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Nous Sommes Arrives!

Senegal Day One
Written by Nora Burns, 4th year medical student Ohio University
Nous sommes arrivees!  We made it.  We had a few challenges on the trip, our flight was cancelled and we lost a bag, but after 24 hours of travel, we were ecstatic to deboard in Dakar. Over two years of Peace Care planning and organizing with Peace Corps Senegal comes to fruition!
As we walked across the tarmac for the short shuttle to the terminal, we got our first glimpse of Senegal.  Our fellow passengers were a mélange of boom-box carrying patrons, mothers with children strapped to their backs and westerns coming for some form of service.  Someone may have gotten in trouble with security for taking pictures of the Delta plane.
Gathering up our bags (short one from the southwest flight ironically), we headed for the exit and a very short ride to the hotel, Cap Ouest.  Turns out it’s also a short ride to the ocean!  The hotel was excellent, with a bar, outdoor eating area and opens right on to the ocean.  We relaxed on the patio, enjoyed the hammocks, the view and the wireless.
Our guides for our time in Senegal arrived to pick us up for introductions and breakfast.  Chris has been our close contact these past months, working diligently on the project.  He’s a PCV from Washington state who is based at the clinic at Saraya.  We also met Leah, whose been emailing us to prepare us for the trip.  Leah’s a volunteer based at a health post outside of Saraya about 30k.  We enjoyed our café au lait, omlettes and pain and then headed on foot to the Peace Corps office.
This was our first real view of Senegal, walking the streets, some paved, some sand, to the office.  We passed little wooden huts with people selling tea, food and goods.  We saw construction sites, actually we walked through a few on the way.  The men working, pouring cement or laying bricks, weren’t wearing gloves or any kind of protective clothing.  They wore flipflops and some even sported suitcoats.  Watching the minibuses go by, you had to wonder how often the guys standing on the back bumper fall off as they round a corner.
We passed the now abandoned site of the Black Music festival which we missed by a week.  They had free concerts and events all week put on by musicians from all over.  As we approached the PC office, we came into a nicer neighborhood.  We saw various non-governmental agents as well as corporation headquarters and the United Nations building.  We were greeted by the Peace Corps guards with a spattering of English greetings.  They took our passports and we headed to the PCV hangout room to enjoy wireless internet and meet more volunteers.
Leah and Chris gave us an orientation to the culture, language and Senegalese life.  They covered the different ethnicities, from the Wolof to the Serer to the Malinke and taught us greetings in Wolof (see below).  The PC Safety and Security Director, Mm. Diallo, came to give us advice.  He offered us great tips on taking taxis, how to watch for scammers and to keep to the usual buddy system.  He also emphasized how safe Senegal was and how welcoming we would find the community.
Lunch was food at a little outdoor restaurant. Peanut Butter  sauce is called “Maffe” and is a very popular dish.  A few of us enjoyed the maffe while others got a meat/onion dish, all served with couscous (made of millet).  The food was delicious and everyone’s plate was clean when we left!
As our orientation day ended, we made plans to meet up with the PCVs for dinner after we visited the artisan market.  The market was completely empty so we weren’t too surprised at how desperate the vendors were to hawk their wares.  I don’t think anyone escaped empty-handed.  There were so many great things to explore but I think we are waiting to decide where and what to buy.
After the market, we hit a bar to share beers and chat about our day.  It seems like we’ve already been in Dakar for a week, yet it’s only been 12 hours, funny how time flies at the beginning!  I’m sure it has something to do with our excellent guides.
We were certainly showing signs of wear though, dozing off mid-conversation occasionally.  We met about 12 PCVs at a Cap Verdean restaurant for dinner.  We enjoyed hearing about their sites and projects.  They are all very knowledgeable about their areas, telling us entertaining stories of village life and encouraging us to try all the yummy dishes.  We made it back to the hotel with only one more mishap – Andrew’s phone has disappear, either fell out of his pocket or was stolen, we’ll never know.
At the end of the day, lost bag and phone included, it was still truly an incredible first day in country!  We all tried to get some sleep so we’d be ready for Friday!
Wolof Greetings (possibly spelled wrong):
Mangi fe
Jamrec – peace
Written by Nora Burns, 4th year medical student Ohio University

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