Nangeen def, sunu ndongo yu Dragons? How are you all, our Dragons students?
Right now, the instructors are getting ready to head out. You all still have a few weeks yet, but the Dragons family is gathering in the Sierras for 2 weeks of training. We’ll then travel directly from California to New York to meet you all on June 28. As we are packing our own bags, and we’ve been talking to a few of you during the pre-course phone call, we compiled a list of packing notes.
- Read through your Course Preparation Manual (CPM). You will find very helpful, necessary information that will prepare you for our adventure. Knowledge is power!
- Pack a small notebook and writing utensils. Our program will include many academically-focused engagements as well as large blocks of time for reflection. Taking notes during Wolof and Pulaar language classes and reflecting on Senegal’s ethnic diversity in a journal prompt are just two scenarios where you might find yourself utilizing a notebook and pen.
- ATM cards or USD cash can be used to access CFA (francs). If you bring an ATM card, please inform your bank in advance and it may be helpful to bring some USD cash as a back-up. An ATM card will give you a little bit more flexibility on when/where you can get local currency. We will be able to exchange money at the beginning and once part-way through course.
- Keep it simple, silly. If you pack light, you will be a happy camper. You are responsible for your belongings throughout the entire program whether we are trekking from village to village or transferring buses in a crowded station. Please have only one pack and one day pack. The lighter your bag, the easier those activities will be. Do a trial run and examine your bag. Try to simplify. Please note we might have gear to divide amongst the team so you may be required to carry additional items in your bag after arriving in-country (e.g. books or course resources).
Notes on Sleeping:
- Your bug hut is key! We recommend the Bug Hut 2 at REI. What is key is that you have (1) a self-standing mosquito net that does not need to be tied to the wall or ceiling, that also (2) provides enough room for you and your sleeping pad. (3) A hard floor (not mesh) will prevent tears and keep out any critters. A self-standing mosquito net gives us more flexibility in where we sleep – outside when it is not raining with the stars above us, in a hut on trek, at our homestay house without requiring additional equipment.
- We’ll be using our sleeping pads often. While we will sometimes stay in hotels with beds, you will most likely use your sleeping pad at orientation in Dene and at your rural homestay in Temento Samba. You may also need it at your urban homestay in Thies or on trek.
- It may get cooler at night, especially after a nice rain. Other nights, though, may be super humid. A lightweight sleep sheet can work as a simple blanket or as a cover for your sleeping pad. Some students also purchased fabric in country to use as a sleep sheet or towel.
- Don’t forget your headlamp! Having the ability to move around at night and be productive is important to individual and group success. Flashlights are helpful, but headlamps create more freedom.
Notes on Clothing:
- Culturally appropriate clothing is required. As a part of our Focus Of Inquiry, we will be examining the diversity that exists in Senegal, and it will become apparent rather quickly that there is quite a spectrum of dress in the country. In big cities you might find a more “western” style of dress, and in rural villages you might find a more traditional, conservative style. As Dragons, we will be mindful of our dress, paying close attention to being culturally appropriate for every occasion.
- For men and women, we ask that shorts/skirts go past the knee (men’s shorts can hit at the knee)
- No midriffs showing, no thin-strapped tanks (wide straps are acceptable) and no low necklines.
- Please bring at least one long-sleeved shirt (past the elbows) for a mosque visit. Women – please also bring a large, lightweight scarf or shawl that can be used to cover your hair, neck and upper shoulders to wear in a mosque.
- For swimming, women do not necessarily need board shorts and a t-shirt. A one-piece swimsuit or tankini works as well (please no midriff showing). If you have bikini or smaller tankini, bring a t-shirt that you could also wear swimming over your swimsuit. Men can wear standard board shorts. Please no speedos.
- Feeling comfortable is key. It will be hot, humid and rainy. Think about what will need to stay dry and how to do that (a trash bag liner in your pack works great if you don’t have a rain cover for example!). Within the framework of culturally appropriate attire and our nine program components (e.g. homestays, trekking, and rugged travel), bring your awareness to the items that make you feel comfortable and pack them.
- There will be an option to get something tailored. For men, this will usually be a shirt (button-down or plain) and loose fitting pants. For women, this can be a dress or skirt and shirt combo. This is optional and generally costs from $10 to $25 (for just a shirt to a full outfit with additional details). Clothes can easily get more expensive the fancier the fabric or the more complex the tailoring.
Notes on Homestay Gifts:
- We’ll be staying with 2 different host families – one in Thies for an urban experience and another in Temento Samba for a rural experience. Please consider bringing a small gift for each family.
- Families in Senegal are multi-generational and often times larger than families in the US. It’s helpful to have gifts that can be shared, split apart, or used by lots of different family members.
- You’ll have a host mom or “yaay” in each family. This is the woman who primarily cares for you – cooking for you, making sure that you are comfortable, helping you get settled.
- You’ll often have small children in your family or nearby. Even if your family doesn’t have small children, there will always be small children nearby!
- Gift suggestions include: photos of yourself and your family that you can leave behind (and you could even add a note on the back of them at the end of your stay); for your “yaay”, jewelry or scarves are always appreciated; for the kids, a game or activity that you can do together like cards, an inflatable ball, colored pencils or pens, etc; if you are artistic, maybe you could draw a portrait or a beautiful picture of their home.
- Gifts don’t need to be expensive! Some of the best gifts that I have given include favorite toys from my childhood that could do with a new home, or scarves that I found at a resale store like Goodwill, or small activity booklets from the Target dollar section. It’s definitely the thought that counts!
Other General Notes:
- Please bring good sturdy shoes for trekking. These should be worn in. Trail runners are a great option. You don’t need massive hiking boots, but you should make sure to have shoes that fit well and have a good tread. The trails are primarily footpaths (so not much off-roading) but they’ll be muddy during the rainy season and the rocks can get slick.
- For water purification, we do carry a group supply. However, many students have appreciated carrying a personal water purifier for more independence with water during their homestay. This can be tablets (iodine, chlorine), a SteriPen or a carbon filter, for example. Please read the instructions – it’s more convenient when the processing time is less, or when you can treat the water directly in your water bottle. Double check the quantity that it treats and your water bottle – some are water bottles are 800mL or the water purification tablet is only for 10L.
- Passport photos are not needed.
Ba beneen yoon!
Until next time!