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My visit to Ashoka to meet Ndeye Binta Houma was a highlight of the trip. Ashoka is an organization sponsoring individuals called “Fellows” who are social entrepreneurs recognized to have innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society. Ashoka Fellows work in over 60 countries around the globe in every area of human need. Nbinta and I spent time discussing Ashoka’s Fellow program, volunteerism and some of my observations of needs in Senegal. I also met her twin sister Iyantou who teaches french via Skpe and discussed the possibilty of my starting lessons. Joel even said he would practice speaking french with me! Bonne chance a moi!
Our friends Ndiogou and Adina Ba live here in Stamford. Karim took us to meet their family. We walked within the same neighborhood to three homes where we met his sister Kine, then parents, other sisters, nieces and nephews.
We shared fresh oranges and mango juice and made the best possible conversation with our broken french. At each home, chairs were specially arranged for us and the entire family gathered to greet us as if we were a king and queen who had just arrived. Children of every age emerged from rooms and gathered near by to shake our hand with a greeting. we even had a tour of the home all the way to the rooftop to see the family’s sheep.
I couldn’t help but reflect upon the dichotomy of our greeting customs. At home in the US the doorbell rings and someone will answer it (maybe). Children may or may not emerge depending upon if they are busy with something better, like a phone call, computer game or friend they might have over. We don’t stop what we are doing all the time but expect our guests to join in. Not so in this culture. Guests are a reason to gather and stop and respect. Some customs were the same however, as we caught Babs sneeking some food out of the frig like we would do in the home of a good friend.
Now we are home and it has been a real time of reflection. So much to take in in a short period of time but I have learned so much. Mostly I have learned that the Muslim people of Senegal are a peaceful, caring and loving people with a sense of humor, love for music, art and history and are extremley spiritual and committed to their beliefs.
I want to thank Karim and Ndiogou and Adina and their families for opening up their world to us, the beauty, respect and love that they have for their family and for others. My final message is ….
travel, if at all possible. It’s the only way to truly understand others.
Ill be back in the studio next. Cynthia
For now enjoy