Greetings dear students, we are really looking forward to you joining us under the Baobab tree this summer! Although we know that you have been sent a full packing list, we wanted to use this post as a way to give you some important reminders about what to bring and what to leave at home, and to clarify our electronics policy.
Our course will be an opportunity to be fully immersed in another country. Maybe even more importantly, it will be a chance to be fully immersed in yourself, potentially in a way that you have never been before. In order to give you the fullest opportunity to experience this, we ask that you leave behind many of the electronic devices that may be a part of your lives at home. This includes: cell phones, laptops, tablets, iPads, eReaders (Nooks and Kindles, etc), iTouches, and anything that goes on the internet. If parents feel that you need a phone for domestic travel, we ask that you still respect our policies regarding cell phone use. Students who arrive on course with a cell or satellite phone will be asked to turn their phone over to the instructors, who will then carry students’ phones for the duration of the trip.
Be assured that instructors will have cell phones with them at all time, and be in direct contact with the Dragons admin in Boulder should any urgent messages need to be communicated from either side. Dragons field staff carry all appropriate emergency communication equipment, so there will always be channels of communication open.
You are welcome (and encouraged) to bring cameras and video/audio recording devices with you on the program. It is wonderful to have an audio and visual record of our course. We will brief students on how to use photography and recording in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways in our new environment. If you are used to using your phone as a camera or recording device, and if audio/video/photographic records of your experience are important to you, please be sure you have audiovisual devices that do not also serve as communication tools. Digital or film cameras and voice recorders are completely fine to bring along.
Please note that our internet connectivity will be limited during the program, but that all students will have ample opportunity to post updates on this Yak board. Now is a great time to let your friends and family know that you may be out of touch during your time abroad, but don’t forget to send them the address of this Yak board for all updates, photos and news.
Your instructor team will have a laptop with them. Sometimes, Yakking means that you’ll be typing your updates into a Word document in the shade of a baobab tree before one of the instructors climbs a hill to get cell phone reception and uploads the Yaks using a very slow USB internet connection. It’s gritty, it’s exciting, and it’s a chance for you to leave behind some of the ways you are connected at home in order to open up to new ways of being connected in Senegal.
Along the same lines, we also invite you to leave iPods and music players at home, although the ultimate choice of whether or not to bring them is up to you. In any case we will set tight boundaries about when people can listen to headphones. When it comes to music, we recommended bringing a flash drive (a small USB stick) with some of your favorite music from home. This is a great way to share music with each other and our new friends in Senegal, as well as load up some of your favorite new Senegalese jams.
Even with approved electronic devices, we do ask you to consider how much expensive electronic equipment will “stick out” as we meet local people in Senegal. Recent statistics put the average annual income in Senegal at less than $1500 USD. It is quite possible that even just your laptop will have cost more than an average household in Senegal makes in a year. We advise you to reflect on your own emotional reaction to this disparity as you make your packing choices.
To fully disconnect and truly free yourself of all electronic devices is your first challenge from your instructor team! Please feel free to contact us if you have any other questions about our approach to electronics or anything you are not clear about.
-Leave behind: phones, laptops, tablets, e-Readers, and any other little screens that take you online
-Feel free to bring: cameras and audio recorders
-You might also want: a flash drive with some of your favorite music (and some space for new Senegalese songs!)
The next topic we want to give you a reminder of is mosquito nets
Our “Bug Huts” are the most important piece of equipment we have this summer. Please be advised that you will be are required to sleep in your mosquito tents every night on course to minimize the risk of contracting malaria, as we are traveling in the rainy season (which means more mosquitoes). Our recommended brand of mosquito net is the REI Bug Hut Pro 2 tent. Other bug tents are acceptable as long as they are free-standing (NO hanging nets–we have nowhere to hook them up on our trek and homestays) and the netting doesn’t touch your skin while you sleep (mosquitoes can bite you through that). You don’t need a rain fly on your tent, as we will be pitching our tents under the cover of a hut or campement rooftops.
PLEASE POST PACKING QUESTIONS ON THIS YAK BOARD! Chances are, if you have a question, someone else has it too.
Additionally, in the coming couple of weeks, one of your instructors (Babacar, Samba, or Claire) will give you a phone call to check in and answer any questions you have about the course. We look forward to speaking with you!
Your Instructor Team