Hello fellow travelers!
Final exams are due, the stores are stocking slip-n’-slides and popsicles, and it’s time to turn the calendar. Soon we’ll be packing up our bags and heading out 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 the Sierra Nevada mountains) 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.
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.
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, Alyx and Elke
A tentative itinerary for our Senegal Summer Course:
What we present here is our rough summer itinerary overview. The specific dates may vary by a few days here and there depending on travel needs, but overall this will be the flow of our course. At Dragons, we intentionally keep our itineraries flexible so that we can take advantage of unexpected opportunities and best craft the trip to your unique interests. Moreover, as you will soon learn, travel in Senegal is not an exact science and we’ll all soon become Senegal travel experts and be able to adjust into the flexible schedules of Senegalese life.
June 28 and 29: Travel to Senegal
The group first meets at JFK on June 28. (Further details on meeting up with the group to follow!) Our flight arrives at the Blaise Diagne International Airport on June 29, after transiting through CDG (Paris). The instructors will post a Yak once the students have arrived. We will then travel to Thies, just 45 minutes north of the airport.
June 29-July 1: Day in Thies
We will spend 1 full day and 2 nights in Thies to get our first introduction to Senegal. We will take this time to rest and get our bearings, learn foundational cultural do’s and don’ts, and discuss 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!
July 1-3: Orientation in Dene, along the Grande Cote
On our second full day, we will head to Dene, a beautiful qu’ranic community situated on the Atlantic coast just north of Dakar and Thies. This will be our homebase for 2 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 meet with the Imam and leader of the community, learn about Islam and the community of Dene’s sufi beliefs, and discuss about the importance of religion and spirituality in Senegal.
July 3-10: Urban Homestays in Thies
After orientation we’ll return to Thies for a week-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 with the group, 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.
Given its central location, Thies is also a great homebase for day excursions to Dakar, the capital of Senegal, or Touba, home to the largest mosque in West Africa and holy seat of the Mouride Islamic brotherhood.
July 10-11: Travel Day and Midcourse in Kedougou
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. After our full travel day, we’ll spend the following day in town where we’ll explore the market and prepare for our multi-day trek.
Our time in Kedougou and on trek will also mark midcourse, a key transition point in the course and an opportunity to reflect on our journey so far and yet to come.
July 12-15: Trekking in the Region of Kedougou
On this multi-day trek, 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.
July 16-23: Rural Homestay in Temento Samba
We will travel from Kedougou to Kolda, wedged between The Gambia and Guinea Bissau. We are lucky enough to be staying in Samba’s home village for a rural homestay experience! 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 develop friendships across language and cultural differences as we settle into daily life. 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.
July 24-27: Expedition Phase
In this phase, you, the student, take ownership over the structure and content of our days. What are we going to eat? Where are we going to sleep? What are we going to do? Maybe we’ll find ourselves climbing to the top of sand dunes or possibly getting lost in a local kasbah. You are presented with options, a budget, and specific tasks to accomplish. The success of this phase lies with you and your fellow students!
July 28-30: 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 4 weeks 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.