Sunday, October 18, 2015

So we meet Dakar. In-country orientation!

After what seemed like a chaotic and packed few days (I swear, I suddenly had all of these family gatherings and last-minute things to attend!  It was great to see family though...), I arrived at SFO on Monday early afternoon -- weary from lack of sleep and intense packing...where the issues only began to arise.

Turns out there was some miscommunication between the airline's policy for a visa to Senegal and what we've been told.  Long story short, the 7 other Fulbrighters had some degree of trouble getting through the airport because of the visa.  We all have our return tickets for 9 months later (July 2016) but airlines see that if you are staying in Senegal for more than 3 months, you need a long-term visa to go through.  Not gonna sweat the small details here, but I was booked for a flight the next day (Tuesday) through Delta instead of Air France and luckily, had another fellow Fulbrighter on my New York to Dakar flight (Kaylin; the 6 others were able to make their flights).  We laughed so hard because of the many issues that arose and the delirium that comes with constantly being at airports/planes/on-the-go.

Arriving in the airport in Dakar was surprisingly easy, as well as getting through customs and arriving at our (air-conditioned) hotel.  Thanks, U.S. Embassy Dakar!  There's a very familiar smell that comes with arriving in a country like Senegal (I've realized it's the humidity) and it was just so...comforting.  To be back in a French-speaking country and to be back in West Africa.

View of Dakar from up in the air. Amazing to be on the westernmost tip of continental Africa! Literally had butterflies in my stomach just looking at this view and thinking, "Wow, I'm back!" 

Our three-day in-country orientation was very close to reliving our time during the Pre-Departure Orientation in D.C. this past June.  Very grateful to be placed with 7 other Fulbright ETAs who just get it and all think in a very similar way!  We also met the two English Language Fellows who will be placed in universities.

The Fulbright ETAs and English Language Fellows pointing to our various sites throughout Senegal. 

Met Eran and Safi, the RELO/Assistant RELO (Regional English Language Officer) for West Africa and various English language partners in Senegal.  What an incredible group of colleagues!  The desire to learn English is alive and well in Senegal.  Overall, a very informative orientation on Senegal, the education system, cultural nuances, and even getting the chance to do a little teaching with the ACCESS English classes! (Note that a few of the pictures aren't mine; they were taken by Eran, the RELO for West Africa.)

We did a quick lesson on verbs in the present progressive to get them speaking more.  I look crazy here...I assume this is one of my many teaching faces, lol. 

We ended our three-day orientation with a reception at the U.S. Embassy Dakar's Public Affairs officer's residence with the key English language professionals throughout the country.  Great way to cap off a productive three days, and send us off to our respective schools/institutions.  I was able to also finally meet Ngouye, the Head of the Office of English at Senegal's Ministry of Education and my boss for the next 9 months.  She has impeccable English and seems like a great person to work with!  I start on Tuesday and am definitely looking forward to it!  

With Ngouye of the Office of English at the Ministry of Education.  Looking forward to working with her and other English language professionals to help train English teachers throughout Senegal! 

Group picture! 

I realize I'm a little dated with this blog post -- will update with host family description, getting acclimated to Dakar, work, and other discoveries soon!  

Ba benneen yoon! ('See you next time' in Wolof!) 

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