In my eyes, Temanto Samba was the perfect homestay. A rural village an hour outside the nearest city, the local population lives in a tight knit community with important rituals and culture preserved for centuries. The village is fairly small, as one could easily walk the perimeter in ten minutes. I was given my own hut to live in by my family, and it filled me with an irrational pride. My own hut! Against the curved wall of my hut and under the shade of the jutting out roof was a prime hangout spot for sheep and goats. There were bats that inhabited the roof and a mama chicken with a dozen tiny chicks that lived in my bathroom area. Upon awaking in the morning, I’d join my mom in the kitchen- a worn down hut with firewood in the middle and littered with mini wooden stools and empty Magee packets. I’d say good morning and sit down to watch her make porridge. She’d prepare me a mysteriously good cup of steaming hot instant coffee and break me off half a loaf of bread for breakfast. It was a nice routine, and I looked forward to it everyday.
Upon our arrival in Temanto Samba, it was clear that the village was inhabited with lovely, welcoming people who gave us an instant sense of comfortability that only grew with time. Walking through the village, people would sing our names and wave hello everywhere we went, giving the illusion that we had lived there our entire life. Sitting on the perch outside our house watching the stars, eating meals, and passing time with shared words or in companionable silence began to feel like home. Drinking ataya, helping cook, and playing with the family’s puppy, Polis Balde, became as comfortable a routine as the one I used to have in the U.S.
On the dark, early morning that we left, things went by in a sleepy fuzz. However, I remember clearly, right before entering the car, I turned back to give my host mom one last goodbye. She held my hand between hers and just looked at me. It was a lovely goodbye. Words weren’t spoken, but everything was said.
In my opinion, x phase was a roaring success. Our group worked together very well and we all executed our roles smoothly and without complaint. We had some difficult hikes, including an 18 mile trek between villages, but I miraculously managed to enjoy every single one of them. Group morale was high, and our guide was incredibly kind, funny, and helpful. Day after day was filled with stunning views and incredible visits to magical, hidden oasises, unspoiled by tourism. Our group continued to grow closer and closer as we shared sweat, triumphs, and endless laughter. Looking back, I am very proud of our group and what we accomplished, and am grateful for the amazing memories I will look back on fondly.
Before the trip, we were all a bit scared and apprehensive to embark. Questions circled in our head, “What will it be like?” “What if I don’t like it?” “How will I adapt to such a different environment?” Through the the course of our trip, however, what had initially frightened us before has become our norm. Traveling in a foreign country no longer feels like a temporary visit, but as if we’ve adopted it to be our new life. This trip has become our comfort zone, and our homes we were once scared to leave have now become the foreign trip we’re about to embark on. Returning home could be hard at first– we’ll greatly miss our friends, lifestyle, Senegal, and Madagascar. But, in the midst of all the sadness and withdrawal, we’ll do our best to stay positive. The future can bring great things, and knowing that none of us have plans to stop traveling, it’ll be an exciting one…