Salaam Maalekum, fellow wanderers!
Congratulations on making the team for our much anticipated summer adventure! I’m thrilled for you to join us on our journey through the rich geographical, cultural, and historical landscapes of Senegal. We will get to learn about and share in the incredible diversity found in the westernmost country of the continent – from desert, mangrove, and rainforest ecosystems; to Islamic, Christian, and animist traditions; to the truly intercultural coexistence between dozens of ethnic groups, languages, and influences.
To begin, a little about me: originally hailing from Montana, I came of age in a small town surrounded by mountainous terrain and subalpine forest. I’ve dabbled in all sorts of outdoor sports and backpacking trips – pretty much anything one can do on snow, ice, river, rock, and slope in both backcountry and frontcountry. This thirst for adventure, as well as my heritages spanning Ireland, Croatia, and the northern Mariana Islands, became the stepping stones for my interest in living and working abroad.
I first fell in love with Senegal during my service as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2014-2016, living in a tiny agricultural village without electricity or running water. As a Sustainable Agriculture Extension Agent, I worked closely with farmers, women’s market gardening groups, NGOs, and after-school clubs to promote environmental conservation and food security in the region. This summer, I hope to draw from these experiences to share with you the amazing creativity and dynamism of local Senegalese producers, and the various livelihoods that exist under this umbrella.
Besides inspiring my career path and a passion for West Africa, my time in Senegal also led me to realize that no challenge is insurmountable if one carries patience, optimism, and a little courage. Moreover, the boundless warmth, contagious humor, and welcoming nature of the Senegalese people was the lynchpin in recognizing the importance of my support system. As the Wolof proverb goes, Nit – nitay garabam. People are people’s medicine. We may be going into this summer as little more than strangers, but I am confident we will come out the other side stronger for the friendships forged, experiences shared, and new discoveries made together.
As a first year Dragons Instructor, we are starting off on this journey together. As much as I’ve learned over the course of two years in Senegal, there is still so much to explore. I’m eagerly awaiting this next exciting adventure, and the opportunity to learn something from YOU as well! If you have any questions, concerns, jokes, or fluttery nervousness to share, or just want someone to be stoked with before our program starts, please feel free to reach out to me by email! Jaam ak xewel sama xarit yi!