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Thanksgiving Gratitude from Temento Samba

Students seated at the start of an epic farewell party in Temento Samba

On this Thanksgiving day, I’d like to share my deepest gratitude to the community of Temento Samba, the students of the Fall 2021 Senegal Semester, and their wonderful instructors, all of whom welcomed me with open arms during my recent visit to Senegal. I spent 5 days with the group during the end of their homestay in Temento Samba. Right from the start, I was in learner’s mode as students taught me about the local Pular greetings, customs, food, and inner workings of village life. It was so fun to be in the role of student and to have Jackson, Shreya, Hayden, Ace, Anna, Ethan, Isa, Jamie, Owen, and Willow as my teachers. Despite the tranquility of life in Temento, our days quickly overflowed with learning and activities. 

We hiked to the border of Guinea-Bissau and listened to a community leader talk about the history of conflict stemming from the colonial past. We camped out in our bug huts under a full moon and awoke to a magical sunrise silhouetting the surreal outlines of baobab trees. We plucked fresh peanuts from the ground and roasted them in bonfires discovering how different their flavor could be from a grocery store shelf back home. We drank carefully brewed ataya (mint tea) in community circles under the shade of the mango trees. We were serenaded by Mamadou strumming the harp-like kora while baby goats added their hilarious array of background vocals. We ate meals of faro, millet, rice, and bissap leaves all gathered from the surrounding fields. We donned our homemade Senegalese outfits surreptitiously commissioned by each host family from the local tailor. We gathered as a community on our penultimate day to celebrate each other in a party that saturated the senses in drumming, singing, dancing, and even wrestling. 

Each of these sentences contains a multitude of stories that evade easy description; to do so feels like trying to convey the magic of the ocean with a thimble of salt water. What I can say with clarity, is that I am forever grateful for my time in Temento Samba. And, I’m grateful for you, dear family and friends, for trusting us with your children and allowing them this opportunity to become a part of a very special community in ways that will reverberate well beyond their stay in Senegal. 

I will be posting a series of photos in the spirit of a ‘picture is worth a thousand words,’ although I think we’d need about a million to do it all justice here.

 

Goats were omnipresent in Temento and made for great entertainment!

At the porous border with Guinea-Bissau

Students in the midst of their X-Phase planning for their final week of travels.

The local tailor busily making outfits for students.

Baobab trees make for a very dreamy landscape.

Setting off for our full moon hike and camping excursion

Winding through the forests outside of Temento

Passing by neighbors returning back to the village with their loads expertly balanced

Getting ready to camp under the moonlight

Watching sunrise from your bug hut is an unforgettable experience

Jackson breaking down his tent at dawn

Samba trading his instructor hat for his peanut farmer hat

Baby goats were adorable and occasionally cuddly

Mamadou serenading us with the harp-like kora under the mango tree

Group check-in time!

Students presenting their x-phase plan to travel to Saint Louis after temento

Families roasting fresh peanuts at dusk

It takes a lot of effort, skill, and patience to brew the perfect ataya tea

Claire, Samba, Espoir, and Aaron getting ready for the party

Jamie and Willow hanging with their host families at the party

The “konkoran” are fascinating figures who come to ward off evil, and playfully scare children

Konkoran and drummers play with dance and rhythm together

Owen giving a farewell speech to the community

Jamie and her host sibling in matching flower print outfits that were custom made for the occasion

Jackson giving a farewell speech to the community

Anna saying farewell to her homestay family as part of the goodbye ceremony

Hanging under the mango tree at the farewell party

We were treated to a display of traditional Senegalese wrestling at the end of the party

The group looking good in their new Senegalese threads.

 

A memorable photo op with the wrestlers after the matches concluded