We returned from Sengal on April 12th. The transition to our European lives has so far been smooth in practice, but rather bumpy in the head. We still talk about our 3 month experience in Senegal daily. Maybe someday we'll do some kind of wrapup here, just maybe.

There are, however, critical sidenotes to be made.
First of all, the division of tasks is very gender based. Women should do women things (cooking, washing,...) and men do men things (fishing, building,...)
Secondly, the hierarchy in a family is super important. Younger brothers or sisters should always listen to the older brothers - this is regarded as showing respect to older family members.
Lastly, there are some other very clear rules ... which we still don't grasp fully.

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When a member of the family goes out, is home late or is ill s/he can be sure that any children are taken of by others. Food gets cooked and laundry gets done.
In our perception, this gives so much peace of mind knowing that people truly care for each other in a way that it is not "forced" or "according to contract".

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This goes as far as money too. When somone in the family earns money, it is shared with all family members. For example, when Liesbeth's colleague gets her monthly wage (paid in cash) she returns home and hands out money to whoever needs it. She holds on to the rest. Everything is shared.

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For example, in the Mbaye family (Mballing) one person makes a large pot of coffee in the morning. When everyone wakes up they trickle in and sit down to drink coffee. Some people will get some breakfast and share with whoever asks or needs. When Dries goes running in the morning, he also stops by the family to drink a cup of coffee and have a chat. You come and go as you please once you are part of the 'gang'.

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Even after our short stay here, we have built up enough trust in a few families where we can just show up and join for coffee or food should we feel like it. This is, in our percpetion, unimaginable in Belgium.

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(Extended) family members can come and go, they are free to join for meals and stay for the night with the family for as long as needed. They are not expected to pay nor contribute in any way. A family cares for its members unconditionally.

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The concept "family" is intruiging, one person explained it as an elastic band which you can keep stretching.

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During the past weeks we spent an increasing amount of time with local Senegalese families. That means, going there without a set goal and just 'passing the day'. This has been so nice in so many ways. Some examples ...

Also last week, Roos and Stien took an African paiting class. They spent 4 half-day sessions in the Mbour 'village artisanal' where they went from paper sketch to painted canvas. For us, parents, it was good to rediscover Roos' intrinsic interest in art. Something we need to keep stimulating back home we believe.

The past week, we joined the 4th of April (national independence day) celebrations in the nearby village Mballing. It was supposed to start at 10AM, but as things go in Senegal the whole thing actually started at 1PM. It was a fun afternoon, Stien participated in a small dancing contest and Dries took part in a sack race. We learned that by participating in events like these is the best way of showing respect to the local people and culture. Also, it was a lot of fun - obviously.

Today Liesbeth, Roos and Stien left for the final 3 (maybe 4) days of school over here. Roos was looking forward to it, Stien not so much ... but in the end Stien got to drive around to some places where Liesbeth is organising a school trip to. So it'll be allright in the end ^_^

As our day of departure closes in (only 10 days to go 😱 ) we're really starting to struggle with the idea of 'returning' home.
The more embedded we become in the local life here, friendships and (new) interests that are in development as well as the overall 'peace and quiet' we have here make it hard to think about moving back to Belgium ... where life's viscosity is low, things have to move fast, stress is high and social contact tends to be (mostly) superficial.

Back in Warang now, it is difficult to digest the enourmous difference between the type of city Dakar is and how the rest of Senegal feels. The contrast couldn't be any larger. Right now, we're not really sure how to frame it yet. But we are sure we enjoy our Warang life compared to what we experienced of Dakar life.

Lac Rose is one of these things that you probably have to see / experience, but it's such a pity the whole place is so pushy on tourists visiting. To some extend, it felt like money was 'pulled out' our pockets while being there. This had a significant influence on our perception and appreciation of the place. In the end, we did get to float in the super salty water though ^_^ Roos didn't enjoy it that much, because the salt caused some tiny skin damage to start aching vigorously.

The next morning (Sunday), we visited the nearby Loman art gallery which had some very nice pieces on display. Afterwards, we drove through the city center and got to see most of the April 4th (Senegalese independence day) preparations. We then drove to Lac Retba aka Lac Rose, paid the 'obligatory' visit there and returned home.

The past weekend we (finally?) visited Dakar. We left Saturday morning at 8AM with Seydou and Ibou (the same crew that joined us to the Casamance). Arrived in Dakar, we visited village des arts and the layen mausoleum. After that we went to Ngor beach and visited the Ngor island. Afterwards dropped our stuff off at our rented apartment and visited the (huge) African renaissance statue.

Roos gets extra French classes during the 'holiday' here. Each Wednesday, Thusrday and Friday a teacher comes by our house and spends an hour together with Roos practicing prononciation (dialogues) and spelling.

Stien made a raft using a blanket, string and empty 10 liter water bottles (of which we have collected a lot during our stay here). First the raft was 9 bottles big, later on it got an upgrade to 16 bottles. The children (and us too) had some good fun already with the raft in our swimming pool.

Last week Liesbeth, Roos and Stien were home because school is closed for two weeks. They spent the week visiting friends and doing activities. One of the highlights was learning how to make traditional Senegalese baskets with straw and plastic string.

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Roeckoe 🐦

Home to the Roeckoe family & some friends