Merci, Senegal.

Trip Start Sep 14, 2012
Trip End Aug 16, 2013

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, November 1, 2013

In my last blog, I was 7 weeks away from leaving Senegal. Now 2 months after being home, my whole life has turned upside down.

We spent 2 weeks travelling, Amee and I travelled close to 2000 kilometres by sept-place, onion truck and 4x4. It was quite an adventure, we started in Saint Louis and travelled around the entire of Senegal's border, spending a night in each major town. We spent longer in the southern region of Kedougou where we hiked mountains and swam in waterfalls, and a bit of time in Ziguinchor visiting Zoe & Lena. We managed to reach every border of Senegal, scanning Mauritania over the Senegal river, watching the sunrise over Mali and looking over the Guinean flatlands. I loved every minute, especially as it was Ramadan - the holy month of the Islamic calendar. We fasted yes, but the highlight for me was when we broke the fast at sunset. There was such a communal feel as we ate dates and drank spicy touba coffee with the other travellers and locals.
We travelled on to Koalack, where the boys worked and lived, where they held an end of year party. In an odd series of events, Lena was dressed a a Puular queen (see photos...) and made to parade around throwing sweets and children and sit in a magnificent chair as we, her minions, sat at her feet. It was very weird. We danced too, of course. 

Soon though, we started feeling homesick for Joal and headed back there for our final weeks. 
I can't begin to tell you how hard it was. Why did we do it to ourselves? Throw your whole life and being into a country, a culture, into friendships and language and people, only to tear it all away 12 months later. Why was I leaving? I was struggling to find a reason to come home. Knowing that I wouldn't be coming back again for a while, at least. I loved life in Joal so much, it was the people that made it. It broke my heart, over and over again. Saying goodbye to the teachers, the shop-owners, the choir, the church. But of course the sadness comes from great things, great blessings. Memories shared with wonderful people, moments of laughter and happiness and freedom. 
And so we came home. Back to a world that was foreign and different. It feels a little bit like trying to put on an old pair of shoes that are too small. Some things are familiar, but it took me a while to open my wardrobe and put on something that felt like my clothes. I've started running, it takes my mind away and is a great was to discover Durham and rediscover Kirkby. I miss my family and friends in Senegal so much, but everyone here has been amazing, I've been captured by an amazing safety net of love. The day after I came home was my cousin Emily's wedding, a beautiful day! 
I think I was glad to come to university (at Durham, studying French, German and Spanish), to throw myself into a new culture and way of life. I've joined sports teams, societies, 'get involved' they tell us. I've made some great new friends and already have some long-lasting memories. Life is so easy, just using a washing machine is such a novelty, and a hot shower, a flushing toilet... It's strange but familiar too. People don't stare, or propose, or catcall you in the street. And I'm loving studying again, being the student not the teacher. Meat aisles in supermarkets still prove an issue. And eating a 3 course meal in the great hall, wearing a gown, living in a castle... I don't think I'll ever come to terms with that one! It's amazing to have Amee so close, I'm so proud of her getting onto the university basketball team!!! We chat Wolof sometimes and get funny looks, and the other day I spoke Wolof in my French oral seminar... oops.

And after all of this, I feel so fortunate, so blessed. I thank God every day for the opportunities He's given me, for the places He's put me. And so it's time to move on, a new chapter. And listening to where He wants me to go, what's next on His agenda. It's exciting yet scary.

This year's volunteers, Marianne and Lauren, have been screened, checked and facebook stalked, and I can certify that they are doing an incredible job in Joal! I have no doubt that they are going to do, see and be great things. I send them all my love and best wishes, and can't wait to see Marianne in Durham next year! 

Thanks for reading over the past 18 months, I have been overwhelmed by everybody's support and I love you all so much, you're wonderful.

For the last time... Over and Out! xx

P.s. 2 weeks ago Aicha (my host mum) gave birth to a little girl, Khadia!!! Congratulations Wones xx

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