Students finished up language classes this week. Language learning is just plain hard work and is a big part of the SST experience. From the time we wake until the time we sleep again (and maybe even in our dreams!) we are hearing and communicating in French, Wolof and English. Many of our homes also have Serer or Pular flying about as well and families take delight in having us know some of those words. All of this will continue during service, of course, though without the support off our language teachers! They have given us a good boost in our abilities and confidence.
We had guest lecturers this week talk to us about women’s rights in Senegal, and about efforts by the government to protect Senegal’s forests. And we had our last Chez Goshen time together to talk about what the students can expect during their service assignments the next six weeks. The first six weeks of SST functions as a guided orientation with language classes, lectures, field trips, reading and journal/essay assignments to deepen understanding and help interpret all the new things that students are experiencing and learning. The learning continues during service, but at a different pace and without all this structure. The students are excited (and a little nervous, of course) thinking about the new people and relationships and experiences that await them on service. They are also deeply grateful for the wonderful relationships they have developed in Thiés and sad to think of leaving the people who have shown them so much kindness and hospitality. We also celebrated birthdays at Chez Goshen this week — Megan last week and Eliana, Jacob and Valentin while they are on service — so the photo is of them but unfortunately you cannot see the mango-apple crisp that we made instead of a cake.
This morning we were able to spend some time at a Quran school and interact with the children there. These schools are everywhere in Senegal and children are sent by their parents to learn Arabic and The Quran and in some schools (like the one we visited) French and standard subjects as well. Sometimes they are called Talibé schools here and the boys that attend them Talibé boys. (Talibé means ‘disciple’.) There is little regulation of these schools and not all of them are happy places. There is opportunity for abuse and many talibé school children beg for their food and support. The school we visited was a different sort — the children are supported by parents and sponsors. We were able to spend some time with them teaching the younger children some songs (and learning some from them as well) and teaching and playing capture the flag with the older children.
Tomorrow we will wind up our time in Thiés with one last local field trip in the morning, and a reception for the host families in the evening. Saturday morning we will help everyone find their transportation to their service assignments.