“Atlanta is the largest airport in the world” the voice calmly said over the loudspeaker. My heart stopped. What a welcome! My first thought was – I’m gonna get lost.
On June 15 I left my calm, boring home state of Missouri to go the city of Dakar, country Senegal, continent – Africa. I was going on a mission trip with the International Mission Board – International World Changers for high school individuals. I was most nervous about flying alone. I figured I could make it to Atlanta alright, then I would meet my group, and all would be well. That’s when I heard the trivial trivia about the Atlanta airport – NOT what I needed to hear! Thankfully my fears didn’t come true, and after only a slight confusion about how to ride the metro I made it to the gate to meet up the others in my group whom I didn’t know.
After a long flight, with crying babies, (for which I couldn’t sleep) we arrived in Africa! It was dark, beyond humid, and we were all nervous about going through customs.
Later, I found myself squashed in a small van, strangers on every side of me, a crazy driver in control of the vehicle, in a country where I knew no one, didn’t speak the language, and my only thought was- Missouri is a long way away.
We were totally confused; as we had just a 3 hour nap, then a 2 hour language lesson, and now we were going to ride around in taxis BY OURSELVES. The taxi didn’t look like it should run, and it had a creepy looking horse tail hanging from it.
“Asaalam Malekem?” I said. Then I tried to tell the man where we wanted to go. Thankfully we had little prompt cards – which were my life saver! Hoping the man would go to the right place I got in the very small cruddy taxi. By the end of the trip I could get anywhere in a taxi and I could bargain to get a good price too! Taxi riding was one of my favorite parts!
One of my first Senegalize meal I had was the country’s favorite – Cheebu Jen. It’s Basically a whole fish on a bed of rice with lots of onions. It didn’t look too appetizing- especially the round balls of fish. We ate from the customary community bowl, which I actually liked! During our stay in Africa we ate a lot of rice, onions, french fries, lamb, and chicken! I liked every meal except Cheebu Jen, which everyone asked me if I liked.
My group and I went into universities to talk with students learning English. It was interesting to talk with the students and learn about their lives, and their culture. I talked with them about their Muslim faith and shared with them about my Christian faith.
I never got a marriage proposal unlike some in my group, but one taxi driver did try to kiss me! That was one of my craziest experiences!
We had 14 hours of language lessons learning Wolof. By the end of the trip I could say all the greetings, ask names, get a taxi, and bargain with money (somewhat). I really didn’t know much, so I just smiled a lot!
I had an amazing time in Senegal; I didn’t want to go home when the trip was over. I learned so much about the Senegalize life, and the way other people lived. Who knows, maybe I’ll even come to like Cheebu Jen!
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