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Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal Bridge Year Program.

Jamm rekk!

Jamm Rekk from Senegal! That’s my favorite greeting in the main local language- Wolof. It means ‘Peace only’. How nice is that! Peace Only. And it has been a peaceful slow totally immersive experience for the past 9 days. First a 3 night home stay in suburban Thies (pronounced chess) and then travelled to an island called Niodior (Nyo-Jor) – off the Internet grid, remote, no automobiles, reachable only by small wooden canoes to stay with a lovely family for 5 days.

This is not a place for those seeking a ‘tourist’ or canned variety ‘cultural experience’. No picture postcard, pristine beaches or landscapes. But the warm peaceful hospitality, the ‘teranga’ shows up in all the striking images of the people and places.  I was taken into my host families as one if their own.

It wasn’t all easy: for example the inability to communicate was frustrating. Signed gestures and smiles only got us thus far and many questions remained unanswered and thoughts un-communicated.

Another thing was the meals in shared bowls and plates that everyone eats out of.

Even though I fully participated and accepted that way of eating, the practice is diametrically opposite my culture where we do not eat out of the same bowl.

Niodior is a place where time has stood still. No cars or roads, it’s a village in a big sand box with homes, baobab mango neem coconut tamarind drumstick and other trees, people, goats chickens donkeys lots of children all coexisting in a languid lifestyle. The people don’t have much to do. 30 and 40 year old men are away from the village, working either in other places in Senegal or if they are lucky, in Spain and beyond.

20yr+ males are hanging  around or fishing. Women keep occupied in the home, but there’s not that much to do. The advent and rampant use of packaged and prepared spices, instant coffee, powdered milk and other short cuts reduces ‘kitchen’ time. The long drawn process of making and consuming mint tea -‘Ataya’  a few times a day eats up a chunk of time.

In the big bustling capital of Dakar, life moves to full speed as in any burgeoning metropolis. You could be in any of the major cities in India or Asia or other African countries. But happy to report that there are no Starbucks!

Today is Election Day and the country is waiting to see if it is going to be status quo or change in the air.

I travelled with #WhereThereBeDragons and the expert trip leaders Jenny Wagner and Samba Sow along with Momoudou, the local rep, put together a thoughtful, intentional, immersive experience for me and two other participants

So Jamm ak Jamm or Peace and Peace (my 2nd favorite greeting!)

Sharing a few pictures.