Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Senegal
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Reflections from Visiting the Fall Gap Semester in Senegal

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Aaron Slosberg

As you walk down the street in Senegal, people greet you with ‘peace’ and strangers invite you into their homes for a cup of tea.

On a recent trip to Senegal, Director of Student Programming, Aaron Slosberg visited the West Africa Gap Semester program. He reflects on his time in Temento Samba — of the warm hospitality he received and centuries-old traditions he experienced.

Gratitude for 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.

Mamadou strumming the harp-like kora

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.

Photos from Temento Samba

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

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

A group discussion in the shade of the trees

Student amidst X-phase planning

Hiking through the forests of Temento

Samba trading his instructor hat for his peanut farmer hat

Jackson breaking down his tent at dawn

Student getting ready to camp under the moonlight

Students planning their X-phase adventures

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