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Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal Bridge Year Program.

Greetings from Babacar Mbaye- Onsite Director

Asalaamalekum mbok yi,

This sentence could be the shortest description of who I am. It says ‘peace be with your family.’ The first word is of Arabic origin and was brought to Senegal centuries ago with Islam. Religion and the culture of peace and tolerance found in my country are one of the cornerstones of Senegalese culture. Almost all local language greetings ask how peaceful you have been. My father is a Sufi teacher and he has impacted my life in various and wonderful ways.

The first word also speaks to the importance of language in my life. I am a native Wolof speaker, but I also speak French and English. I am a language teacher and I taught French at a village elementary school for ten years, then English for several years to older students, and now Wolof to American students.  Learning a new language generally forces people to meet and communicate beyond their communities.

The other important aspect of my life is my family and in my country, family can refer to lot of people. Anyone who shares (‘mbok’ derives from ‘bok’ which means ‘share’) something with you is considered family. People are brothers and sisters not only because they are your siblings or relatives, but also because you share the same religion, block, village or country.

If you ask about my family I might talk about my five kids and their mother, my siblings (I probably have close to 20, we don’t count family), my relatives, my neighbors or friends. At times I even mention the American branch of my family that includes amazing instructors and students that I feel are more than just friends, but actual family.

I have been a Dragons’ instructor since 2011 and because the notion of a global village is becoming more and more of a reality,  I am able to write this to you from Kathmandu, Nepal (where I’m on a site visit) and you will be able to read it in your own hometown a few seconds after it is posted. My work is to help educate students about global citizenship and to help explore what exactly has the power to make this world a better place.

I want to congratulate you all on your choice to participate in the Bridge Year program and to come to Senegal. This is truly the best way to encounter people-Go to them despite your apprehension and take the time to get to know them. I, along with the other Senegal instructors, am here to ensure that you have best experience in Senegal. Our goal is to keep you safe, healthy and confident enough to be excited to learn and grow.

As Senegalese we are very proud of ‘Teranga’, our specific version of hospitality that you will discover. We open our doors and hearts and make you as comfortable as we possibly can… Most of the people you will come into contact with on a daily basis will quickly become friends and family, so loving that you might want to stay longer or come back. Wolof wisdom says that if you are traveling with the right, open mindset, wherever you go you will find your family and you will easily become brother and sister to all you meet. I have found this to be true on all  three continents where I have had the opportunity to travel.  I hope you will find the same here in my country.

The Yak Board is a space for us to begin communicating as a group. It is also a place where we will continue to post updates for your families and friends during your nine months abroad. Please go ahead and post your individual introductions. Tell us about your interests, your families, your objectives and projects. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to post them, as it’s likely another student is pondering the same thing!

I look forward to sharing this year with you all.

Nekk leen ci jàmm(you all be in peace)

Babacar