance wise- all you have to do is submit a travel form a few days ahead of time to the office. If I wanted to, I could go to Mali, Gambia, Mauritania (though its a little dangerous right now), or even Guinea. It all depends on the amount of time you have during the weekend.
My weekends are usually 3 days in length so I’m looking forward to going to Touba (a Islamic pilgrimage sight), a place called Lac Rose for some horseback riding, a National Wilderness park, and so much more. There is one exception for where you can visit though… the Casamance region is a part of Senegal in the south separated by the country of Gambia. Right now there is a lot of civil and political unrest there due to the fact that they people there want to seperate from Senegal and form their own country. Senegal relies heavily on the Casamance region for their food and natural resources so it would be detrimental if they ended up doing so. Casamance is the prettiest, most green exotic and lush part of the country though and its also where Soso, my host mom is from. It’s really too bad that I can’t visit!
2. ARE THEIR ANY PLACES IN THE CITY YOU ARE IN THAT ARE OFF LIMITS?
There aren’t any places my program has told us we “can’t” go to but like any big city, there are different and more dangerous neighborhoods. I haven’t heard which ones they are yet but I have a lot of Senegalese friends who are very helpful in general and would let me know if they think it isn’t safe for me to go there a lone.
3. DOES YOUR HOST MOM SPEAK VERY GOOD ENGLISH, ARE YOU ABLE TO COMMUNICATE PRETTY GOOD WITH HER?
Soso doesnt speak any english except “Hello” “How are you” but she rarely every uses that because, of course, I’m the one learning French and Wolof so I better use it with her. Honestly, communicating with Soso of all the people I have talked to and had conversations with is actually the most challenging. It’s because I really can’t understand her accent- I don’t know if it is different than others because she is from the Casamance or its the way she speaks so quickly that her words run together and sounds like a lisp. I also don’t think that is due to my lack of French comprehension either. I had a friend come over for dinner the other night who is basically fluent and she said she had a difficult time understanding her also. But no worries! Laughs, smiles, hugs, and dancing are all international languages I’ve learned. We can even joke together when I goof up or about how silly I am sometimes without speaking.
4. AND SPEAKING OF YOUR HOST MOM, IS SHE ASSOCIATED WITH THE SCHOOL PROGRAM, AND HOW DID SHE AND OTHERS GET CHOSEN TO BE HOST FAMILIES?
There is a home stay coordinator, Alain, who is in charge of matching up all the students with a family. He is Senegalese and has wonderful connections throughout the community and as the program has grown, he asks for more friends and families to host students. This year though, because there was such a demand to host American students, he had to have specific application process for them and turn some of them away. Soso has been hosting students for quite some time. I learned the other day that I am the 12th student she has had. I thought she said the 2nd the first day I met her-oops! misunderstanding. Although this does make me feel like I have to compare myself to all of them with french language capabilities, politeness, continous visiting with her, I know that she can’t possibly comparing me to all of the qualities of her other students. We are all completely different students and I know she cherishes each relationship she has formed with us.