Ngor Island

By Alexandria Erin

Today we went to Ngor Island. Right before we got on the pirogue boat we took off our shoes, climbed onto the boat, went to the island and begun our adventure there for the day with two university students from Dakar.

I kept my shoes off for the whole time and didn’t put them back on until later that day when we got on the bus. To just feel the rough rocks and sand underneath my feet as we walked around the island was amazing. I love walking barefoot. We aren’t able to walk barefoot on the ship and not knowing the countries we are in I’m not able to go barefoot unless I am in my room. I constantly found myself digging my toes into the sand and when we were walking on the rough rocks loving the burning and rough sensation! This reminded me of Big Island Hawaii when I would go to the Captain Cook area and was a kayak guide and snorkel instructor there. It reminded me of the lava rock I would walk on barefoot.

After our tour around the island some more students from the University of Dakar came and joined us for lunch. We had many interesting conversations as we got to know these students.

After lunch and having the three stage traditional tea of Senegal – 1st tea is bitter for death, 2nd tea is sweet for life and 3rd tea is extra sweet for love – we met the sand wrestlers that we would boat back to Dakar’s beach and watch wrestle.

Watching the men wrestle was so interesting. I thought it was going to be brutal but there was such an art to it. It was so beautiful it didn’t even seem like they were wrestling but almost dancing in a way. Even some of the SAS students I was with were able to wrestle with the Senegalese wrestlers and each other. It was so fun to watch and take photos of!

As we headed back to the ship I thought about how this was the first place I had ever been that was somewhere I had absolutely no familiarity with. I knew a lot about Europe from friends who had studied there and reading many articles on different parts of Europe and I was always researching different things about Morocco because I’ve longed to go there for so long; Senegal was completely new to me.

I realized on the bus that my fear of this new place and the stories of people swarming you and overwhelming you were gone. I did not go to the market as many people who talked about getting swarmed and overwhelmed did. I think this has a lot to do with why my experience was so fruitful. Yesterday I visited an exchange school program with a woman my friend Matilda met on the train in Morocco and met students who did an exchange program in the United States. That for me was the first interaction I had with Senegalese people and I realized I was ok. My fear of total newness and feeling extremely out of place due to not only my color being the opposite of people there but also my fear of the people being so desperate they would try and take my stuff vanished away as I learned through these students and the new friend we made who ran this student exchange program how to not let my fear stop me from exploring and meeting people but being safe and cautious at the same time.

Getting back to my room I couldn’t help but smile. I finally felt I had overcome a sense of cultural shock and a fear I never thought I would have, especially with my love for people. I was so afraid at first due to the stories I had heard. I’m not saying don’t be cautious, however, don’t be closed-minded. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to still meet people and talk to them and realized everything was going to be ok. I couldn’t stop smiling at the joyful feeling I had of meeting all of these people I had very little in common with, yet was still able to understand and be understood by. It made me realize how big this world is, but at the same time how alike we all are no matter where we are from due to our humanity. Everyone has a voice and this voyage is teaching me how to use mine no matter where I am, no matter where I go.

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Senegal Reflection Questions

Question #1: What stood out to you as you traveled in Senegal? Question #2: How have you been able to see the world in a different way from before? What have been the most influential moment where you've seen changes in yourself? Question #3: What is stopping you from immersing yourself more in the cultures we have visited?

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