Having had the past two weeks be fuller with experiences than a sardine-tin, it is hard to know where to start sharing! My purpose for travelling to Senegal was to get an idea of what the West-African mission field looks like, and also to aid in the decision process of where to go as a missionary. And my travel goal was certainly achieved!
Thinking back on everything, I decided I would split it up into two blogs; this one will focus on the general cultural experiences I had and the beautiful things I saw, the next one will be about the need for missions in Senegal and some of the things involved therein. I hope that by doing this, by introducing Senegalese culture first, the needs that lie within this culture will be all the more clear.
The easiest thing to start with is the food. Senegal is famous for their bowl meals, where everyone eats from the same bowl in the centre of the table. These are always rice-based, have either chicken or fish, and the included vegetables range from many to nothing but a thin sauce. Senegal’s national dish is also a bowl meal, and is called “thieboudienne” (pronounced che-bu-jen). It comes with fish and various vegetables, but the best part is the spices. It is so full of flavours in every bite, especially when you get to squeeze the juice out of the hot pepper, of which there is usually only one on the entire bowl.
Senegal’s nature is also beautiful. Granted, the baobabs that I saw weren’t quite as grand as those in South Africa – but Senegal has a tree called a “fromager”, which makes even a baobab look like like a shrub! We didn’t see much of the wildlife, unless you count stray cats. Those were so common you could hardly get away from them. I was also really surprised when I first saw a pied crow. I know these crows from South Africa, and it felt really strange to see them on the other side of the equator. Yet they were among the most common birds we saw.
And to think I haven’t even mentioned anything about the people yet! Unfortunately, with me speaking no French beyond “un croissant s’il vous plait”, I didn’t get to know any Senegalese people very well. Yet, with thanks to my travel companions that were more capable bilinguals, I did get to see one of the core values of Senegalese culture: hospitality.
One such memorable event is when we visited someone’s house with a palm tree in it. After we had spotted the coconuts, the lady of the house called over a young neighbour man. He climbed the coconut tree until he was sitting in the top, and kept on kicking the branches until coconuts started to fall down. Some other men then prepared these coconuts with a machete, and this kept on going until there was a coconut for everyone.
Things For Prayer
I could tell of many more beautiful things I saw in Senegal, but I shouldn’t make the blog too long. Overall I am very thankful for the opportunity to have made this journey. I know I haven’t really begun to talk about this aspect, but the trip really gave me a lot of insight into missions in West-Africa. Moreover, it strengthened my resolve to go into missions, and makes me all the more eager to finish my current training. Also, I am thankful for all the missionaries that currently work there, and we should pray that they can continue to be a blessing to those they serve.
Be sure to look out for the next blog, in which I will share something about the spiritual needs of Senegal, and what I saw of the missions work there!