On Thursday and Friday of our second week of study we visited Saint-Louis. Saint-Louis is located at the mouth of the Senegal River a few kilometers from Mauritania. It is the site of West Africa’s first French settlement and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Upon arrival we Gaston Berger University, the second largest university in Senegal. We were greeted warmly by Nino Mendy. Dr. Mendy is a political scientist and Director of Communication and Marketing at the University. He lectured on the political history of Senegal after independence and on the contemporary political situation in Senegal. After that, we toured the historic district of St. Louis in horse drawn carriages. We considered both the multifaceted history of the town, as well as the condition of being a tourist, of finding ourselves above the streets gazing out at the world. We ended our day with a lovely dinner and swim at the Hotel Cap St. Louis. At the hotel we ran into a group of students from the University of Kentucky who are doing a three week intensive study visit to Senegal.
After a leisurely Friday morning, we went to a Lutheran Church. At the church, we listened to a lecture on Muslim/Christian Relations. The discussion was organized by Pastor Jean Ouattara and included a conversation with a local Imam. The Imam took some time during Friday prayers to come and talk with us about his relationship with Pastor Ouattara and the broader Christian community. We heard multiple stories of how Muslims and Christians in Senegal share food, family, and jokes across ethnic and religious differences. After the lecture, we were invited to share the famous Saint-Louis Thieboudienne with the pastors and Imam. Then we headed home for a weekend with our host families!