In mid-February (quite a while ago now, actually) I took a quick trip to Senegal with a group of about 40 other Peace Corps volunteers from Mali.

The goal of the trip was three-fold.  The first day in Senegal, I, along with two other PCVs, attended a conference about 100 km outside Dakar that was hosted by the PCVs who run Senegal’s Gender and Development committee (GAD).  The conference brought together volunteers from Mali, Senegal, The Gambia and Cape Verde.  During the day, I attended several sessions regarding topics relevant to gender and the role that PCVs can play as development agents.

As a side note (I can’t remember if I’ve written this here), I was representing the Mali GAD committee, because I serve as the Resource Coordinator for our committee.  In this role, I am charged with updating resources, connecting Mali GAD to other GAD committees within Peace Corps and leading the development a GAD toolkit that will be made available to all PCVs that serve in Mali in the coming years.

Overall, the conference was really interesting.  It gave us an opportunity to see what GAD committees throughout West Africa are doing in their host countries.  We were also able to discuss the role of gender in our work, and how we can best incorporate men and women, young and old, in community development.

After attending the conference in Thies, we all joined the rest of the group in Dakar for the West African Invitational Softball Tourney (WAIST), which is an annual tournament that brings together Peace Corps volunteers and other ex-pats from across West Africa.  The tournament was really fun.  We had a pretty rag-tag team, but we actually did well in play.  Mostly, it was a great opportunity to get out of Mali, see the ocean, and hang out with other volunteers from around West Africa.

Dakar was a really beautiful city – I get the impression that it is far more developed than Bamako (although I hear they are also very good at hiding the underdeveloped parts of the city).  We were able to eat good food, spend a couple of afternoons exploring the city and neighboring Gorée Island, and hit the beach.

After a few days in Dakar we headed to a small village about 50 km away called Toubab Diallo.  We stayed at a “resort” (both running water and electricity were hard to come by) that cost the equivalent of about $12 per night.  It was really beautiful and situated right on the water.  I feel asleep each night listening to the waves crash into the beach – a wonderful sound!  The goal of this little side trip was pure rest and relaxation.  And that we did!

The only bad part about our trip to Senegal was the travel…

On the way to Dakar, the Mali GAD threesome pieced together the trip.  We took a big bus from Bamako to Kayes (about an 11 hour ride), slept in Kayes for a couple of hours, got in a taxi to the border (about 1.5 hours) and then hopped in a seven-person banged up station wagon to make the additional 13 hour or so trek to Dakar.  I couldn’t have been more excited for that ride to be over.  We were super-packed in several different modes of transport, none of which were comfortable.

The ride back was also incredibly uncomfortable, although we were in a big bus the majority of the way.  We left Toubab Diallo and traveled on a small bus for about 20 minutes to catch a big bus that went to Kaolack (about 2 ½ to 3 hours).  We left Kaolack around 8:30 pm and, including the 3-hour stop at the Senegalese/Mali border, the ride was about 30-35 hours long.  I hope that I never have to endure such a ride, ever again, haha!

You can check out pictures from all of these Senegalese adventures here.