Building, Building & French in Senegal by Victor Doyle
Arriving in St Louis
As I arrived to St Louis after a day in the car, I had many ideas of what Senegal would be like. I remember arriving and having a complete culture shock as I arrived at my new home and family in Ndiolofene. I was submerged in smiles, greetings and happiness. It was a great way to arrive to my 2-week adventure of Care & Community work and French classes.
My First Week
My first week in Senegal was a real life changer. I had integrated within the Senegalese community, made friends with our professional painter Elaj and met the whole Ndiolofene neighbourhood along with my roommate Adam. I was in the middle of Africa and I felt great, no worries of society and no negativity at all. Everywhere I went children would run up to me to grab my hand or wave to me, it felt strange but relieving to see so much friendliness around me.
After having grounded myself in the Senegalese lifestyle I had taken a lot of joy with greeting people I had never met before, engaging in a conversation with the people who were always around Ndiolofene such as the corner store owner or the pharmacy security guard. This was one of the most influential points about Senegal that made me want to go back as soon as possible; everyone was so social, open and friendly. Even though I had just arrived in Senegal, various people in various places were wanting to start conversations or simply say hello.
As the first week ended I was looking forward to the weekend for our expedition to Lompoul desert. After having packed a small bag with a change of clothes and a couple of necessities I embarked on the journey with the other volunteers. After having arrived in the desert, I was overcome with excitement to find we were all staying in massive tents and were going to have a camel ride.
Right after the camel ride, we played a couple of tunes on the guitar and were contemplating the great surroundings. There was then an announcement about a big surprise for our night in the desert, and we were completely clueless as to what could possibly happen. A couple of hours went by and night time arrived, the stars were of abundance and were all so bright and clear, it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen! Shortly after admiring the sky, a band set up a campfire and their instruments then began singing. Roaring with energy, we started dancing to the fire and the music and created a wild and unforgettable atmosphere; the volunteers were constantly joining in to release their dose of funky moves.
It was an incredible experience for my first time in a desert, having danced all night to great music and a warm campfire was really a surprise!
My second week was the hardest to get through, knowing that I had to leave the coming Sunday. I couldn’t bear to leave the people I met throughout my stay. Our 2 week group had just finished repainting a house for the talibe (street children) to stay in. Senegal felt like home, having become very close to my host family, and they gave me a Quran to read when I got back home to London. Everyone would shout our names, hoping that we would be back soon to see them.
As my departure was approaching, I remember the greatest time I had throughout my stay was during the last coming days in which my roommate Adam and another volunteer Abe and I decided to go around, playing guitar and singing, whether it was on the street or on Quai des Arts, it felt like an experience I could never have anywhere else in the world. We then met with more friends and joined them that night for Senegalese tea on a roof of their poor conditioned house. This might seem like a strange thing to describe but it was the most amazing moment of my life, the fact I was there with two other volunteers, seeing and living things most people don't see in Senegal; speaking French to our Senegalese friends, singing along to Abe’s guitar and speaking of love for the Senegalese culture.
As Sunday came, I made a promise to my host family that I would come back as soon as possible. Having left for the airport I could not imagine how London would feel after having lived such a different culture for two weeks. I arrived in London learning that wearing my African clothes or my bright colourful shirts would not work as well and that people were nowhere as social as in Senegal.
I look forward to going back to St Louis; I miss the Senegalese tea, the happiness in the air and the music fever in Quai des Arts.