Friday, April 13, 2018

Goree Island

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I'm sad to say that I did not know about Goree Island until I decided to come on the trip to Senegal. I did not know the brutality and sorrow that Goree Island has seen. We had the opportunity to take a ferry from Dakar to Goree Island, which is approximately 20 minutes off the coast of Dakar. 

The beautiful ferry ride to Goree 

Christa, Marjie, and Me! <3

There were a lot of men out fishing as we came into Goree

The Forte D 'Estrees coming into Goree Island

More fishing

I loved coming into Goree, stunning color and architecture! 

Goree Island was used to trade goods and slaves. It is both gorgeous, eclectic, haunting, and humbling. Goree Island was a slave trade post for over 300 years. It was surreal to walk in the same location where hundreds and thousands of individuals were brutally treated as animals as opposed to human beings with hearts, souls, feelings, and families. I don't remember if it was said that 30% of people died on the island waiting to be shipped out or if 30% died once on the ship to the Americas. Regardless, that number is profound. 

Our personal tour guide on Goree!

Walking to the "House of Slaves"

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PC: Zineb Ammous

As we walked to our first location, the House of Slaves, we first saw the beautiful sculpture "La Statue de la LibĂ©ration de l'Esclavage." I believe it was said this was created after slavery was abolished. The woman clings to her husband who remains shackled, however, the shackles are now broken. 

The first place we visited on Goree Island was the House of Slaves. It was the most humbling experience I have ever gone through. In 1978, Goree Island was included as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. It was said that Goree was the largest slave-trading centre in Africa. I love what UNESCO writes on their page, "Today it (Goree) serves as a reminder of human exploitation and as a sanctuary for reconciliation." I would agree with this statement. Our tour guide said, "here we forgive what has happened but we do not forget." I couldn't agree more. We have come a long way, but sex trafficking, human injustice is still a real problem today. God, I pray we can continue to make strides in direction that takes us further from racial injustice, sex exploitation, and abuse of young, old, and the vulnerable. 

Maison Des Esclaves - Entrance to the House of Slaves
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We were told that slaves were weighed prior to being placed on a ship to America. They needed to weigh 60 kg prior to going to America because they found that those who weighed more typically survived the ship travel to America. 
The outlined square on the bottom of this wall is where the scale used to be where slaves were weighed.

Families were torn apart on Goree Island. There were separate living quarters for men, women, children, virgin girls, and infants. Many of the virgin girls would try to get pregnant because they were allowed to stay on the island until they gave birth. It's hard to imagine being a young teenage girl and trying to become pregnant for fear of what might happen if you were taken away. I can't even imagine the pain and sorrow that was felt. Young girls were also very valuable. Many of the virgins were paraded around and sold to "masters" who would then have sex with these girls. You could feel the sorrow as you walked into each room. 

In the picture above, this was the men's living quarter. It was said that nearly 15-20 men were kept, shackled to the floor with their backs against the wall. It's unimaginable. Thinking of human beings being treated worse than animals. 

The slightest view given in each holding area
After taking in most of the holding rooms, we were shown the door of no return. I did not expect the goose bumps to show up on my arms. I wasn't ready for the tears that ran down my face without a care of who saw them. As you walk up to the door of no return you can't help but imagine what the individuals must have felt as they were brought up to this point of separation from their families, homes, and country. As if the way they were treated wasn't enough, they were then permanently separated from the last bit of home they had grown to know. 

Entering the House of Slaves

Walking towards the door of no return

Coming up on the door of no return 

The door of no return
Our tour guide said as individuals walked up to the door of no return to board the ship, there was a lot of security. Many people would try to jump away and try one final attempt to escape. The guards were armed and so it was said they either left home and never looked back or they died trying to make it home. 

We then went upstairs in the House of Slaves and saw pictures of Goree Island and old remnants of shackles that were used. 

The rest of the time spent on Goree was spent taking in the culture, the colors, the sites, being harassed by the women/men selling souvenirs, spending sweet time with our Senegalese friends, and soaking in the beautiful atmosphere and sunlight.  

I absolutely loved these flowers!

I believe, I could be remembering incorrectly though, that this cannon was built around WW2 to protect the island. It was only fired once and it sunk a ship near Goree. Now, when accessing the island, Ferry's need to pay close attention to go around where the buoys are as there is still a sunken ship remaining. 

The view from the top of Goree!

My sweet friend, Abdul, took this picture of me. He told me he knew just the spot that I needed to take a picture, and he was right!
Some of my sweetest friends! 

Finally, before leaving, I felt an overwhelming need to sing, "No Longer a Slave." I am a privileged white woman born in the United States of America. I'm so thankful for my family and the opportunities I have had. I was humbled and reminded that me grumbling over being in school for my Master's degree is so silly, petty, and ridiculous. I am privileged and blessed beyond measure.  I am so thankful I have the opportunity to travel freely and explore this equally small and large world that I live in. I'm so thankful for the men and women that I met and the friends that I have made for a lifetime. God, I ask for your continued healing. I ask for not only spiritual freedom but also the freedom from hate, injustice, and prejudice. As Mamadou reminded me, there are men and women of every color that behave well and very poorly, but we are here together, we are able to stand next to one another and work together and for that I am very happy and thankful! 

"The caged bird sings

With a fearful trill
Of things unknown
But longed for still
And his tune is heard
On the distant hill
For the caged bird
Sings of freedom."
- Maya Angelou (stanza from I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings)

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (N.D.). Island of Goree. Retrieved from 

Senegal: My Second Home

I wanted to use this platform to share a little about my most recent trip to Senegal, Africa. I hope you don't mind me changing the normal subject of this blog. Either way, it's my blog, so I get to do what I want! :) I hope you enjoy!

Going into my trip to Africa I tried to have no preconceived ideas of what I thought I would experience. I wanted to try to just experience Senegal for who and what it had to offer. I’m so glad I went into my trip with this mindset. There’s so much I want to touch on and so I will break it up into different sections to try to touch on everything!

Landing in Senegal it was very dusty and hard to see very far. The dust was this gorgeous orange/brown color that hung in the air and caused you to stare in amazement. It was hot and dry. I’m told there was a day where it potentially got up to 120ish degrees, however, dry heat is so much more tolerable than humid heat. The dirt alternated between being rocky and soft sand like a beach. In Dakar, it looked like a city one might expect, large and tall buildings, busy, people everywhere. I was amazed by the size of Senegal. Our first day we drove over ten hours to our first village. The roads in the city were in good driving condition. I don’t think I ever saw a traffic light, the way the Senegalese navigate traffic blows my mind. I love driving and the thought of driving through this traffic was terrifying! Thank you, God, for our wonderful bus driver, Mouhamadou. This man was a boss on the road. We were in a large royal tours bus that he managed without even breaking a sweat. I will never drive as well as he does!! There are cars in Senegal, and now that I think of it I did not ask who typically owns a car but from what I observed many people have livestock that is used for transportation and vehicles didn’t appear to be owned by many individuals. Other environment notes: there was litter everywhere. There were times when you’d see off to the side of the road someone burning a pile of trash. I’d love to just go through and clean it all up. That could be multiple mission trips in and of itself, cleaning Senegal. There were large gorgeous trees. They showed us the Baobab tree that has multiple uses: makes a sweet and delicious juice, the sap is used as glue for paintings. The sun was HUGE in Africa!!! Oh my goodness. I’ve always loved the sun and the light it brings to each new day, yet, in Africa the sun is on a whole other level. It is huge, this golden honey color, and the light touches everywhere bringing light into the darkest corners of random classrooms. The sunsets were incredible. Such a gorgeous pink/orange/purple color and the sunlight ligers well past the sun actually setting. Clearly being closer to the equator makes a difference! Back to the weather for a moment, it reminded me a lot of home, where it gets pretty hot during the day but cools down beautifully in the evenings. Some of my favorite nights were when we got to sleep on the roof outside!

The gorgeous sunset from our first village

To the left is the Baobab tree

A gorgeous sunset as we rode the horse buggy to the bus

The gorgeous Senegalese beach

Our amazing bus that we got to ride on

Cows in the middle of traffic! You know, typical!

I did not know what to expect when it came to seeing animals. My newest African friends inform me that Senegal is not much of a safari part of Africa, however we did see a couple tribes of monkeys on the side of the roads which was fun and surreal to see. Additionally, I have in my mind walking home from a clinic along with a herd of cows! I felt s little silly for being so excited by walking side by side with a cow but it’s certainly not something that I do every day. There were also goats everywhere. There were a few nights that we got to sleep outside on a roof and you’d hear the goats early in the morning. It sounded like a young child yelling, “MOM!!!!!!!”, “mmmmmooooooommmmmm!!!” Oh my goodness I had a few good laughs just listening to the goats. There were also a lot of single horse drawn carriages. It was surreal to be riding in a bus and then passing horse drawn carriages on the road. We also had a great evening buggy ie ride from one clinic site to our bus. Oh my gosh, it was incredible, during sunset, and with some of the greatest people! We were all put on three carriages and the one in front of us had guys singing loudly and amazingly, the sun was setting, the moon was in the sky, and it was such an enchanting and mesmerizing evening. There weren’t a ton of stay dogs that I saw, our last day there were a ton of stray cats but prior to that I hadn’t seen any cats. 

Donkeys moseying in the road

We drove down this road! PC: Zineb Ammous

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The river in Diorbivol; Mauritania is across that river!

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Sheep on the third floor on a roof! :) 

Children: the children of Senegal were simply breathtaking! They were stunning and beautiful. They were easily entertained with stickers, a soccer ball, or being allowed to listen with a stethoscope to their own heart. One of my favorite moments was my next to last day when I let a bunch of children use my stethoscope to listen to their hearts. Their eyes nearly popped out of their heads! They laughed, stared in amazement, and allowed their mouths to drop open in shock and awe. If I could’ve I would’ve brought twenty babies home with me! The girls were very responsible and protected the Americans from the rough boys! If some of the boys got pushy the older girls would run around smacking the boys on the head or shoulder with an empty plastic water bottle. Hahahahaha!!! I love thinking of that as I write this. 
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This girl...was so sweet and so precious! 

Oh my goodness, this boy was so adorable, he wanted to stick around forever! 

PC: Zineb Ammous...singing to this sweet boy!

Women: if there’s one thing I learned this trip it is that the women of Africa are unbelievable! They’re strong, gorgeous, funny, loving, hardworking, and push through the pain and struggle of everyday life. I loved watching the women tie their babies on their backs. They bend at the waist, keeping the backs flat, place their baby on their back, and then they use a fabric wrap to tie the baby onto their back. By the way, all this is done while leaning forward with a flat back. Next, they place the wrap over the back of the baby. They start by tying the top part of the wrap, in the front, just above their breasts. Next, they adjust the babies legs so they are naturally aligned and the wrap supports the babies bottom, and they then tie that part of the wrap at their waist in front. It was incredible watching the women do this with ease! All of the women that came to clinic complained of general body aches and pains, especially around their waist. It’s no wonder with the hard work they do daily and the way the strap those precious babies into their backs. I’m humbled by the ease that I can go to the store down the street from me and purchase Tylenol or ibuprofen and take as needed for pain, that’s not the case location wise or financially for almost all of these women...and so they press on raising their beautiful families. I didn’t get to spend as much time with the women of Senegal except for those that I saw in clinic. I do wonder what friendship dynamics are like amongst the women. There were times the women would be together in the porch and they all seemed to be laughing, talking, and engaging one another. 

I'm not sure who took this picture but when leaving our first village the women dressed in Africa Dress and came and made music and danced to thank us for our service

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I don't know which of my teammates took this picture either! 

PC: Unknown

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PC: Zineb Ammous

PC: Zineb Ammous

Oh, breastfeeding. Let me touch on this real quick! I wish those Americans who try to shame moms who breastfeed could see the moms in Africa! I didn’t see a single bottle fed to a baby! We’d be in clinic talking to mom and she would pull a breast out of the top of her dress, her baby would be sitting upright in her lap and start breastfeeding! The first time I saw it, I admit I was surprised, then I realized there was nothing to be surprised surprise was quickly replaced with pride in these women who shamelessly feed their children whenever it was necessary! I also must mention here that the men never batted an eye when this happened as well. They would not act surprised or disturbed, they would maintain eye contact with mom as she fed her child! I LOVED seeing this!! I can only imagine the support other mothers must feel from one another as they breastfeed...I would love to see those dynamics more!

Families: I always thought I knew what they meant when they said, “it takes a village,” when it comes to raising a family. I saw what it literally meant to take a village to raise a family. It doesn’t matter whose child you are, if you’re misbehaving, you’re corrected. Adults would go around giving a smack on the back of the head to a child that wasn’t behaving well. I loved watching the dynamics of the families. The teenage girls helped around the house with cleaning, cooking, serving, and so much more that I’m sure I didn’t see. 

Another interesting aspect of the families is the way they support and live together. It seemed like such a profound idea to some of the interpreters that I talked to that I was a single woman not living with my family. From the individuals I talked to, families tend to stay together and live together or at least in close proximity of one another. There were many elderly women who came to me and were hypertensive and when we talked about stress they discuss that their children and grandchildren are living with them and the concerns they constantly have with being able to provide for everyone. I love that family is so important and the way they love on one another even when it costs them financially, emotionally, and physically. 

Volunteers: I was amazed to learn of the doctors and volunteers that have been with IMR for 10+ years! The heart of Senegal shone through these men! Additionally and selfishly, the volunteers made me feel so special and loved. For those of you who know me know that I sing all the time. Well about halfway through the trip I couldn’t hold in my songs any longer...and all the volunteers loved it. They lavished their kind words on me and were so loving. But beyond the selfish aspect, these guys love with all their heart. Dr. Habib, Dr. Sy, Dr. Diaw, and Bamba...your team is incredible! Malick, Amadou, Samba, Mamadou (both of you), Ibrahim, Lamine, Mouhamadou (both of you), and Jean guys work so hard but you also play so hard. Thank you for making this trip an incredible experience. 

Danielle and Mamadou working together!

Bamba, me, and Mamadou! Some of my favorite people!

I can't express how joyful our interpreters were and what a pleasure it was to work with them all!

Our interpreters worked harder than all of us! They translated back and forth all day long for us!

Abdul and Courtney woking together!

Oh I love these guys!!! 
Amadu! PC: Zineb Ammous

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A few of us after dinner!

My favorite Dr. Habib!! 

All of our volunteers were so amazing. I can’t say enough wonderful things about all of them! I got to know two better than some of the others simply because I worked with them every day! I wanted to recognize them here too because the work these guys are doing is incredible. They volunteer their time and skills. I think they have the hardest job, honestly. They have to accurately describe a patients concerns, educate on information we’re giving them, and they’re constantly talking. Mamadou and Abdoulaye were the two I got to work with regularly. These guys were awesome. They both frequently got sandwiched between me and another nurse and would literally be goin back and forth between two different patients. I never heard any volunteer complain. 

Abdoulaye made me laugh so much. First, every song I’d randomly start singing he would jump right in and sing it with me! He frequently explained what someone was saying to me in a large group setting. He tried really hard to teach me Wolof and French...I, however, was not an easy student to teach. However, he remained perfectly patient with me as I continually  asked him to repeat words he was teaching me! Haha! He always had a great attitude on little sleep even though he’s used to a much different sleep schedule! This was Abdoulaye’s first time volunteering with IMR and it was a challenge for him. Abdoulaye, thank you for showing up. Thank you for being such a pleasure to work with. I truly hope to see you next year! You did an amazing job translating and you were a pleasure to work with. 

Me and Abdul talking...and probably singing! :)

Thank you, Abdul, for using your talents with IMR. I hope you'll be back next year!
Mamadou, where do I begin?! Everyone will say I stole you to keep for myself, and well, they would be correct. Your skill for talking with patients, especially children, blew my mind. You were patient, kind, compassionate, and persistent. You were an extra pair of eyes they helped me diagnose problems I would’ve missed without your help. You brought me a ton of patients...even after clinic was “closed”!! Haha! Your heart and passion for serving the Senegalese people truly changed me. You pushed me to be better. You taught me about your culture, the faith of Islam, you taught me about the Mosque and what the call to prayer is, you translated constantly for me, goodness I could go on and on. You taught me some French and Wolof! And you never made me feel bad when I said “nieokoBOCK” instead of “nieokobok” hahahahaha! Mamadou has been workin with IMR for several years and I pray he keeps coming back because he truly made my job so easy and such a joy! I’ll be seeing you again! 

Me and Mamadou! Love this guy!

Food: the food in Senegal was amazing! For breakfast we would have bread with Nutella and coffee and sometimes we had eggs. Lunch and dinners were typically rice based with protein. I had chicken, beef, lamb, goat, and fish. Oh my goodness it all tasted so wonderful! We had apples, oranges, bananas, and some of the best watermelon and honeydew I’ve ever tasted. There were also times that we got to have juice made from the baobab tree! It was thick and very sweet! We would feast on the floor normally for lunch. Food was served in a large serving bowl and 7-10 people would sit around the bowl and eat, sometimes with a hand and sometimes with a spoon. I can only imagine how spoiled the Americans must’ve seemed asking for spoons to eat with...but everyone was very accommodating! 

Clothing: I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on the African dress! Nearly all of the women always wore African dress! The colors, fabrics, head wraps were so flattering on the women. They all looked so feminine and simply stunning. The men wore more casual clothes. There are certain events where they need to wear African dress. I LOVE the African dress on the men! They wear pants under this long top, the fabrics are so beautiful, and it just looks so handsome on them. I don’t know what it is particularly but I just loved seeing the men in these stunning pieces of clothing. They have a head covering they wear with the African dress for the men (I actually forgot to ask about he head coverings) and they just look so put together I these outfits! The children had the most casual clothings. There were some children in African dress as well but most the boys wore shifts and a T-shirt and the girls normally wore a skirt and a shirt as well. I saw almost everyone wear sandals, when the guys wear African dress there’s a special type of shoe I noticed them wearing that doesn’t have a beak in back but had a pointy toe. I liked the way it looks with their outfit! Aside from those I saw a lot of barefooted children and adults. I was thinking back to a time in Hawaii on a beach where I all but cried from walking in the hot rocks. I thought of that moment in Africa and was again humbled by the way the African people deal with what they have and go with the flow. They’re strong, the persevere, and never complain. 

This African Dress was a gift from Mamadou!

Some of my favorite stories I wanted to share: 
  • First Story: My first day of clinic was really hard. It was overwhelming, I didn’t have s flow, and I was learning how to work well with my translator, what questions to ask, and what trying to think of all of the educational information I needed to share with patients! I had a patient who hadn’t had a period for four months and had some weird feelings in her abdomen, we did a pregnancy test and found out she was pregnant. I told her based on her last menstrual period I should be able to Doppler fetal heart tones if she would like. She said yes. So we laid her down on a table and she got to hear her babies heartbeat!! Her smile, tears, and hugs were worth the entire trip to Africa. My translator told me she was so happy to hear she was pregnant. She wasn’t sure she was pregnant and was very worried and it was a huge blessing to be able to hear her baby's heartbeat! She gave me at least a dozen hugs! That moment was perfect!
  • Second Story: Near the end of our trip we had the privilege of taking a buggy ride! The clinic site was a little more rural and the bus wasn’t able to take us all the way to the site. So going in vans drive us the rest of the way. One evening hey had multiple buggies lined up to take us to our bus. Oh my gosh! What a joyful moment. The sun was HUGE, it looked like an enormous grapefruit in the sky, so plush, and nearly ready to burst with sweetness. To the east the moon was hanging low in the sky slowly making its presence known. We passed mango trees, the guys in front of my buggy sang freely and joyfully making a smile and laugh frequently visit my face. I took my hair down to feel the glorious breeze run through my fatigued hair after a sweaty day in clinic. There’s no way to express how perfect this horse drawn ride was, but it was soul food!

  • Third Story: I got to sing for the volunteers, and they were kind enough to allow me to sing frequently...but let me tell you...the men sing so incredibly beautifully and majestically! They had so much joy and laughter as they belted out songs of Africa! They patiently tried to teach me an African lullaby and never laughed when I continually mispronounced words! Mamadou taught me what is said when the mosques make their calls to prayer. He would sing a line and then tell me what each phrase meant. I could just stay in that moment of listening to each of their voices and the smile that crept across their faces at
  • Fourth Story: Alright, here's the last story that I wanted to share. Our clinic days were crazy! There were days when we saw 500+ patients. There wasn't the freedom to spend as much time with patients as I would've liked. I had a young boy who was brought to use by his Marabout because he was described as being "lazy" and not having been to class for a couple days. He was found laying down on his bed. After ruling out malaria, for general malaise and occasional fevers, the child was sent with his Marabout to get tylenol to treat his fevers. I was looking down at my paper writing, however, Mamadou watched as the boy walked away and noticed him limping. He told me he was walking funny and chased after him and brought him back. We found that he had a wound on his heal and a grossly swollen knee. After wound care and prescribing antibiotics the child was then finally sent on his way. I don't know the outcome of this boy or how he is doing now, that's one of the challenges of coming and going over a weeks time. I can only pray now that the Marabout does right by the boy and takes him to the hospital if he doesn't improve. This is one of my favorite stories to tell because it shows the love, care, and compassion of the volunteers from Senegal. Without the eyes of Mamadou, I would've missed that completely. What an amazing opportunity to work side-by-side with some of the sweetest people I've ever met. 
This post is long enough so I will stop here and write one more post on Goree Island and one final synopsis!