A lollipop lady in Tredegar has been celebrating her last day after forty years in the job

Abertysswg Primary School is closing its doors as pupils move to a newly built school, but their lollipop lady won’t be moving with them.

 

Liebster Award Nomination

I was lucky enough to receive the Liebster Award, by Meghan of Travelingking. Make sure to check out her amazing blog and follow her adventures! Thank-you so much, Meghan, for the nomination!

The Liebster Award was created to help new bloggers connect with each other, and spread awareness about bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

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Here are the questions I have been asked to answer…

  1. Where are you from?

I’m from Cardiff, Wales, but I study in Birmingham, England. I have one more year left of university and after that I don’t know where I’m going to live!

  1. What was it that first motivated you to travel?

I was very fortunate and privileged to receive a means tested bursary that allowed me to attend a GDST school. During my school years I went on trips to Berlin, Krakow, New York, Washington DC, Paris, Croatia, and China. In sixth form I volunteered with the 5Cs charity in Belarus. A returned volunteer from a charity called Project Trust gave a presentation at my school, which led to my decision to teach English in Senegal for my gap year. I now give these presentations myself, and haven’t stopped travelling since!

Beijing, China
Beijing, China
  1. What is your best travel memory?

This is a ridiculously hard question, but now I’m looking down the list I can see a lot of them are very hard… It’s going to have to be something from Senegal. I lived with an amazing host family who I became really close to, so I think the best memory is really just being accepted into their family, and the community of Joal. Probably just the last week of my stay in Senegal, when my Wolof was the best it’s ever been and I had so many friends to say goodbye to, which made me feel like I was leaving my second home.

Joal, Senegal
Joal, Senegal
  1. What festival would you like to visit the most?

I was sure that I would go to Coachella when I studied abroad in the States last year, but sadly, going there from New Orleans would have been far too expensive. I still hope to go one day. I’d also really like to go to Primavera in Spain, and so many others. I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Saint Louis Jazz Fest in Senegal, Jazz Fest New Orleans, Voodoo Fest, Buku Music Fest, Glastonbury, Green Man, Bestival, and Reading Festival.

Buku, New Orleans
Buku, New Orleans
  1. What has been your scariest travel experience?

About six months in to my stay in Senegal I got mugged. I was feeling extremely comfortable and stupidly put all of my valuables in one bag. I was in the capital city, Dakar, and the next day I would be picking up my sister from the airport and travelling to the Gambia for my Easter holiday. When I got out of the sept-places (taxi) around 9pm, with two of my male Senegalese friends, three guys ran up to us and grabbed our bags. At one point I honestly thought we were going to die. It was like being in a nightmare. After they left I was screaming so much and crying and had to run into the road to hit car windscreens in the hope that someone would stop and pick us up. Luckily someone did. When we were in the car I noticed blood on my arm but I didn’t feel physically hurt. I thought maybe the adrenalin had numbed the pain. This wasn’t the case. It turned out that my friend had been stabbed in the head and the arm. We had to rush him to hospital where he was given stitches with no anaesthetic. Fortunately none of us were hurt too severely and my friend is completely fine now. Someone even found my passport, though I lost everything else, that was definitely the thing I was most happy to get back. I just kept reminding myself that this could have happened anywhere, I could have been in any city. We were just really unlucky, as this kind of violent crime is extremely rare for Senegal. I have returned to Dakar since and it’s been completely fine.

  1. Where is your favourite travel destination?

I love travelling to lots of different places, rather than having one favourite. However, I will probably go with India. I did an internship in Bangalore for two months, and also visited Pondicherry, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Jaisalmer. India is incredible beautiful, the people are lovely, and the food is amazing – especially as a vegetarian.

Flower Market, Bangalore, India
Flower Market, Bangalore, India
  1. What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten abroad?

As I’m a vegetarian I haven’t eaten too many strange foods, although I did become a pescatarian for a year in New Orleans. I guess these foods are going to seem really normal to most people but for me it was weird eating crawfish and muscles. I couldn’t bring myself to try catfish or alligator – the other Louisiana delicacies. I did try a fried Oreo in America though, that’s pretty weird.

Crawfish, New Orleans
Crawfish, New Orleans
  1. Do you prefer travelling solo or with company?

I always prefer company. I think it’s great travelling with organisations as you always meet the nicest people and make great friends. This is definitely true for Project Trust, and Career Journal International. If you think travelling with these kind of organisations seems too expensive (which believe me – I did!) look out for travel bursaries and scholarships. After doing an application and an interview, I received £800 from the University of Birmingham to go to India, and £500 to go to Senegal through my secondary school). I have a bit of a fear of doing anything by myself. I recently went to London and saw the Carsten Höller exhibition at the Hayward and ate at the Southbank market alone, which was embarrassingly pretty good going for me.

Carsten Holler Exhibition, London
Carsten Holler Exhibition, London
  1. If you could only travel in one country, which would it be and why?

This is another crazy difficult question. At the moment I think I’m going to have to go with the USA because it is so vast and so varied. You have incredible cities like New York, Chicago, and New Orleans, as well as National Parks, some of the Seven Wonders of the World, etc.

Chicago, USA
Chicago, USA
  1. How long have you been blogging?

I started blogging when I moved to Senegal, so that would be four years ago.

  1. What inspires you?

People.

I am nominating:

  1. Tansu from Tastingwithtansu.com
  2. Elizabeth from elizabethpilar.wordpress.com 
  3. Olivia from oswildlife.wordpress.com
  4. Anju from travelingnoodles.com
  5. Rachel from theworldinaweekend.com
  6. Carlotta from nomadswind.com
  7. Keren from year-34.blogspot.co.uk
  8. Lucy from lucycheseldine.wordpress.com
  9. Cammy from wanderinglesbies.com

Instructions for Nominees:

  • Create a blog post on your site, answering the questions that I’ve provided below.
  • In your post, be sure to link back to the blog who nominated you with a thank-you and shout out) (aka myself, Ciara from CIARA COHEN-ENNIS)
  • After completing the questions, add a section for your nominees. Select, list and link other bloggers with under 200 followers. Provide these instructions. Finally, create 11 questions for them to answer.
  • Notify your nominees and provide a link to your post so that they know what to do.
  • Once you’re done, come back here and comment with the link to your post so I can check out your answers.

Questions for nominees (and visitors!)

  1. Where are you from?
  2. If you had to live in another country, which would it be and why?
  3. What is the luckiest thing that has happened to you while travelling?
  4. What festival would you like to visit the most?
  5. What has been your scariest travel experience?
  6. What travel destination most exceeded your expectations?
  7. What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten abroad?
  8. Where did you make the best friends on your travels?
  9. If you could only travel in one continent, which would it be and why?
  10. Do you prefer travelling in large cities or smaller towns and in the countryside?
  11. Where did you feel the most at home while abroad?

Reflections on Returning Home After Studying Abroad

Originally posted on HuffPost Young Voices.

While I was catching up on Made in Chelsea (post-study abroad life) an advert for Wilkinson Sword popped up. It showed a girl talking about jumping into a hot tub at a barbecue, something that she apparently could not have done if she wasn’t ‘bikini ready’. This touched a nerve with me. The weight-loss bikini ready adverts have been banned, so why does Wilkinson Sword think that this is an ok message? It got me thinking about how anti-body hair, image obsessed, and intolerant I was before this past year.

Compared to my primary school and secondary school, Loyola is a pretty liberal place. I remember being made fun of when I was about 10 years old for having hairy legs. My mum doesn’t shave, doesn’t often wear bras, and has a very eccentric style, which I now greatly appreciate. But, when I was growing up, this mortified me. I tried desperately to make her shave when we went on holiday, and used to hide her leopard print, diamante sunglasses behind the microwave. I used hair removal cream for the first time on a school trip to Paris in year eight. I remember my mum being really upset when she found out. The idea of female body hair being disgusting comes from companies like Wilkinson Sword wanting to make more money, as women don’t typically have beards to shave. Some of my friends at Loyola don’t shave and they still get male attention and people don’t look at them in a horrified manner. It’s ok. People can do what they want.

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Before last year, I felt like I had a type of body dysmorphia. I weigh eight stone, yet I would try on a bikini in a shop and grab disgustedly at my love handles and cringe at the fat on my stomach. I’m only just coming to terms with my body, and it felt amazing spending Spring Break in Miami with a group of 10 girls of all different shapes and sizes in bikinis looking amazing. We weren’t talking about our weight – no one cared.

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Another thing I’ve come to realise since being at Loyola is how much we slut shame and how bad and unnecessary it is. We think it’s bad in the UK, but some of the friends I made from South and Central America had it ingrained in them that they shouldn’t have casual sex, and felt a huge amount of guilt if they did. If someone wants to sleep with a lot of people, then it’s fine, and if they don’t, it’s also fine; it’s no one else’s business.

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It’s hard not to make quick judgements about someone based on what they’re wearing. If a girl is wearing a short skirt to lectures in the morning it may seem inappropriate, but if she feels comfortable like that then it doesn’t matter. It’s not hurting anyone. In addition, I have to stop assuming that I can tell someone’s sexuality from the way they dress. If a guy wants to wear make-up or typically feminine clothing and claims to be straight, who am I to label him as anything else? People don’t have to fit into generic categories.

I’m trying my best not to sound too preachy or self-righteous in discussing things that I’ve learned or come to terms with this past year. Most importantly, studying in the south of the USA has made me realise just how privileged I am. Concerns with physical appearance are trivial. If I want to cover bruises or blemishes on my legs, I can easily walk into a store and buy skin coloured tights or plasters for my white skin. These things are not so easily accessible for my black peers. This is just one of the things that I used to take for granted. Since studying at Loyola I’ve realised how much institutionalised racism affects everyone. From day to day things like finding the right colour concealer and foundation for darker skin tones, to police prejudice and brutality.

Who Needs Exams?

We’ve just passed the time of year that students of all ages start panicking. It tends to also correspond with the time that students get uncontrollably engrossed with a TV programme that has over four series, which they have never gotten around to watching before and decide to start from series one, episode one and then watch about eight episodes a day. Exam time is not fun and who on earth decided that it would be a good idea to give us a four week holiday right before they start. Okay, for some people, that month is an ideal time to start revision, but for others, it’s time to catch up with friends and family and maybe even go and visit that person you know who’s doing a semester abroad in Paris for a week or go on the university ski trip.

Exams seem to be all about learning a formula and testing how good your memory and concentration is. If you haven’t worked at all from September to March, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you have to ability to cram and recite facts from a text book or memorise quotes from authors, literary critics or philosophers. If people have been attentive and contributed in their seminars, handed in all of their formative essays and arranged meetings to discuss their progress with their tutors, they will not necessarily receive better marks than students who have missed every lecture, but look on their university website to find some secondary reading to regurgitate.

It is likely that the people who cram in a lot of the information right before tests or exams will not be able to remember it by the time the summer comes around. The majority of students are also made to write thousands of words in timed conditions, by hand, which is something that they will probably never have to do again in their lives. I am sure that most universities would be able to facilitate all students who wanted to do their exams on computers, allowing them to write faster and avoid cramp in their wrists, as well as being able to go back and neatly change their points without having to draw asterisks all over the page and scribble over irrelevant points.

It has been proven that people have different learning styles and not everyone works well under pressure. If a mark was devised from a student’s overall progress throughout the year, taking class participation and coursework into consideration, surely this would be a fairer judge of their academic ability. Yes, it would mean that students have to work at a consistently high level over the course of the year to receive a good grade or at least work well for the majority of the year, but surely this would be better than the horrendously stressful few months that students have to go through before summer. It may also mean that students would be encouraged to spend more time with their tutors, which is something that can unfortunately be lost in the transition from sixth form or college to university.

Exams and Updates

Some golden quotes from the latest test:

5eme Essay (Year 8s) Describe Your Favourite Teacher

‘Dear Mrs Ndiaye. Mrs is a women she is small. She has the brun eyes. Her her is black. She as a small nose. Mrs is intelligent and good. She is happy in classroom. She is fantastic, super, excellent and kind. Mrs Ndiaye is extraordinary. She has nice yeux. She has very nice English than Mr Ndong.’

‘Ciara: she has a nice eyes, and a long nose. She is excellent. She is quite small. She love the student working. She is very intelligent, she has a long hair. She is very nice ciara. She is my favourite teachers to school. She live in Pays de Galle. She is a teacher of Joal in CEM Lamine Senghor. She like working she doen’t like the impolite. She is a very teacher. She like a peoples and students.’

‘My favourite teacher his Ciara. She live Wales. My teache is pretty. She is intelligent. Her hair is curly. She is a very wife. She is a long neck. My teache is a short mouth. Ciara she never polite because she is gentille. She working every way. She never work Sunday. Ciara speak English a few francais.’

‘My flavourite teacher’s name is Miss Ciarra. The teacher’s work at english. She is a smalle teacher’s. She has a big mouth, a nice denth, and a shot nose. She have with eye. A hair black. Miss Ciarra is in intelligente teacher’s and good. She is a teacher a school CEM Lamine Senghor and Santhie 3.’

‘He name Mr Drame. He is tallest the elephant. Mr Drame like the television and the ordinateur portable. He like the gils and the garcon in the school. He likes girls and doesn’t like hiphop. He is a long person.’

‘My teacher name is Mr Ndiaye. He has nice eye. He has a big ugly. He has big muscle. Ear big. He live in Joal. He don’t like basket and he like a football juice and banana. He has a very house and a nice bicycle. He is the best.’

‘My favourite teacher is Aminata. She is nice. She is polite. She is gentil and intelligent. She is big. She has a blues eyes. She a small nose and a long brown hair. She has a big oreilles. She is ugly. She like the students. Aminata is the best teacher.’

‘My favourite teacher is Miss Ciara. She is shot and her nose is long. She is a white person, she is taller than me. She is happy everyday and she is very fun. She is an excellent teacher who speak little french. She works everyday and she don’t miss it. Miss Ciara is beautiful like beyonce. She can sing and she can teach. She don’t like a student who is talking too and a student impolite. She likes a student who participate at class. She is a busy teacher and I enjoy Miss Ciara.’

‘My teacher is Ciara. She is very excellent. The is 23 years old. The live in England but she is in Joal. The have the long hair and old year. The is very nice, good, OK and no bad. The have a small nose et mouth.’

‘My favourite teacher is Miss Ciara. Miss Ciara is a very person. She is not black, she is an English. Her hair is fair; she is not taller. Miss Ciara is fantastic, intelligent. She expliques normal. She is an excellent teacher. She is friendly with the students.’

‘My teacher are a beautifully. My teacher like a scorpion. My teacher is as horrible as a scorpion.’

‘My favourite teacher is Mis Ciara. She is a Englishe teacher. She is tall, her hair is brion, her eye is whit. She is best and very beautifully she speakes slowly in the classe the student comprend good her lesons.’

‘My favourite teacher is Miss Ciara. She is intelligent like a Hare. She is as small as a coconut. My English teacher is excellent like Mme Ndiaye. She is as beautiful as a baby. She is short like Mme Nokia.’

‘This is a picture of my family. (no picture)’

‘At the moment Mr Sambou is very hungry.’

‘My favourite teacher is M Fall of mathematic. He has a (car – crossed out) taxi driver. He explique good and very good. He is ‘not cever’. He writes good in the board. He gives us the more exercise for home work. He is my favourite teacher in the school and my very favourite teacher.’

‘Mr Ba is the musulman became the Friday he has a mosque. Your finger is long.’

‘Good morning Miss Ciara, how are you? (goes on to talk about herself and family) Good buy Miss Ciara! She was very intelligent. Good!’

‘My name is Youssou Ndour.’

In other news! We went to a university Fosco in Dakar last weekend, which was very exciting. I text my friend Oumou about it to ask what we should wear. She said trousers, dress, whatever but nothing too short. Julia opted for jeans and me, leggings. I wore heels though and we had make-up and jewellery in case we looked underdressed. Mr T, our representative for Project Trust drove us there around 11 and we realise it was like a full blown prom. Guys in suits and girls insanely dressed up. Oumou on the other hand wore a mini skirt! So we felt a bit silly but didn’t get to many funny looks. The only other Toubab there was an oldish woman dancing on her own so there you have it. There were lots of good bands playing, plus DJ ‘Boobs’. Pape Diouf was the headliner and we did a lot of dancing before attempting to find a taxi at like 4am. This weekend, the German club have organised a street dance battle, buzzin. Then the weekend after that, we’re back up to Dakar for a Muslim fete, organised by a particular brotherhood where we have to wear all white. Looking forward to that. I went to the beach with some friends in Joal last week and we got stopped by a nun who warned us never to come there with boys (despite no boys being with us). On the beach, we did see some couples and my friends discussed how disgusting it was to bring your girlfriend to the beach and announced that the Senegalese were ‘dirty’.

To end this blog, just gonna say that Julia ate rabbit! To me it seems weird, but I’m sure people in other countries with Project Trust will have tried much more bizarre things…Everything seems to be coming to an end already, it’s a really weird feeling at the moment. Still got a couple months left to go though and we’re busy as ever!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

School’s Out For Easter

Yesterday was our last day of school before the Easter holidays, I taught my IT 6eme class in the morning and half way through my lesson (getting them to make powerpoints on their favourite footballer / wreastler / singer) some of my 5eme English students came in to see if they could ditch class at 10am, cheeky as ever. I refused of course and said that if they didn’t show up I would go to the principal. The class went pretty well, it was on arranging plans / accepting and refusing invitations and I even had a student join the class whose teacher is on strike. Mr Diop didn’t seem too keen in the end on me taking over his class as I guess it does sort of make him striking irrelevent. However, we’re able to do revision lessons for students that need them and if after the Easter holidays, the lycee still hasn’t started up, I’m definitely going to get another class or two at the CEM. I could teach more IT easily, but I’d rather do English and help out those who haven’t had lessons in months. I brought Awa some practice tests to do, which she found really difficult due to her teaching missing so many classes. She was fine with the 5eme test but the 4eme and 3eme ones were a lot harder. The 3emes, 4emes and 6emes have all done their rounds in the English competition now and there was lots of support from their classmates, maybe a hundred kids or so showed up for each match, which was really encouraging. I went to another English club in a different middle school last week and the week before with Abdoulaye Ba, our neighbour who is in his first year at the lycee. He said that last year they did the Hokey-Kokey with the volunteers and he wanted to do it again, so I taught it to the students and we did it with our English club in the primary school too. After Easter, the CEM are doing a play on equality between the sexes. Our friend Alphonse said that he’s started working at the port in a factory due to there being no lessons in the lycee. Apparently the factory is full of students who aren’t able to go to school because of the strikes.

Took Marieme to school the other day on my bike and she managed to get her ankle caught on something, which resulted in her crying hysterically for about an hour and watching Dora until she felt ready to be walked back to school. Had other nightmare with my bike yesterday, Julia and I cycled home from our first Batik class with Samba and the kids from Caritas (our neighbourhood) ran to meet us and one of them ran straight into my bike leaving me no time to break, so I took her to the shop and bought some sweets to stop her crying. Shocked me so much I screamed at the same time she did. Luckily she didn’t have a scratch, it was more just the shock of being mowed down.

Our maid Sally (aged fourteen) got married last week. Aicha told us that lots of young girls in the neighbourhood are getting married or engaged, as they’re getting pregnant and Sally’s mother wanted her to have a husband before she ended up with a baby. Luckily Sally’s still able to work here though, so it’s not put too much of a strain on everyone doing the housework. Julia had the German club over the other day for a traditional German food day. We all prepared potato salad and marble cake, which went really well and Herr Fall brought over some German board games. I was marking my 5eme tests at the same time and giving those who got 17 or more out of 20 stickers. The students were really confused about stickers and what they symbolised. I guess it just seems like such a normal thing for us.

Woke up feeling very ill last Monday and went with Julia to the hospital at 8 o’clock. Instead of going private and paying an extra few pounds, I decided to go to the general hospital and ended up regretting it majorly as we waited there until midday before I was informed that I had tonsillitus and had to spend 20 quid on medicine.

Last Thursday Julia and I went with Aicha to Mbour for a Macky Sall political rally. It was absolutely heaving like a gig in a stadium and people were pushing and shoving trying to get into the seating area. The police actually used gas to make people back off. We couldn’t believe it when we smelt the gas and everyone started coughing and hurridly moving away. Julia felt pretty faint so we moved further back and just watched the speeches on the big screens. The second round of elections is tomorrow and if there aren’t too many riots, we’re heading to Kaolack on Monday. Been getting a lot more proposals and propositions from the locals recently, so we’re looking forward to leaving Joal for a bit… A teacher was trying to get me to set him up with Julia yesterday! Couldn’t help but laugh.

Learning to Teach

Since my last blog entry, we’ve had two lessons with the art club. After weeks of asking Aicha when it would begin and her forgetting to check in school, she suddenly announced ‘it’s today at four!’ Eight kids turned up on the first lesson and eleven on the second. We’re expecting more to come after the holidays. So far we’ve gotten our students to decorate the covers of their sketch books and then do free choice drawings, which they could turn into jigsaw puzzles. For Monday’s lesson, we’re going to make Christmas cards and paper snowflakes. We’ve also been teaching art to Aminata Fall, Herr Fall’s five-year-old daughter. We made cards with her and some for the family and other volunteers. The teachers have started complaining about the cold in the mornings at school now. I’m usually fine, as it’s nothing on British standards, but I had to wake up at half past five in the morning last week to get water from the tap outside, and it was the first time I’ve worn my hoody since I’ve been here. I asked Madame Diodio a few weeks ago if it would be possible for me to teach two English classes in the middle school rather than just one. She said that I may find it too much work, as I’ll be getting a timetable from the Lycee soon too. I agreed, so did not turn up for the Friday lesson of one of the classes. She then asked me why I hadn’t gone and that she thought it would be fine for me to teach two. I’m pretty glad about this as there’s been so many strikes in the Lycee, I wouldn’t have had very much to do otherwise. Julia’s not been teaching for quite a while, as Herr Fall is striking. Luckily for me, Madame Diodio is not, so I have eight hours a week in the middle school. I observed a few English lessons with Mr Ba and Amadou as well, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting our own classes in the Lycee. Mr Ba said it would be fine if I wanted to bring in a text and teach a comprehension lesson or something like that, but as we’ve not been observing a specific teacher or class, it seems we’ll just be teaching the odd lesson here and there. Julia and I accidently wandered in to an extremely long meeting about strikes in the Lycee and got stuck there for ages. Julia, Amadou and two other teachers were all either asleep or drifting off in a row, which was hilarious. Madame Diodio asked if I would do a song with the 5eme classes. I was teaching them modal verbs and sports / instruments, so I wanted them to sing something that linked. It ended up with me changing the lyrics to ‘Do You Love Me?’ the song that’s in ‘Dirty Dancing’: Me: Can you play the guitar? Class: I can play the guitar Me: Can you play football? Class: I can play football Me: Could you play the kora when you were younger? Class: Yes____ I_____ Could_____ Me: Can you play basketball? Class: I can’t play basketball Me: Can you play tennis? Class: I can’t play tennis Me: Could you play the piano when you were seven? Class: No_____ I_____ Could not______

Surprisingly it went down a treat with the first class, though the other class were slightly less enthusiastic, and some looked as though they wanted to kill me. I’ve been to lots of rehearsals with the petit choral now and it’s going pretty well! I’ve sang in Wolof, Serer, Joala, French, Latin, and some other African languages I can’t remember the names of. There’s a barbers opposite the church where brothers from Sierra Leone work. They speak English and Creole, and no Wolof or French, so they were very happy to speak to someone who understands them. (Though not in Creole of course!) Sophia taught me a few basic phrases in Pulaar and Serer, which I still need to memorise! Unfortunately, she is no longer here to teach me more, as she quit. One night, without even saying goodbye, she was gone. She had often complained about housework being difficult and the hours being too long, but I was not expecting such a dramatic exit. Since then, Binta has been here every day, doing the cleaning and cooking. I’ve tried to help her out with cooking most days as well. I’ve started eating fish now. I don’t think I needed to for health reasons, it’s more just for convenience. For instance, if we go to somebody’s house for a meal or even just here with Amadou and Aicha, it’s a lot less awkward to eat fish, as they have it every day. Aicha’s brother, his wife and some other friends and relatives visited from France a few weeks ago. When you get visitors in Senegal, it’s a very big deal and they need to be treated extremely well. We prepared an absolute feast, chicken with rice and vegetables, two cakes, thiakri, etc. I ate some of the chicken. It was the first time I’ve eaten meat in my life! I’ve decided that when I’m here I can eat fish and chicken, but I’m not eating any red meats. On my way home from school the other day, I had three offers to join people for lunch, two for ataya and met one man who remembered me as ‘the girl who always struggles to open her own front door and has to ask passers-by to help her’. Julia and I have been to Mbour a few times this month. The first time was to go Christmas shopping, but I made the stupid mistake of forgetting my bank card, so that completely failed. The second time was a more successful Christmas shop, and we got presents for the family and other volunteers. Julia went a third time to see an eye specialist, as she got another infection. She’s going to see him again on Tuesday as well. The other day I was in a five-seater taxi with eight other people. There were four squished into the front next to the driver, and four in the back. Crazy. On the 5th December, it was the Muslim festival Tamxarit. It is Senegalese tradition for men to dress as women and vice versa, as well as going from house to house dolling out couscous. We went to Oumou’s house and watched as large groups of people came in banging bowls like drums, singing and dancing in clothes of the opposite sex. Boys were wearing wigs and dresses and painted their faces with white powder. Everyone looked pretty insane, but we had a lot of fun! Last Saturday, Julia and I got invited to a wedding by some members of the church. Joseph, who I’d met before a choir rehearsal, drove us to the reception, which was in a large outdoor club. There was only one other Toubab there. We felt slightly out of place, but got put on a table with a primary school teacher and soldier who were really friendly, though it did seem slightly as if we were crashing the wedding. The bride was wearing a white dress, similar to any that you would see in the UK, but the bridesmaids all had matching boubous. We stayed to watch the dancing for a bit and had some champagne, baobab fruit juice and donuts, before getting a taxi home. Joseph later invited me to another wedding, but I think I’m going to pass on this one. He said that it’s fine in Senegal, you don’t need invitations like in the UK, but I’m not sure how true that is… The following day we went to Dakar with Aicha, some other teachers from her school and a few primary school classes. First, we visited the Renaissance monument and then an annual commercial fair. The fair was absolutely huge and they had stalls from all over the Senegal and the world. Julia bought a Nigerian bowl and I got a pair of shorts. We didn’t have too much time for shopping, though, with all the kids running around. However, we have an early Christmas present of internet in the house! ICT lessons have started in the middle school now, so after the holidays, we’re going to help out with them from time to time as well as the school website. In the break between my two lessons last Wednesday, I bumped into one of the teachers from the middle school and he took me to the house of Leopold Sedar Senghor’s father and we got given a tour. It was nice to learn some of the history of the first president of Senegal and his family. His father had four wives and forty one children! For the last few choirs rehearsals there have been mbalax drummers and a guitars, which is great. I’d love to learn some mbalax drumming. In the Masion D’eau Caritas, opposite our house, yesterday, there were musicians and a spokesperson doing a talk on the importance of washing your hands and keeping clean for kids. It was a really good idea and very interactive, with the kids getting up and dancing, as well as answering questions and demonstrating how best to wash their hands. At the end of the talk, they handed out free bars of soap. Unfortunately Marieme didn’t get one, which resulted in her crying and stomping back to the house. We’ve stopped going to Wolof classes now, as the lessons ended up with us just asking for vocab that we didn’t know. The teachers didn’t plan specific lessons for us, due to them teaching others to write and read, so it seemed like it would be easier for us to just ask someone in the house if we wanted to learn a new word or phrase. A funny Wolof tradition is if you call someone’s name, e.g. ‘Binta!’ they reply with their surname, ‘Gaye?’ Gaye is a common surname in Senegal and is pronounced: gay.