Newsletter 2001

French Outside of France

Women of Keur Banda plant seedlings as part of 
Rodale's Regenerative Agriculture programBeing a student studying both Biology with a pre-med concentration and French over the past four years has often been somewhat problematic in certain respects. Not only are there almost always scheduling conflicts between labs and French courses, but due to MCATs it was next to impossible to study abroad in Aix-en-Provence my junior year along with the other students in my class. Although I was disappointed that I could not go, a once in a lifetime opportunity arose during that time period. In lieu of spending time in France, I was offered the chance to do some volunteer work over the summer in Sénégal, a francophone country on the western coast of Africa. Through cooperation with the Rodale Institute, I spent the entire month of July living and working in the small town of Thiès. Rodale is an institution that teaches organic farming techniques to villages throughout Sénégal in an attempt to help them grow more nutritious food and to increase the overall standard of health. While there, it was my goal to learn some of these techniques and to aid the Rodale employees in teaching them to some of the local villages. However what I received from living in Africa was much more then I could have ever imagined.

Living in an African country that is heavily influenced by both the Muslim and French cultures increased my overall awareness of the different aspects of life. From the busy streets of Dakar to the vast areas of la brousse, I used my French constantly to communicate with everyone while at the same time picking up the Senegalese habits day in and day out. Sometimes I miss the idea of taking two hours during the middle of the afternoon to have lunch and a small nap... I also miss the traditional Senegalese dishes of seasoned rice with fish or beef, or those spicy beef sandwiches served on a baguette that I used to buy from a small stand for only 200 CFA, about 30 cents. Then of course there was the elaborate tea ceremony during the afternoon after lunch, which according to some of the local people, is necessary to be able to continue with the rest of the day. How can I forget riding one of the hundreds of mini-buses through town that cram about twenty people into a vehicle made for ten? Or better yet, driving with someone who bought his license illegally instead of wasting the time or paying the money to learn how to drive, apparently is a very popular thing to do in Sénégal? These are only some of the daily rituals for each Senegalese, and I loved every one of them. Aside from experiencing these traditions among many others, my work with Rodale enabled me to learn a little about farming, an area about which I had little understanding when I decided to take the opportunity. Each day was dedicated to a new technique that Rodale uses in teaching the villages to grow food, such as composting, planting trees and vegetables, and food preservation. I came back to the United States with a feeling of complete satisfaction in knowing that I had gained so much from my immersion into the Senegalese culture and also from Rodale itself. Choosing to live in Sénégal and working with Rodale was probably one of the best decisions of my life, and I can honestly say that in the future I will go back. When that happens, I hope others will be with me so that they too can experience for the first time what I experienced last year.

Adam Deising '01