Return, Retreat, Departure

Returning to Thiès

It has been a busy and beautiful weekend. On Thursday, students began arriving around noon in Thiès. They organized their own transportation to get back. Despite an unexpected visit to a police station (talk to Birch and Caleb) and a sept-place driver who needed Sam and Axel to help with directions, the return travel went smoothly. Our students have figured out how to travel here in Senegal using language and cross-cultural communication of other kinds to get where they need to go.

Thursday we had a final supper at the C.A.F.E. The C.A.F.E. is an important place for us. We spent our first night in Senegal at the C.A.F.E. and had many lectures and language classes in that space. We slept there on Thursday night. The next morning we shared highlights and challenges from service and began organizing for departure to our retreat. Afterwards, we had a final Senegalese lunch of thieboudienne/ceebu jenat at the C.A.F.E. Then we piled ourselves and our luggage in our bus before departing for the Phenix Hotel in Somone.

Retreat: Research Presentations

Our days at the Phenix were busy. In the mornings students presented on research projects they worked on during service. Briefly, research questions included:

  • What is healing in Senegal?
  • How has the particular history of Catholic institutions in a Senegalese village impacted village identity and services?
  • What is the intersection between medicine and spirituality?
  • How do the Senegalese understand the role of democratic politics?
  • How do Senegalese respond to the global fashion industry?
  • What exactly is teranga?
  • How are Senegalese and US American perspectives on cats and dogs different?
  • How do Muslims respond to death?
  • What does polygamy impact marriage in contemporary Senegal?
  • How is language both a force of colonization and a resource for change and new opportunities?
  • What can we learn from Senegalese LGBTQ+ experiences?
  • How are concepts of love and romance changing as a result of urbanization and western media?
  • How does resource availability impact art production?
  • What can we learn from the relational contexts of transportation in Senegal?
  • How do rural women in a village context understand education and work?
  • How is Senegalese music impacted by the global music industry?

Retreat: Check-ins and Storytime

In the afternoons David and Kendra met with individual students for a final debriefing while everyone took time to swim, walk around town, relax and get ready for returning to the US. Then, every night after supper, we had storytime. Each student had an opportunity to share a story they composed during their time on service. One theme for us this summer has been storytelling. Who are our stories for? What do they say about our culture, Senegalese culture, and our experiences here?

Retreat: Gratitude and Good-byes

On Sunday evening we held a short service of gratitude. We remembered all the people who have contributed to our experience in Senegal. Adama played music as we celebrated a good ending to a sometimes challenging and often meaningful experience. After supper we gave and received gifts with our in-country coordinators Ndaye Yacine Diatta and Etienne Adama Sene. They have been essential resources and constant friends on this journey.

In-between our formal activities we have shared good food in a dining hall that looks right out onto the Atlantic ocean. We relaxed in the pool. We found quiet corners to reconnect with friends and process our experiences with each other.


Monday has been a lazy day of waiting, gently, for our departure. A rainshower ushered us into lunch. At five in the afternoon our trusty “OG” bus pulled up to the hotel. We loaded people inside and piled our bags on the roof. Then we headed for the airport, full of gratitude, and eager for home.

Final preparations before leaving the C.A.F.E. – Farewell Thiès
The Phenix
Our conference room where we gave our project presentations
Gabe concludes a presentation on teranga
Supper at the Phenix
Our last supper together at the Phenix.
Bree shares a story on the final night of the retreat.
Adama brings some centering music as we reflect on gratitude
Final day at the Phenix


Loading the bus to head to the airport
Unloading the bus at the airport
Heading into the departure terminal