I’ve Been to Paradise. It’s called la plage.

Here in the heat of it all there is a savior in the name of the beach. For a Montana inland native, the big waves at first were quite terrifying. I’m talkin’ like 3 foot swells. HUGE right? I have been to the ocean before but not for quite some time, and the one next to Puget Sound barely counts because it looks like a lake. This picture is taken at the closest point to the United States. I swam out as far as I could but I couldn’t quite make it all the way home.

Of course I have to look at the positives because right next to the beach, actually  everywhere, is this. But this is why the above picture is huge and this one is small. In fact I think it is good that I am an optimist. Because I could complain about everything: the constant barrage of unwanted attention (by vendors and strangers), the relentless heat, the fact that we don’t eat dinner until after 10pm. But c’est habituelle.

We just started our dance and djembe (drumming) classes this week. I am so excited. Dancing makes me happy and drumming puts me in another world. We are incredibly lucky to be taught by some of the most talented traditional Senegalese artists. This is our dance instructor. She just throws us into a couple lines and we go for it, floundering and looking like fools the entire time. Of course I try to follow her lead, but each movement is so practiced, energetic, and graceful that it is practically impossible. I still don’t know whether I sweat more dancing here, or erging with the crew team at UPS.

I chose to do ‘advanced’ djembe as my next round of classes. It was a hard choice between a traditional stringed instrument (kora), advanced dance, or the talking drum (tama). But I think I made the right choice because I have a tape recorder to record the djembe rhythms and it is something I can do in the U.S. And it makes my heart sing. Also, it would be very challenging for me to get over how ridiculous I look while dancing.

Let’s see, other important things that have happened…

For all you history buffs, we visited L’Ile de Gorée for an afternoon. This was basically the last stop for Western African slaves on their way to the new world. Seeing the tiny living corners with no windows and tiny little rooms in the cement walls for those who misbehaved really brought to life the whole situation for me. And to think that the Ile de Gorée itslef is one of the most beautiful islands I have seen and yet the slaves probably never saw the ocean or the beach until they stepped through ‘le porte de non retour” directly onto the boat that took them away from everything they had ever known. You can see in the picture below the slave house and the door of no return. It is the red building close to the shoreline with yellow pillars.

We were also lucky enough to view part of a Kankourang ceremony in Mbour. In the Mandinka tradition boys who are 3-7 years old get circumcised and the month after they do they are vulnerable to bad spirits. So all the boys participate in the ceremony. The Kankourang is a masked man who wears a big shaggy costume made of bark. He carries a machete and goes absolutely crazy. But that is of course my white person view of the situation. The Kankourang is actually scaring away the bad spirits from the vulnerable, recently circumcised boys. When I say we viewed the ceremony I mean I saw the Kankourang from very far away. This ceremony and my experience there is actually going to get its very own blog post so stay tuned!

In the worlds of Rudyard Kipling

“And that’s the end of that”

This entry was posted in 2011-12, Gaelyn Moore '13, Senegal. Bookmark the permalink.

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