Arriving to Senegal was very exciting for everyone since we had the port presentation in La Palma, excitement had started to build up. It was very shocking the first time we went out of the boat: the area we were in was very different from what we are used to seeing in other, more developed ports. The streets where all full of sand and everything seemed to be under construction. Anyhow, our snack bags were full since the first day on land, as per usual.
The next day we went to the school where our homestay families would be waiting for us. Once in the school, we divided into three groups to participate in round table discussions: the three main topics were politics, education, and culture. It was very interesting, it was enriching to find out the different perspectives every nationality has. I think it was a great time for learning. After that, they assigned us to the student that was going to host us.
For me, the homestay was fantastic. I loved my girls and the whole experience. We talked non-stop about our differences and our cultures, our societies and our countries. On the second night I cooked them Mexican food and they were thrilled. It was so much fun to do, everybody helped and at the end they loved it. They even asked me to stay one extra night with them but unfortunately, that was not a possibility.
While the students were at school, we had time for shore leave in our regular groups of 4. That day I went to the beach where there was supposed to be a surf spot. It was great! The place was beautiful. Two of my friends went in the water to surf but me and the others stayed out in a restaurant because the local people told us that if we were not good enough or hadn’t been surfing for a while, it could be very dangerous. The waves were crashing too close to the shore and the shore was full of rocks, so we decided to listen to the locals and enjoy the beach from the outside.
The day was perfect and we had breakfast in a restaurant right in front of the ocean where we could see our friends and the surfers in the water. There were some brilliant surfers out there doing tricks and turns, which were very entertaining. We swam in the ocean and tanned in the sun. Afterwards, around 3, we gathered our things to go back to the school where we met our homestay students.
One of my favorite parts of Senegal was Goree island. We took a ferry with some students from LCB. The island was gorgeous. The guide told us it was first colonized by the Portuguese and indeed you could see the resemblance to Portugal in the bright colors and the arrangement of the houses.
First, we walked through the streets of Goree where we could see the local art and work, and we also stopped in a sand art house. In there, the artists showed us all the different types of sand from Senegal; there were so many different colors.
We also went to a lookout spot. The view was gorgeous and the colour of the ocean was bright as the light of day. Right after that, we walked to a very famous slave house. People come from all over the world to see it and know about it; important people like Nelson Mandela and the Pope have been there. There was a door right in the middle of the furthest wall looking straight into the ocean.
Through there the prisoners sometimes tried to escape but they would not be able to go that far because the ocean was full of sharks in that area. The guide told us that because they would throw the bodies of the sick slaves to the water, that attracted the sharks and they were always around. There was a strong vibe that you could sense while you were walking through the house’s hallways. Some powerful stories were told to us and I believe it caused an effect to everyone that was there experiencing the whole thing.
At the beach there was a big pink pelican almost the size of one of the students, it was huge and it walked next to us on our way back to the ferry. On our way back, we got to see the sun set behind the city: it was a beautiful scene. Finally, we returned to the boat and helped with provisions because we need to eat! That night, I helped the boys that had gone surfing to take out spikes of their feet because, as it turned out, there had been sea urchins at the beach we had gone to.
On the last day, the 29th, the school organized a sports day in a local sports center. There was first basketball and then soccer matches of teams of 5 from each school playing against each other. It was so much fun, even the cheering was great. There was also a pool around the court so some of us went there and relaxed in the sun beds. There was a game of water polo and we closed the day with volleyball.
Around 2:30 we said goodbye to the students and headed back to the boat. We had 3 hours of shore leave to get the last bits of internet or snacks that we were missing and at 7:00 everybody was back to the boat and ready for the next and final activity, the dance. This I believe, was my favourite part about this port. We were brought to street where chairs were placed in a big circle for us and a group of men were playing drums in on one of the corners. The music was loud, very loud, and they were playing a specific type of Senegalese beat. One of the girls in the town got in and started dancing and soon enough, everybody was up and trying to keep up with the rhythm.
It was incredible, people were gathering around us and the children were dancing and everybody who walked nearby got involved in the fiesta. Some of the locals gave us a demonstration of the typical dancing and they even tried to show us some of the moves. I must say we failed to successfully replicate the moves they were teaching us but we all tried and had the best of times. We headed back to the boat all sweaty but with big smiles on our faces.
At last, the 30th we had to say goodbye to a now very dear city, Dakar. It was one big experience full of learning and eye opening. I loved every single minute of this port and I am so happy we had the opportunity of spending time in such a place. I learned so much from it and I hope I left a piece of me in the people I met as much as they left in me. I now go with my heart full and a big smile that will last a long sail. Until next port then,
Written by Class Afloat Student, Eugenia Mendez Gadsden