Recently, I had the opportunity to head to the village of Ndianda, where I will be living for the next two years. It is located outside of the city of Mbur in the Petite Côte region, south of Dakar and Thies. While there I spent time with my family, possible work partners, and explored my large village of 6000 people. I spent my days with Dellie and Gary, the couple currently serving in Ndianda who I will be replacing. They did a wonderful job of making me feel right at home and showing me all the cool sites in the area.
During the trip, I had the fortune to spend a few hours exploring the Island of Fadiouth. From the city of Joal, myself, Dellie and Gary walked on a long wooden bridge to Fadiouth. Glancing over the water, I noticed a strange sight: pigs. Stunned, I watched as twelve large pigs and six little piglets meandered through the calm waters off Joal. As the tide went out, the pigs dug their snouts into the mud flats searching for delicious bivalves and other tasty treats. Indeed, the pigs were some of the biggest, healthiest looking ones I have seen in Senegal.
Arriving on the island, I stepped onto a pathway made entirely from loose clam shells. Looking around, I saw that all the pathways were made of the same, small, white shells. Even much of the concrete used in the buildings contained the same shells. The island itself is made out of shells that have accumulated over the years. Leading theories suggest the island was primarily built up by people eating clams and leaving their shells on the island.
Continuing through the winding seashell streets, we came to a large Church. Senegal has long been known for its tolerance of religion, and Fadiouth is a great example of this tolerance. While about 95% of Senegal is Muslim, about 90% of the residents of the island are Christian. The Church exists alongside a Mosque. Crossing to a second bridge brought me to the Fadiouth cemetery, also built on an island of seashells. It is shared by the two faiths. The beauty was stunning: shells everywhere, religious iconography intermingling, caretakers repairing burial sites, and the surrounding mangroves stretching out into the distance.
I can’t wait to return in December to my village and, what I think, is the most beautiful place in Senegal.