Friday, February 8, 2013

Field trip with the International School of Dakar

I am finally back at site after spending a week with the kids from the International School of Dakar (ISD) and Trevon and Alexx. I have to admit I was more than a little nervous to be surrounded by teenagers again, knowing what I know of American teenagers, but these kids were different.

They were great. Having parents as Ambassadors, presidents of NGO’s, international teachers or other government workers, gives them a sense of maturity and respect for others. I was able to compare my life growing up with many of these kids on a few levels one of the most obvious being that like most of the kids I moved around a lot as a child because of my dads job. 
One of the first misconceptions that we had going into the week were that the kids were Americans; this was based on the fact that everyone we have met from the school were in fact Americans. Of the 16 students maybe half of them had at least one parent from Africa, a little more than a handful were able to claim American citizenship while even fewer of them have actually lived in the states; most of them visit family in the states during breaks or summers. 
Along with the students they were chaperoned by three adults from the school, two teachers and a school counselor. We could not have asked for a better group of adults either, they were just as interested in what we were doing with our projects in Peace Corps as we were in their career paths and thoughts about being an expat.
Below is the itinerary that Alexx planned for the week with the students for their “field trip” (best fieldtrip ever if you ask me) but of course there were random soccer games on the beach or impromptu guitar playing at meals. And since this was a 9th grade science class the activities were both educational and science themed.

Day 1:
·  ISD arrives in Palmarin
·  Fish dissection (I could not stomach this but the kids dove in without resistance)
·  Tour of the port (to see where fish are brought in and either kept cool or dried)
·  Introduction to the mangroves and crab hunt (if you are really quiet they will come out of their hole with you standing next to them)

Day 2:
·  Palmeran History and Artifacts Museum (SO COOL!)
·  Game to keep busy (race to cross the hot lava on circle mats)
·  Soccer match at a local school (included other games such as Tug-A-War)

Day 3:
·  Tour of an animal market and produce market in nearby village (my everyday life – not so exciting)
·  Tour of Shell Island and the mixed cemetery for both Christians and Muslims (rare)

Day 4:
·  Walking tour through the mangroves (absolutely beautiful)
·  Kayaking through the mangroves (a job alone to keep the boys on track)
·  Lesson with microscope on creatures found in the creek (watching them trying to catch the fish was the best part)
·  Hyena watch through salt flats (no Hyenas but a great view)

Day 5:
·  Reflections on the week (auw, they actually liked us!)
·  ISD departs Palmaran

The first day was filled with awkward hellos and feelings of being an outsider looking in on the lives of teenagers but by the end of the week I grew to really like the students. We have been told our whole lives to live in the present because before you know it, it will be gone; am I really 26 already? These kids (I know I keep referring to them as kids but they are definitely young adults and even more mature than I was at that age) have everything handed to them in life; the best education, being at least bi-lingual from birth, contacts all over the world, and the rare opportunity to be exposed to and live within numerous different cultures. Right now they see it as having to move around every three or so years but they will learn to appreciate what their parents are doing for them.
Alexx, Trevon and I could not help but think about our future and, scary to say, the future of our kids. I think when you share a love for cultures around the world you also share a love to want to share them with the people around you. We all agreed that our kids would 1) speak more than one language fluently 2) see the world in attempts to expose our families to other cultures and 3) have a great education, not only in the formal sense but through hands on real life experiences; similar to what I had growing up and I appreciate my parents for that. As for myself I want to continue my education when I get back to the states because I believe whole heartedly in education, and I want to continue to travel hopefully through work but also for pleasure.
They say that as a Peace Corps Volunteer you will get more out of the experience than you put in and I am starting to believe it. Sure I am helping my community but I am not doing anything groundbreaking and as for myself, I am learning things that I will take with me forever. Thank you Senegal and my fellow volunteers for the experiences and memories.




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