Today marks one full year spent in Senegal. It is crazy to think how quickly this year has gone by and that we only have 6 months left in this beautiful country. Right now, I am listening to Christmas music while enjoying the constant sunshine and the 30-degree weather. It does feel a little odd that it will soon be Christmas. Christmas in Senegal is just another one of the many holidays. Most people simply relax, however, they like to happily say, “this is your holiday”, to their Christian friends, as a way of recognizing that we are celebrating. At Herma’s, which is where we live, the neighbourhood is invited on Christmas Eve to watch the Jesus film in Wolof and then eat dinner together. It is a great way for the people of Malika to hear about the good news. Many television stations around this time also play the Jesus film, but in French.
This past year has brought many changes. We have acclimatized quite well and right now the 25 to 30-degree weather feels relatively cool compared to the hot season. We’re already starting to layer our clothing to keep from getting goosebumps in the breeze. When walking to work or to the bus “station”, we greet many people close to our house who we know. We also have the language skills to be able to converse, on a basic level, with the people who approach us on the street or in the bus. We are also able to give advice and tips to other volunteers (for the Lutheran Church) who are new to Dakar.
At the centre, we have been finishing up meetings with the curriculum committee on the last few revised lessons. We have also been meeting to make the final revisions on the earlier lessons as well as practicing any new activities with the supervisor who will begin to teach the new educators in two weeks. We are having a good time with the supervisors, teaching them things like Bingo (in order to teach the reproductive organs in a fun way to the participants), as well as sharing lunches with them. They enjoy learning anything related to health from David (translated by Jessica), from the difference between a miscarriage and a stillbirth, to diabetes, to a healthy diet/exercise. So while we still get annoyed at how meetings never start on time, or how many times, they push back against change, we are having a good time learning and teaching. They are also learning new English words daily and frequently we will hear something like, “hello, how is your family”, as well as “excuse me” or “good evening”. This is so nice to hear, because it means they feel comfortable enough with us to try speaking our language, which is endearing to us.
In some of our other activities this past month, we attended a Christian health conference in Thies (pronounced “Chess”), the neighbouring city to Dakar. David taught two one-hour CPR sessions which people really appreciated. It was wonderful to meet other Christians from all over Senegal and to sing together (or just listen) with them in Wolof and French. One of the participants thought that David was my father. This was clearly humorous and I told her that he was my husband. However, many people are shocked that we are husband and wife, not brother and sister, or just friends. Here in Senegal, it is very odd for husbands and wives to do things or go somewhere together, let alone be friends. We have found that this is a wonderful way to show them the difference of Christ and how Christ loves his bride, the church.
I have also been helping Herma out by going to many Christmas bazaars to sell the materials that are made on the property by the guys in the trades shops. I have had fun seeing some of the goods that are made here; beautiful baskets, incredibly beautiful wood-carvings, masks, jewelry (both beads and metal), clothing, and delicious food (usually Senegalese, Moroccan, and Lebanese). While it is a lot of work, it is enjoyable to attend the bazaars, meet new people, and also volunteer time to help the people who work on the property at Herma’s and who we see every day.