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General Teaching Projects in Senegal by Leila Mulloy

Goats in the street

Saint Louis was a fantastic town to live in for three months. I was on the teaching project in Senegal which offered such a variety of experiences, from working with full classrooms of 60 teenagers, to taking adult evening classes. Although teaching can be daunting at first, my first lesson luckily coincided with Bob Marley's anniversary and I was asked to give a rendition of 'Three Little Birds'. Singing is definitely not my strong point, as the class soon found out, but it really broke the ice and got the whole class motivated and participating. Unfortunately for me though, that set a precedent for singing and I covered every English song from 'Football's Coming Home' to 'Jerusalem' and most embarrassingly Celine Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On'.

Leila and her Senegalese sisters, Fatima and Penda

I loved living in Saint Louis because it is such an amazing mix of cultures, a town where you hear Akon and Fifty Cent on every radio, but wake up to the Arabic chants from the mosques and Koranic schools. Saint Louis has a really exotic feel with the palm trees, sandy streets, hundreds of wandering goats, donkey drawn carts, beautiful pirogue fishing boats, the chaotic market in Sor and there is even a local monkey. At the same time, however, Saint Louis is heavily reminiscent of a European town and if you ever want a bit of comfort, there are guaranteed to be other volunteers at the Hotel du Palais eating pastries and drinking hot chocolate. There's loads to do at weekends too, from trips to the local bird park or just across the border to the Mauritanian desert to helping out at the talibé centre for street children, going to local nightclub, 'Le Laser' or sunbathing on the beautiful Atlantic ocean beach.

Leila's school leaving ceremony

But the best thing about living in Saint Louis was definitely my Senegalese family. Not only did they give me a real insight into Senegalese life and a great opportunity to practice French and a little Wolof (the local tribal language), they made me feel completely welcomed in their home and community. Although we were just a small family, the mother, Tilda, father, Chiekhna and four year old Fatima, we lived around a courtyard with four other families, so there was always lots of people to sit and chat to and you got fed each meal at least twice! They would say 'European girls are too skinny, you should get a real African figure!' I even practiced my singing at home, learning 'Head, shoulders, knees and toes' in Wolof with Fatima.

End of term party

There are so many things I miss now I've left Saint Louis. I miss walking to the boulangerie every night where the Mama teaches me a little more Wolof each time. I miss crossing the stunning Fedherbe bridge everyday, picking Fati and Penda up from nursery by taking a pirogue, eating 'cheb-u-jen', the tasty national dish of rice and fish. I miss the other volunteers, my school and my Senegalese family, but that just convinces me that I have to come back to Saint Louis next summer!

Leila Mulloy

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