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Tentative Itinerary: West Africa

Hello fellow adventurers and travelers, wanderers and wonderers,

August is coming to an end, the stores are full of back-to-school supplies, and soon we’ll be on our own adventure!

The instructor team has been gathering virtually (as we’re all still spread across the US until we gather just before our course for an instructor training in Morocco) to discuss our upcoming course, and we are beyond stoked for what’s to come.

Below is our itinerary. Please note that this itinerary is tentative. A cornerstone of our programs is flexibility, and this may change once we get on the ground. We stay flexible so that we can continue to work with our local host communities and contacts, and with you (the students!) to deliver an engaging and immersive program.

As you’ll notice below, we hope to travel to Guinea and The Gambia. Travel to these countries if often done on semester programs, although it is sometimes not possible. Guinea and The Gambia are intricately tied to Senegal – culturally, ethnically, historically. Populations along the borders often identify more closely with their neighbors across the border than in their own country. By traveling to these areas, students gain a deeper understanding of regional issues, of historical migrations and cultural ties, and of the long-term effects of nation building and modern politics.

Intentional travel involves many moving parts, and we may adjust the itinerary and forego travel to one or both of these countries should our on-the ground assessments recommend it. Any associated visa fees for Guinea or The Gambia would be covered by the program.

We will continue to post any itinerary changes or other updates for our families and friends on the Yak Board leading up to and during the course.

 

A tentative itinerary for our West Africa Semester Course:

September 16: Arrival at Blaise Diagne International Airport and Overnight in Thies

The group flight arrives at the Blaise Diagne International Airport. The instructors will post a Yak once the students have arrived. We will then travel to Thies, just 45 minutes north of the airport, to get our first introduction to Senegal. We will take this first day to rest, get our bearings, learn foundational cultural do’s and don’ts and key health and safety tips.  Don’t worry, we’ll be back! This is just a sneak peek at the city that we’ll return to for our urban homestays!

We will post a yak closer to departure with details about arriving at the airport in Senegal and meeting up with the group.

September 17 – September 21: Orientation in Mouit, outside of Saint Louis

On our second day, we will continue our journey north to Mouit, a small village at the entrance to the Langue de Barbarie National Park outside of Saint Louis. This will be our homebase for 5 days for orientation. We will get to know one another, craft a shared mission, and start basic language classes. We will also have the opportunity to visit the local market and speak to members of the local community about their work in the national park. With Saint Louis only a short drive away, we will be able to tour the historical city and former capital of French West Africa.

September 22 – October 19: Urban Homestays in Thies

On September 22, we’ll return to Thies for a month-long urban homestay. Thies plays many roles as a regional capital and regional seat to many organizations and associations – public, private, and nonprofit. Smaller than its bustling neighbor Dakar, about an hour away, there are wide tree-lined boulevards in historic neighborhoods next to residential areas with new construction. The market is friendly and hospitable, a perfect place to explore and practice bargaining.

Students will be placed with homestay families, take language classes at our program house, meet with community members and learn about their work in a wide range of areas from nonprofit work, to traditional medicine, to art and dance. Thies will also provide the optimum place for students to begin exploring their Independent Study Project, or ISP. We will post a Yak soon with some initial ideas!

Given its central location, Thies is also a great homebase for small excursions to visit Dene, a small village on the coast and home to a daara or quranic school, or Touba, home to the largest mosque in West Africa and holy seat of the Mouride Islamic brotherhood.

October 20 – November 7: Trekking in the Fouta Djallon

The Fouta Djallon is a region where family ties cross national borders. Home to Pulaar communities and many other ethnicities, Wolof is no longer the preferred language. We hope to also visit Guinea during this time, but please remember that our itineraries are flexible. If we cannot travel to Guinea, we will have an opportunity to extend our trekking in Kedougou.

  • October 20 – October 21: Kedougou and trek prep – After our stay in Thies, we’ll bid adieu to our close friends and travel south to Kedougou. Along the Guinean and Malian border, Kedougou can seem worlds away from Thies. It is lush and mountainous, compared to the grassy plains around Thies. In Kedougou, we’ll explore the market and prepare for our multi-day trek.
  • October 22 – October 26: Trekking in the Region of Kedougou – We will start our trek with a 4-day trek in the region of Kedougou. We’ll have an opportunity to trek to waterfalls, spot baboons through the dense forest, and explore historic caverns. We’ll also learn about development efforts in the area with a visit to the Jane Goodall Research Institute. During the trek, we will be carrying our packs and trekking village to village. We will have an opportunity to stay in local campemens in remote villages, supporting local tourism efforts. On trail, we will prepare our own sandwiches with the local tapalapa bread and and also sample the local cuisine.
  • October 27 – October 31: Cultural exploration in Maliville, Guinea – After a full day of travel, we’ll arrive in Maliville, Guinea. After exploring the mountains of the Fouta Djallon in Senegal, we’ll have an opportunity to explore the heart of this region in Guinea. Maliville will be our homebase as we continue ISP exploration, go on day hikes in the local hills, learn about Pulaar oral traditions rooted in the mountains, and continue learning the Pulaar language.
  • November 1 – November 4: Trekking in Douki, Guinea – Douki is home to the “Grand Canyon of West Africa.” With its striking landscapes and lush forests, it is often billed as the most scenic area of the Fouta Djallon. It offers some of the best hiking in the country, and maybe the region.
  • November 5 – November 7: Rural stay in Timbi Madina, Guinea – We will conclude our time in Guinea with a short stay in Timbi Madina. This will give us wonderful insight into the local culture and way of living. After having experienced the landscape and the challenges and rewards it offers throughout our trek, we will exchange with local community members and learn from their experiences negotiating the challenges of climate change and maintaining rural lifestyles in a globalized world. We’ll have learned Pulaar throughout our time in the Fouta Djallon and we will continue to practice it as we explore the market or join in a local soccer game.

November 8: Overnight in Kolda and 2-week Rural Homestay in Temento Samba

We will travel back into Senegal and rest for one night in Kolda. The following day we will head to Temento Samba for a 2-week-long rural homestay experience. We are lucky enough to do these in Samba’s home village!  Temento Samba is a beautiful village surrounded by lush forests, local agriculture (and beehives for divine local honey!), and dirt trails perfect for a short stroll on the way to neighboring villages. Home to subsistence farmers, we will experience first-hand an important way of life in Senegal where the routine is marked by rooster crows, children’s laughter on the way to school and family time around the fire at night. In Temento Samba, we will be there long enough to settle into a routine, become comfortable with our homestay families, and develop friendships across language and cultural differences. We will have additional time to explore ISPs, meet with community members and learn from their experience, delve into themes of development, economy, agriculture and climate change, drumming and dance, and migration and cross-border issues between Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.

November 24 – November 30: Expedition Phase in the delta regions

We will close our program with an expedition in the delta regions of The Gambia and Senegal. The Gambia river defines the country of the same name. The Sine-Saloum Delta just to the north in Senegal also defines the region. The two regions share a deep connection to water and fishing, and although formerly separated by a national border, the two areas a closely linked through economic, cultural, ethnic and familial ties. Please note that, while we hope to travel to The Gambia, our itineraries are flexible. If we are not able to travel to The Gambia, we will use this time to deepen our exploration of the Sine-Saloum Delta.

This week will give us greater insight into the region as we’re able to compare and contrast our experience here with the past few months of travel in Senegal and Guinea. This expedition will take shape over the course of the program to respond to student interests and engage students in larger leadership roles.

December 1 – December 5: Transference in Toubab Dialaw

Our final few days in country will be devoted to reflection as we reflect backwards and forwards and land in the present. Where have we been? Where will we go from here? What have the past 3 months meant? In this idyllic location on the petite cote, where the sand is soft but the rocks are rough and the breeze is cool but the sun is warm, we will find balance.

We are beyond excited to travel through 3 spectacular countries with you!

Stay tuned to the Yak Board for a pre-course assignment, some ideas about potential ISPs, final FAQs, and posts from you and your fellow travelers!

 

Jamm ak jamm,

Peace (to you) and peace (to us),

 

Your Instructor Team

Samba, Cameron, and Elke