Cultural Excursions and Travel
During the students’ first week in Dakar, normal classes are put on hold. Instead, they are given a thorough “crash course” in Senegalese culture and history, cultural sensitivity, health and safety, and small tours through different parts of the city. This has been cited as one of the most helpful resources for the students, because a member of the Baobab Center accompanies each excursion, and teaches vital skills, such as bartering in the markets, and how to use public transport.
Among these first cultural excursions is a visit to a designated historic site, the Island of Gorée, home to the largest slave-trading center on the African coast. As a group of mostly Westerners, this visit requires a certain sensitivity. The island is beautiful and the visit is an enormous privilege, as well as a wonderful learning opportunity.
For more info, see “Island of Gorée” on UNESCO World Heritage Centre: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/26
One of the weekend-long trips may include a visit to Toubab Dialaw, a village a few hours south of Dakar, situated directly on the coast. This visit entails staying at the mosaicked hotel, Sobo Bade, where there are classes for art, dance, and music.
See the hotel’s website here: http://www.sobobade.com/?page_id=278
Saint-Louis, Senegal’s former French colonial capitol, hosts a huge jazz festival on a bi-annual basis (which lines up with our bi-annual program). A long weekend is usually spent in the city, several hours north of Dakar, and it is full of music, food, and markets, as there is always an art show that accompanies the festival. This has been a favorite trip among many of the returned students.
The jazz festival’s official website: http://www.saintlouisjazz.org
Another potential big trip is to the Gambia, an Anglophone country that is completely surrounded by Senegal. This excursion includes some beach time, museum visits, the infamous crocodile-sanctuary visit, and many other activities. It is a longer driving time than any other trip, but this provides an opportunity to wonder at the beautiful, rural Senegal (a nice change of pace from metropolitan Dakar).
These are only a few of the possibilities included in the trip. Past years’ students have also visited Lac Rose, Touba, Mbour, Louga, Tivaouane, Bandia, and Les Îles de la Madeleine – sometimes with their host families, or other students from the Baobab Center. You can ask the program director about where you will be visiting during your program.