Featuring Baaba Maal Concert and Visit, a Walk Around Sobobade, Visit to the Local Primary School, A Day in the Life of Diouma Sarr, Horseback Ride Among the Baobab Trees, plus journals.

Quote of the day from Mohammed, our waiter, "La vie est un l'ecole." Life is a school, every minute we learn new things.

BAABA MAAL, Senegalese Singer Extraordinaire
Link to Baaba Maal concert video

Is there a better way to start a new year than to be the honored guests at a Baaba Maal concert in Dakar?! Our friend, Massamba Diop, who is the reknowned tama player in Baaba Maal's band, arranged to have our van bring us right into the stadium, and then he set up seats for us right by the stage. Some of our friends from the 1998 visit surprised us and came, too. What a joy to see them!

(Click on the picture to see the video. Videos courtesy of Robbie Leppzer, Turningtide Productions)

(If you didn't get the movie, click here to download the newest version of Quicktime)

link to video of Tony and Baaba

Baaba Maal's incredible voice and presence thrilled the crowds all night. Then - he called out for TONY VACCA to come join him on stage. This great African superstar called for our Tony and held the mic for him as he played with our friend and brother, MASSAMBA DIOP. My, my, my. What a once in a lifetime experience!

(Click on the picture to see the video)

link to Baaba speaking

Then, to top off an amazing evening, Baaba Maal invited our whole crew to come for a visit at his house in Dakar. He has a beautifully decorated home full of art and books, but nothing flashy like stars here in the US tend to have. After drinks of juice and soda, we gathered for a conversation together. Baaba Maal talked about how his band's purpose is much more than making good music. It's all about bringing different peoples together in peace and understanding all over the world. He is working with the United Nations as the Artistic Emissary for the UN Development Program in Africa as part of this goal. We exchanged stories about the projects we have done to serve the same purpose, like Rich and Lenny's school project to construct a well in a town in Ghana, or Debby's school project to build a grain mill in Malawi, and of course this Senegal-America cultural sharing project. We all felt like brothers and sisters in this great cause of finding common ground and bringing prosperity to as many people as we can reach.

(Click on the picture to see the video)

A Walk Around Sobobade (the conference center where we are staying)

Sobobade view


I wake up and hear the children at the local school singing the Senegalese national anthem. There's a weaver bird sitting on the branch next to his nest outside my window, singing his heart out. I come down the elegantly tiled stairway and there's Pape, playing his kora in the courtyard. No one is practicing their drumming in the amphitheater yet. A man is unloading the pony cart which brings the supplies for the day. As I come through the gate, Issa calls out to me. She has the two paintings that her husband created, waiting for me to pick them up. She gives me a necklace as a surprise thank you present.

As I move on past the reception area, I pick up a book of French poetry written by Gerard, the architect of Sobobade. I'd love to buy one of their baby baobab trees, too, but the customs people wouldn't let us take it into the U.S. As I walk a few steps to restaurant, I can see the ocean lapping against the big rocks at the beach. I can see one of the fishing boats go by. If I look through the sculptured arch, I can see the well and a herd of goats. My friends, new and old, wave to me from the table. Three of the cats have come to sit with us under our table. A minute after I sit down, El Hadji arrives and introduces us to the principal of the school we are going to visit tomorrow. When I ask Mohammed, our waiter, for coffee, he also gives me a little French/Wolof lesson. That's his quote at the top of this page.

Click here to see a full photo album of Sobobade


Visit to the Local Primary School

Today, our new friend, El Hadj, escorted 10 of the Senegal-America crew to the local elementary school, Ecole Yene Kelle. We were greeted by the headmaster, Souleymane Niang. There was a separate classroom for each grade, one through eight. As we walked into each room, the children greeted us with big smiles, shook each of our hands and said, "C'est va?" as we walked around the room.

school kids

The rooms were sparsely decorated with concrete walls, wooden desks, a blackboard at the front of the room, and maybe a poster or two. We were happy to see that each child had a notebook and a slate to write on, and books to use. Their handwriting was beautiful.

school room

school books

In one room, the children were practicing French phonetics. The teachers told us that they also teach math and Senegalese geography and history. At one point the teacher asked the children to sing the Senegalese National Anthem. They all stood and sang with full voices and pride. Many in our crew brought presents from their home schools to give to the children: yo-yo's, T-shirts, kazoos, photographs from the U.S., paper, markers, and pencils.
T-shirts on kids
At lunchtime, the kids all went outside to eat and play. The playground was just sand, no play equipment at all. We taught each other hand clapping games in a big circle. One of the young girls went into the middle of the circle and started to dance. She was so beautiful!
school clapping game
school yard

Day in Life Collage

You all asked us to find out what life is like for kids in Senegal. Luckily, our friend Bathie Pouye was able to arrange for us to spend a day with his niece, Diouma Sarr, who is eleven years old. She lives in Guinaw Rail which is a small suburb of Dakar, Senegal. We visited Diouma and her family at their home and were warmly welcomed. Bathie kindly translated as Diouma told us what she likes to do and shared her daily routine with us. We met some of her classmates when we walked to her school, and enjoyed meeting many other people in her neighborhood along the way. We shared a delicious meal, danced together, and had a delightful time. Click here to see a slideshow of our visit with Diouma.

Horseback riders

Horseback Ride Among the Baobab Trees

A few of us got the chance to go riding out in the bush. Click here to see the full story and photo album.

Baobab tree

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Web site written by Debby Kern, Rhythmsong Creations