Posts Tagged:

Africa

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    [ID] => 155486
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-10-18 12:14:35
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-18 18:14:35
    [post_content] => 

Before Megan Fettig joined Dragons as an administrator, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small rural community in southern Senegal from 2000-2002. Here's a series of black and white photographs she took while living in the community that, over the past 14 years, has welcomed, taught, and cared for over a hundred Dragons students. Her artist’s statement is included with the gallery. 

This series of work has been exhibited at the Alliance Frances in Accra, Ghana, the National Museum of Ghana in Accra, Ghana, and PII Gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of the photos in the series was awarded a second place prize in a juried exhibition at the University of Alaska. Please enjoy this digital version of her gallery! 

Manthiankani: A Photographic Tale of Life in a Senegalese Village

Photos & words by Megan E. Fettig

The roosters crow, there is a consistent pounding of mortar against pestle as the women prepare the morning meal. My neighbors awaken, a baby wails, the men chat across the way in the Chief’s compound. A hot and unforgiving sun creeps above the proud palm trees on the eastern horizon and I rise from my spot of slumber under a growing mango tree. I wander out into the day, to greet each member of my family; my host mother, father, my grandma, my dad’s second wife, my teen-aged brother. My two year old sister spots me and runs in my direction on wobbly legs grinning to greet me as she jumps into my open arms. I greet the Chief and the women whose pounding stirred me out of sleep and then the children who somehow over the weeks turned into months turned into years, became mine. And I decide that the sun is just right, that my adopted family looks so perfectly beautiful in this rising light, that I must hold my clunky old Olympus passed down to me from my own father in a far away land. I hear the familiar click as each frame of film is exposed and the story of my relationship with Senegal unwinds. A story of connection, of beauty, and of how strangers took me into their homes and their hearts, how I became theirs and they, mine.

This is a story that was born of a dream. A tale of my experience living, crying, sweating, laughing, and growing in a small village called Mancankani (pronounced maan-chan-kan-ee) in the southern region of Senegal, West Africa where I spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I arrived in Senegal in April of 2000 after having spent a decade yearning to experience life in an African village. I longed to witness something pure, some quintessential elemental way of living that I had not experienced among the materialistic tendencies and the spiritual inadequacies of life in America. I wanted to walk barefoot, to feel deeply connected with people, the cycles of the moon, and the nuances of each season. I wanted to live the naive and romantic ideal of an African life. I wanted to move to the rhythms of an African drum, carry babies on my back, dance in the first falling drops of the rainy season.

Little did I know that I would indeed experience all those things and more. I neglected to imagine the frustration of trying to communicate with people of a different language and culture. My daydreams didn’t include feelings of intense isolation nor the hours and hours of anguished boredom with sweat running rivers down my stomach. Slowly, towards the end of two years, the frustrations eased, the isolation somehow transformed into connection, my expressions learned to lean towards laughter. The strangers I lived amongst evolved into neighbors, friends, and family. Their lives revealed wealth to me, perhaps not the type of wealth we try to cultivate in the West; this wealth is more subtle, it dwells closer to the earth, it’s gem is the sparkle of an African sky on any given night, it’s heart is in family, in simply living close to each other.

My hope is that these photographs build a bridge from one human family to another. View them and set aside the traditional misconceptions of Africa; the idea that only poverty, illness and war stricken lives reside there. Experience the mornings when I picked up my camera as the sun rose over the distant palm trees, now two decades ago. See beauty in the face of simplicity so you can know a people who possess the traits of easy laughter, immense hospitality, and an openness to inviting a stranger into their home and calling her their daughter.

  In 2005, Megan Fettig co-created and guided Dragons first program on the African continent bringing students to her Peace Corps village in Senegal. The holistic, community centered, and off-the-beaten-path style of Dragons programs captured Megan’s heart and in the past dozen years, she has continued her involvement with Dragons in several capacities including Instructor, West Africa Program Director, Marketing Director, and most recently, Co-Director of Adult Programs.    
Ps. Want Dragons blog updates sent directly to your inbox? One email a week. Nothing markety. Unsubscribe any time. Subscribe to Dragons Blog and stay connected to the community. ❤️
[post_title] => Manthiankani: A Photographic Tale of Life in a Senegalese Village - A Photo Gallery by Megan Fettig [post_excerpt] => Before Megan Fettig joined Dragons as an administrator, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small rural community in southern Senegal from 2000-2002. Here's a series of black and white photographs she took while living in the community that, over the past 14 years, has welcomed, taught, and cared for over a hundred Dragons students. Her artist’s statement is included with the gallery.  [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => manthiankani-a-photographic-tale-of-life-in-a-senegalese-village-a-photo-gallery-by-megan-fettig [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-18 12:22:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-18 18:22:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 16 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 16 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 654 [name] => Mixed Media [slug] => mixed_media [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 654 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [parent] => 0 [count] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 39 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/mixed_media/ ) ) [category_links] => Global Community, Mixed Media )
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    [post_date] => 2019-09-12 12:45:55
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-12 18:45:55
    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_155381" align="alignnone" width="4512"] PHOTO: Fernanda and her homestay mom, Ouleye; dad, Ibou; and brothers, Sidikh, Rassoul, and baby Mame Cheikh.[/caption]

WORDS by FERNANDA ROMO

SENEGAL PRINCETON BRIDGE YEAR PROGRAM ALUMNI

Mungi dox literally translates to, “it walks.” In conversation, however, one might use it to mean “it’s going,” “it’s fine,” or “it works.” When I set out to write this piece, with the prompt of mungi dox in mind, I immediately thought about my family. After all, I’m living in a homestay with a total of nineteen people (I think), including three married couples and twelve kids of various ages. This is naturally bound to be a bit chaotic and might seem like a headache for people more habituated to smaller “nuclear family” living arrangements. For this reason, writing about how my household functions, how everyone pitches in, and how living in these big families actually works was sure to be a crowd pleaser. Wouldn’t everyone love to hear the conclusions I’d drawn about African family structures from my experience living with the Mbayes?
“Wouldn’t everyone love to hear the conclusions I’d drawn about African family structures from my experience living with the Mbayes? Regrettably, as appealing as that piece might sound, I’m not writing it.”
Regrettably, as appealing as that piece might sound, I’m not writing it. Mainly, because I can’t. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that the chances of me being able to provide a fair analysis of this family’s dynamics are about as high as those of snowfall in Dakar. The mere idea of scrutinizing the way these people behave within their family, just to arrive to the conclusion that it surprisingly “works,” feels foolish at best and condescending at worst. However, my impending erroneousness is not the only thing holding me back from writing about the people in Senegal who are so dear to me. For a long time I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why I felt a tinge of discomfort every time I thought about turning the people I consider family into the subjects of my writing, especially when said writing is directed to Western audiences. I remember once, I considered blogging about Mame Maty, my instructor Babacar’s 10-year-old daughter, who I love like crazy and who is definitely one of the people closest to my heart here. I ended up deciding against it, because something about it wasn’t sitting right with me. And even though I didn’t entirely understand why, one thought kept popping up in my mind: she’s my friend. That’s also what I feel today when trying to make myself produce some insightful conclusions or lessons gathered from analyzing my homestay family. I don’t want to “report back” on what Senegalese families are like, both because it’s not possible to do so accurately, and because these people are, first of all, my family. Not subjects of study, not sources of all-encompassing revelations, but people who treat me like a daughter, a sister, a friend. And just as I wouldn’t write up a couple pages about my best friend back in Mexico and send it to an audience of people who she will never meet and who will form their entire perception of who she is based on my words, I don’t particularly feel inclined to do that here. And maybe that’s a good thing. After all, I think the main reason why the Bridge Year Program works, and is so incredibly meaningful, is because of relationships. The moments when I have felt that my time here has the greatest value have all been centered around having strong bonds, familiarity, and overall friendship with people. It’s really beautiful to think about how my Senegalese family and I genuinely care about each other, and how our lives have been enriched as a result. So I guess if you asked me, “Does it work to put a random toubab1 in the middle of a household in Dakar, Senegal, and have her be a part of this family for a few months?” I’d say yeah, mungi dox.

FERNANDA ROMO left her home in Mexico in 2017 to travel to Senegal for nine months as part of Dragons Princeton Bridge Year Program. She is currently a student at Princeton University, where she spends her days looking at pictures of her time in Dakar at 3am, facetiming her five dogs, and going on rants about the fake Mexican food in the dining halls.

Ps. Want Dragons blog updates sent directly to your inbox? One email a week. Nothing markety. Unsubscribe any time. Subscribe to Dragons Blog and stay connected to the community. ❤️
[post_title] => I’m (not) Writing About My Family - An Essay by Fernanda Romo [post_excerpt] => "Wouldn’t everyone love to hear the conclusions I’d drawn about African family structures from my experience living with the Mbayes? Regrettably, as appealing as that piece might sound, I’m not writing it.” [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => im-not-writing-about-my-family-an-essay-by-fernanda-romo [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-17 09:16:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-17 15:16:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 53 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 53 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 675 [name] => The Dragons Journal [slug] => thedragonsjournal [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 675 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [parent] => 0 [count] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 20 [category_description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [cat_name] => The Dragons Journal [category_nicename] => thedragonsjournal [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/thedragonsjournal/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 34 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 34 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, The Dragons Journal ... )
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    [post_date] => 2019-08-22 14:41:20
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-22 20:41:20
    [post_content] => Hey Summer Alumni,

Don't forget that Dragons annual 1-minute visual story contest is officially open! See below for contest details, and check out this lovely submission by Lula Alhussein from the Madagascar Summer 2019 Program for inspiration!



******

Hello Summer Students!

Just wanted to share with you the details of our annual “1-Minute Visual Story” Contest…

The goals of Dragons Visual-Story contest are to:
  • Share visual story through student and in-the-field perspectives.
  • Highlight & offer gratitude/awareness to issues, stories, and people in our community.
  • Encourage more diversity in the perspectives represented by Dragons social media.
  • Offer insight into the Dragons program experience, culture, and character.
  • Encourage tools for story-telling the experience with ethical media creation guidelines.
Parameters:
  • “Visual-Story” can be interpreted as video, photo collage, or anyway you’d like. (Video examples at: wtbdragons.com/ytv)
  • Contest submissions should be no longer than 60 seconds, (but see the next bullet…)
  • You CAN submit multiple entries to the competition. As many as you’d like! (Though you can only “win” once.)
  • Ensure that all content in your film/video/collage (including footage, music, images, props, etc.) is your own or that you have explicit permission to use it (audio/video recorded or written permission).
  • For video, minimum 1080p resolution. If you’d like an official/branded opening graphic/title from Dragons, email us.  Personally created graphic overlays and captions are okay. Entries may be in any language or have no dialogue at all. Closing credits not required.
  • Contest is open to anyone with Dragons Summer 2019 Program Affiliation(Students, Staff, In-Country Community Members)
  • Contest questions? Send an email.
Prizes:
  • There will be 3 winners in total. All three winners will receive a Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket with Dragons Logo and promotion of your submission/video with your credits.
  • The creator of ONE entry will be chosen by Dragons to receive a coupon for 50% off a Dragons program tuition that can be used either by themselves or transferred to a friend (Max Coupon Value: $4,000USD)
  • Winners will be announced on October 1st on Dragons Blog and shared via Dragons social media channels.
Ways to submit: You must submit your entry by September 1st at 12pm MST. Submit your visual-story to the contest by emailing the entry to christina@wheretherebedragons with the subject line: “1-Min Visual Story Contest Submission.”  You may email:
    1. A YouTube URL (subscribe to our YouTube channel while you’re there!)
    2. A Vimeo URL
    3. A link to your video on Instagram . Use the tags: #dragonsvisualstory and @wheretherebedragons.
    4. A link to your video on Facebook. Use the tags: #dragonsvisualstory and @wheretherebedragons.
    5. An actual video file or a link to a Google Drive folder where you’ve uploaded the video.
Video/Visual Making Tips:
  • Consider bringing a travel tripod & make sure your camera has enough storage space for footage.
  • Plan your shoot or gather as a group and come up with creative ways to collaborate meaningfully with communities
  • Throughout a project, seek patterns and sets of images that build cohesion.
  • Take the time to set up your shots, removing logos, water bottles, other distracting objects.
  • Choose landscape or portrait mode and stay in one mode. (Landscape is generally the preferred mode.)
  • Clean your lens! Drop solution onto cloth, not on lens, use damp cloth in circular motion, center to edges.
  • Try to optimize natural lighting. Avoid flash. Use tripods in low light. When shooting outdoors, keep the sun behind you.
  • Avoid background noise (wind, crowds, etc.) but also consider recording novel sounds.
  • Frame shots in interesting ways. Fill the frame, consider putting subjects slightly off-center, use angles to point attention.
  • If you move while filming, make sure it’s subtle and slow so your camera has time to focus on each scene as you move.
  • Take several shots of the same scene, from several different angles and distances; wide, medium, close-up, and details.
  • Hold your shots for at least 10-15 seconds after you have stopped adjusting the composition.
  • Time-lapses are great for scenes of prolonged time over an area that’s constantly changing.
  • Keep it simple:  Still shots with moving elements are often the best. If you move the camera, slow pans and tilts are best.
  • Never enable digital zooms; it makes videos blurry.
  • Take your time!  Steady. Calm. Connect with your subjects. Appreciate the beauty!
  • Use IMovie or other software or apps to edit, add sound/captions, adjust filters.
  • Use the audiovisual Release Form on the back of this flyer if/as needed.
Ethical Media Making Guidelines: People have the right to determine how they are represented. If you are taking video of people, seek to collaborate and establish informed consent. Video stories that don’t have people in them are entirely fine and encouraged! If you are taking video of people, consider the following guidelines and speak to your instructors for further advice:
  • Introduce yourself and your intentions to anyone represented in your video. Permission/consent should be free, prior and informed and should not happen until after a non-electronics-based relationship has been established. Consider showing another photo/video and telling them what it’s for, who will see it and why you want to share this image/sound.
  • Ensure the media cultivates a respectful, kind, reciprocal, relationship that is sensitive to local customs and traditions. Consult with instructors for advice on navigating the pitfalls of stereotype-reinforcing, exaggerating, or exoticizing media. Do no harm. Be accountable. Film with integrity. Offer gratitude.
  • Consider co-creation projects/elements by handing camera to others/locals — or even having them interview you! People love to be seen and heard if the exchange/listening comes with respect, equality, and the intention to honor. Offer others the mic and stage. And share the product with them!
  • A lens can help illuminate an experience or story. But it can also act as an unhealthy barrier or shield to hide behind. Seek guidance from instructors on establishing healthy boundaries and practices in your relationship with the lens.
  • “The quality of your product will be equal to the quality of the relationships that make it possible.” -Producer Vanessa Ragone
[post_title] => DRAGONS 1-MINUTE VISUAL-STORY CONTEST [post_excerpt] => Hey Summer Alumni: Don't forget that Dragons annual 1-minute visual story contest is officially open. Check out this lovely video submission by Lula Alhussein from the Madagascar Summer 2019 Program for inspiration... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dragons-1-minute-visual-story-contest [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-22 14:43:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-22 20:43:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 53 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 53 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 34 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 34 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 654 [name] => Mixed Media [slug] => mixed_media [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 654 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [parent] => 0 [count] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 39 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Alumni Spotlight ... )
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    [post_date] => 2018-11-29 12:43:44
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-29 19:43:44
    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_153975" align="alignnone" width="1080"] Photo by Christy Sommers, Madagascar Summer Program.[/caption]

 

ESSAY BY MICAH LeMASTERS

Follow the trade winds southwest out of Indonesia, keeping the Indian subcontinent to starboard, and you will eventually find Madagascar, adrift, at the edge of the Indian Ocean. It floats alone, a dust-red crescent moon, stretching nearly a thousand miles from north to south. Traveling from the central highlands to the coast, one is never quite sure whether the massive island is drifting slowly westward toward Mozambique or slipping slowly south and away from the great African continent. It is known for its astonishing endemic flora and fauna and, of course, as the only place on earth where lemurs live in their natural state.
If you want to travel to Madagascar to “save the lemurs” then you should have come 20 years ago.
If you know anything about Madagascar, it probably has something to do with the eponymous animated film series or, more likely, the lemurs—the most endangered primates on the planet and the principle force driving the Malagasy tourism industry. The situation for these prosimians is so dire that scientists estimate up to ninety percent of the population could face extinction within the next 20 to 25 years. If you want to travel to Madagascar to “save the lemurs” then you should have come 20 years ago. Madagascar has a single digit percentage of its original forest left and that number is shrinking by the day. Generating tourism dollars or publishing spectacular photographs may buy lemurs some time, but it won’t prevent their extinction. The challenge is much greater than a marketing campaign can solve. In order to stave off extinction, Madagascar—a country with a per capita income around $450 dollars, approximately 30 percent less than North Korea—needs to provide viable alternatives to impoverished farmers who have few options to generate a meager subsistence other than clear-cutting forest timber to sell as charcoal.
Unless significant and strong action is taken to stem the upsurge in unsustainable and illegal logging and exploitation of other natural resources, the ultimate risk may be irreversible loss of forest and biodiversity for Madagascar.
According to USAID, “The illegal export of...threatened and endangered species that are found nowhere else on earth will result in the loss of globally renowned biodiversity. Unless significant and strong action is taken to stem the upsurge in unsustainable and illegal logging and exploitation of other natural resources, the ultimate risk may be irreversible loss of forest and biodiversity for Madagascar.” Although Madagascar is listed as the seventh poorest country in the world, the travel and tourism sector contributed $1.16 billion to the economy in 2014, one-sixth of the country’s revenues. Tourism isn’t suffering from a dearth of funds, the people of Madagascar are. The problem is economic inequality. According to the World Bank, 99 percent of Madagascar’s population lives on less than four dollars a day. Poor policy has led to mass poverty, and the resultant desperation has led to the destruction of critical ecosystems.
Tourism isn’t suffering from a dearth of funds, the people of Madagascar are. The problem is economic inequality.
A small cadre of both amateur and professional scientists and intrepid explorers spend thousands of dollars to travel across continents to see the few remaining lemurs that still live free and wild in the dwindling forests of the Red Island. These people touch down in the dense, polluted air of Antananarivo clad in adventure-grade pants, floppy-brimmed hats and vests made to hold rolls of film no one has carried in years. They are whisked from the tiny airport in air-conditioned 4x4 trucks and set off on a small predictable loop that takes them to the few well-known spots where they stand a reasonable chance of seeing what they came to see.
A person traveling to Madagascar for the sole purpose of seeing a lemur runs the risk of missing an incredible number of amazing things
A person traveling to Madagascar for the sole purpose of seeing a lemur runs the risk of missing an incredible number of amazing things that can’t be found in the dwindling forests. They will miss the inviting smell of rice cakes cooking in an early morning market. They will miss the singsong of an excited seller loading unsold bread at the end of a long day or the choke and cough of an ancient taxi running out of fuel on a steep hill. They will miss the way the sun slides across a terraced rice paddy as a day quietly  ends. They will miss the warm embrace of a sincere handshake. They will miss the taste of too much sugar and condensed milk in the tiny cups of coffee sold on the back streets of Antananarivo. They will miss the heavenly taste of freshly fried bananas. They will miss long afternoons chewing sugarcane under the shade of a small tree. They will miss the loom of ancient baobabs in the distance. They will miss the warmth of burnt-rice tea. They will miss the excited laughter of children racing water carts down the dirt-and-stone roads of some forgotten highland village. They will miss the scent of saltwater and the sound of a traveler’s palm bending in the breeze. They will, almost undoubtedly, miss the actual essence of what it is to be someplace as preternatural and wondrous as Madagascar. The problem is that Madagascar’s chances to attract attention, international aid and tourism dwindle with each passing year, and each year fewer lemurs remain in their natural habitat. Sadly, most people who make it to Madagascar end up missing the real beauty of the place. And in missing the beauty, they miss an opportunity to learn about and draw attention to the conditions and factors that are perpetuating irreversible harm to the fragile ecosystems that support the last remaining lemur populations. What the tourist or scientist misses on the preordained journey is tragic because it neglects the human factor. To neglect the human factor is to ignore the agent singularly responsible for the extinction of the lemurs.
To neglect the human factor is to ignore the agent singularly responsible for the extinction of the lemurs.
Madagascar, like so many countries in the world, is infinitely more important and fantastic than we think. As Westerners, we tend to push our own values and expectations onto the places where we travel, and because of this we tend to build a very narrow and unstable idea of what a country should be and what it should offer us. Long before we board the plane, we tend to decide what an experience should look and feel like. We imagine photographs of dirt-stained farmers and coy children half-hidden behind open doorways. It is unfair and unsafe to allow a place as unique and beautiful as Madagascar to be pigeonholed as some sort of tropical bazaar or uncanny nature park. It is home to around twenty-five million of the most welcoming and compassionate people on the planet. People that will, without fail, invite you into their homes to share whatever they have (although often they have next to nothing) with you. A few months back I was traveling from the capital city of Antananarivo to Lac Aloatra, about 250 kilometers away. A friend of mine heard I was going that way and came over to ask if I would get her a couple of fish from the lake and bring them back for her. In making the request she held up her right arm, bent at the elbow like a Hula dancer, to indicate that she wanted a fish at least as big as the distance from her elbow to the tips of her fingers. I agreed to keep an eye out for some nice fish and bring them back for her. While I wasn’t crazy about the idea of hauling any number of fish 15 hours from Ambatodranzaka to Antananarivo without a cooler or ice, I did wander through a couple of fish markets just to see what was available and maybe snap a picture that could serve as a surrogate gift. I immediately noticed a lack of fish and when I asked around I quickly found that the lake had been drying up at an alarming rate and that huge parts of what used to be open, fresh water, were now just a mixture of muck and silt run-off from the deforested hillsides. My friend, who lives just a few hundred kilometers away, had no idea that what once was Madagascar’s biggest freshwater lake and the center of what was referred to as Madagascar’s “rice bowl” is but a glimmer of what it used to be. Similar stories can be told of the beautiful remnants of forest that streak down the eastern coast of the island and the bizarre and unique moonscapes of the western deserts. Madagascar’s unique beauty is slipping away and not many people seem to be noticing. If you ask a Malagasy person what is unique about their country, they will tell you about their beautiful forests and their lemurs. They are proud of those things and rightfully so. However, Madagascar is losing huge amounts of forest every year, most lemur species are near extinction and too few realize it. One of the best things that can be done for the lemurs and forests of Madagascar is to create space and opportunities for people to truly understand and appreciate all of what the island has to offer and not just the few things that we expect it to provide for us.
One of the best things that can be done for the lemurs and forests of Madagascar is to create space and opportunities for people to truly understand and appreciate all of what the island has to offer
Frankly, there is more at stake in Madagascar than the prolonged existence of the lemurs. Madagascar, like a ship caught in a storm, wildly sliding down the face of a churning wave, is jettisoning its last few precious resources in hopes of keeping her bow pointed into the wind and sea. Madagascar, an island in distress, is frantically holding on, tossing endangered species and precious hardwoods overboard in desperation, because there seems to be no other way to stay afloat.  
MICAH LeMASTERS is a former Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar and led the first Dragons summer course in Madagascar. He graduated from IU with an MA in Education. Read more about Micah.
[post_title] => Don't Save the Lemurs. The challenge in Madagascar is much greater. [post_excerpt] => "As Westerners, we tend to push our own values and expectations onto the places where we travel, and because of this we tend to build a very narrow and unstable idea of what a country should be [...] Madagascar, like so many countries in the world, is infinitely more important and fantastic than we think." READ MORE... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dont-save-the-lemurs-the-challenge-in-madagascar-is-much-greater [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-10 12:48:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-10 19:48:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 22 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 22 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Dragons Travel Guide [category_nicename] => dragons-travel-guide [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons-travel-guide/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 675 [name] => The Dragons Journal [slug] => thedragonsjournal [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 675 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [parent] => 0 [count] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 20 [category_description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [cat_name] => The Dragons Journal [category_nicename] => thedragonsjournal [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/thedragonsjournal/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, The Dragons Journal )
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    [post_content] => As a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, I grew quite fond of mealtime. Each afternoon and evening, my host family and I would gather around a large silver bowl placed upon a plastic mat. Squatting in the shade of the wide green arms of a mango tree, we scooped delicious fistfuls of savory sauces and white rice into our hungry mouths. Meals were completely satisfying. In my reflections, I realize that I was being nourished not only by the food, but also by the company I kept. Meals were a communal pause in our day, often followed by napping, drinking sweet mint tea, and braiding hair.

Upon returning to the States, I processed  my experience in Senegal by attending West African cultural events, printing myriads of black and white photographs, and cooking Senegalese food for friends. One of my favorite dishes to make was mafé gerte, or Senegalese Peanut Sauce. Simple yet scrumptious, this dish has served as one of the bridges between my Colorado mountain life and the years I resided in a round, earthen hut, gathering each day for the ageless ritual of sharing a meal.

Mafé Gerte

[caption id="attachment_153727" align="alignright" width="401"] Mafé Gerte pictured. Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal.[/caption]

Ingredients

  • Onion (1 large white)
  • Garlic (1-2 cloves)
  • Sweet potato (1 medium sized)
  • Carrots (2 medium sized)
  • Potato (1-2 medium sized)
  • Cabbage (approx 3 cups)
  • Habanero pepper
  • Oil of your choice (2-3 tsps)
  • Peanut Butter (½ cup to 1 cup depending on preference for thickness)
  • Tomato Paste (2 tsps - helps cut the sweetness of the peanut butter)
  • Water or broth (a bullion cube in water works well)
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper (Lots of it! A few tsps)
  • Cayenne (A pinch)
  • Rice
This dish is traditionally made with goat meat, which can be added with the onions if you prefer meat in your sauce. Directions:
  1. Cook rice while preparing sauce.
  2. Sauté onion in oil on medium heat until golden.
  3. Add vegetables including garlic, sweet potato, potato, and cabbage and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add 4-8 cups of water or broth (depending on how thick you like your sauce.)
  5. Once water is boiling, add peanut butter, tomato paste and spices.
  6. Turn to a low simmer and cook until sauce is reduced and vegetables are cooked (10-20 minutes).
  7. Serve over rice and enjoy!
Make sure you remove the habanero pepper so someone doesn’t get a hot surprise in their mouth. In the village, the pepper is passed around and dabbed on each person’s portion (it’s that hot!) Bon appetite! Ps. Do you have a favorite recipe from your travels that you'd like to share? Share it with megan@wheretherebedragons.com  
CO-DIRECTOR OF ADULT PROGRAMS
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    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_153725" align="aligncenter" width="431"] Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal Program.[/caption]

  

As I meander down a sandy path in the Senegalese neighborhood of Yoff, I hear someone shout, “Kai Lekk!” I look up knowing that this familiar Wolof phrase meaning “Come Eat!” is in fact an invitation. A smiling face glows at me from a circle of people who are gathered around a silver bowl, their right hands beholding greasy rice. They are participating in an ageless afternoon African tradition of gathering amongst friends and family to enjoy a home cooked meal. In this case, they are eating my favorite, thieboudienne, Senegal’s National Dish, which consists of a scrumptious mélange of cooked vegetables, spicy stuffed white fish, and rice cooked with tomato paste.
thieboudienne, Senegal’s National Dish, consists of a scrumptious mélange of cooked vegetables, spicy stuffed white fish, and rice cooked with tomato paste  
[caption id="attachment_153726" align="alignleft" width="420"] Plates of cheb (rice), by Elke Schmidt, Senegal Program.[/caption] In any language in Senegal you will find the same message to come eat called out time and time again.  In a country where people have so little in terms of material items, where the entirety of a person's belongings can sometimes fit into a recycled aluminum can trunk, it shocks me that generosity and hospitality are offered without hesitation.  A personal example that elucidates this happened over a decade ago. In 2006, I was guiding a group of a dozen adventurous Dragons students through the rolling green hills of southern Senegal. We wanted to explore this seldom-visited nook of West Africa on foot in an attempt to witness and experience rural life first hand. One particularly beautiful afternoon, we came upon a remote village of earthen round, hobbit-like, thatched roof huts perched in a cluster amongst a vibrant parade of rainy season greenery.  Weary from a day of hiking uphill under the relentless West African sun, we stumbled towards the Chief’s abode to inquire about lodging. Without missing a beat he exclaimed, “Bismililaye! You are welcome to stay in my village but you must be my guest!” With his large smile and readiness to share, he exuded terranga, a Wolof word roughly translating to outrageous hospitality. [caption id="attachment_153727" align="alignright" width="408"] Mbouille & friends with plate of Mafe Gerte. Photo taken by Babacar Mbaye.[/caption] For me, “Kai lekk” and terranga are Senegal’s national pride. I’ve spent 18 years now traversing the Atlantic at any opportunity that arises to find myself in a country I continue to find a delightful amalgam of the challenging and the inspiring. On the one hand, I struggle with the oppressive heat that inspires rivulets of sweat to run down my stomach, the piles of trash on the urban beaches, and the barefoot children in tattered clothes with outstretched tomato paste cans begging for a sugar cube or a few coins. On the other hand, I am moved by the Senegalese ability to laugh, to be adorned in vibrant colors, and the way a stranger is called over to take a handful of rice or share rounds of sweet mint tea with neighbors.  Through the trials and joys of nearly two decades of a tumultuous love affair with Senegal, she has been my greatest teacher of gratitude, generosity, and the enormous potential of the human spirit. If you’d like to experience the way of Senegalese hospitality and eat delicious thieboudienne while you’re at it, consider joining us on one of our West African adventures. For adults, warm up from winter this February on our Music & Mysticism trip. For students, we offer In The Shade of the Boabob Tree, a 4-week summer program, and Rhythms of Senegal, a vibrant gap year semester program in West Africa.   

Ps. If you'd like to know how to make a simple and incredibly delicious Senegalese staple, read how to make the peanut sauce Mafé Gerte!

CO-DIRECTOR OF ADULT PROGRAMS
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