A much needed vacation!!!

I know I have been MIA for a while and I apologize, but I was on a much needed vacation!! I decided to go back to the Western world!! I decided to meet my parents and my sister in Lisbon, Portugal. As I was preparing for the trip I was slightly anxious because I heard so many stories of how volunteers have little panic attacks because we get so used to our simple lives here that the rush of the Western world is a little overwhelming. So as I boarded the plane for Lisbon I tried to brace myself for what was ahead, I figured I’d try to acclimate while on the plane. The first Western thing that I encountered was food. While I was trying to sleep on the plane I was awakened with the smell of food being cooked and it didn’t smell like rice with onion sauce! I got very excited for my first meal outside of Senegal however, the flight attendant ran out of food right before she was supposed to give me mine. So I had to sit around for another half an hour, while she heated up the rest of the food, and I was subjected to watching everyone eat their wonderful, non-Senegalese dishes. It definitely wasn’t the best food that I ever had, but it had variety and NO rice so I ate everything up!!! My flight was from Dakar to Madrid, where I had about a 3 hour layover, for some reason no flights can come into or leave Dakar at a normal time, all of them leave or get in at 1am, 3am, etc. so that left me waiting at the Madrid airport at 4am!! So I meandered around the airport for a while trying to figure out what gate I had to go to. Now I haven’t been in the States for a while, but usually airlines know which gate their planes are going to fly into about 3 hours ahead of the flight, but I noticed in Europe they don’t do that. When I landed in Madrid it just said I was in gate H,J,K, and seeing as how each letter had at least 30 gate numbers I had no idea where I was supposed to go until about a half hour before the flight. How annoying!! Anyways, I was just happy to be out of Senegal for a while. The first thing I noticed was how clean everyone was. I just sat there at the airport and was amazed how everyone’s faces were clean, their feet were clean, their white clothes were white and they didn’t have holes in them, talk about feeling like an outsider!! At about 6:30am I finally boarded my flight for Lisbon, I was excited to not only see a new country but more importantly to see my family. I arranged it so that I would wait for my sister at the airport, I got in about 2 hours before her, we would take a cab to the apartment we rented, and then my parents would join us when they got in from Poland. Well as we started approaching Lisbon I noticed that the plane started to fly in circles, damn we were stuck in a holding pattern. As it turned out an hour later the pilots realized we were running low on fuel and we had to land so they turned around, headed back to Spain and landed at some small airport. Now I started to worry because one, I had no idea what was going on (I finally found some English speakers who explained to me what was happening), and two, I was supposed to meet my sister at the airport and had no idea how to get a hold of her to tell her I’d be late. After about an hour of waiting in Spain we got back on the plane and made it to Lisbon. I figured I’d grab my bags and try and see if my sister was still at the airport and if not hop a cab to the apartment, thankfully my sister told me to write down the address just in case. So I wandered around baggage claim trying to see if she was still there, unfortunately she wasn’t, so I exited baggage claim thinking I’d use a mix of French and Spanish to tell the cabbie where to go if he didn’t speak English (all the romance languages are pretty similar, aren’t they??). However, as I exit baggage claim I scanned the crowd and low-and-behold, whom do I see but my sister!!!! As it turned out she was also late arriving and had landed about 10 mins before me. After a tearful reunion we hopped in a cab and headed off to the apartment we rented. It ended up being in the center of Lisbon with great views of the city. Our parents joined us some time later and then the whole family was together. It was great having everyone there. We had our arguments and our laughs and there is no other way I would like to spend my vacation!! My sister and I took some tours during the week that our parents didn’t want to, and we all took some tours together. We had great meals and just a great time together. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and a week later it was time to say goodbye to my sister, my parents and I were off to Poland together and she had to head back to the States. My parents and I spent a day in Warsaw and then packed their car up and headed to Prague. We spent 2 days there where we saw the major highlights of Prague, and then we went to Budapest. Again we only had a couple of days so we just went to see the major highlights. Both were beautiful cities and I’m so lucky that my parents could see them with me. After a week of driving we headed back to Warsaw where I spent a week at my parents place trying not to do too much except enjoy the comforts of the Western world. After 3 weeks of traveling it was time for me to say goodbye and I head back to Senegal. I left Poland on Saturday afternoon, and arrived in Dakar Sunday night. I had to buy a round-trip ticket from Dakar to Lisbon and another one from Lisbon to Warsaw, so I on Saturday I flew from Warsaw to Brussels and then Brussels to Lisbon. I arrived in Lisbon around 9pm and since my flight out was at 7:30 am Sunday I decided to spend the night in the airport, talk about a long night. Then on Sunday I flew Lisbon to Madrid, had a 7 hour layover where I went out to see some of Madrid, and then I flew Madrid to Dakar. Less than 48 hours and 5 airports later I was back in Senegal. As it turns out, the two things I was worried about, reintegrating into Western culture and coming back to Senegal weren’t all that hard. While I was up in Dakar I couldn’t wait to get back to Kedougou, this is my little part of the world and for the next 10 months my home. I enjoyed my time in Europe and it just made me appreciate how much we all have and how lucky we are to have been born in the Western world. Both styles of life are difficult in their own right, but both have great aspects too. So I say enjoy what you have and stop thinking the grass is always greener on the other side. Thanks for a great vacation Mom, Dad, and Nika. Love you!!!

This is a picture of Lisbon from across the river.

A picture of the streets of Lisbon.

No this is not Rio, there is an exact replica in Lisbon.

So this castle was built by a very eccentric man. It contains tunnels and passages, I could have spent all day there.

A beautiful sleepy town known as Sintra in the side of a mountain.

My mother stopping to hydrate at on of the fountains in Lisbon.

This is the most western point in Europe. So now I’ve been to the most western point in both Europe and Africa (Dakar, Senegal)

The famous clock in Prague’s old town square.

An up close picture of the face of the clock.

A street in Prague; beautiful architecture.

Prauge castle, unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to visit it but I’ll see it when I come back.

So Buda is on my right behind me (it’s on a hill) and Pest is on my left ( it’s flat). The difference in Buda and Pest happened due to an earthquake that pushed part of Pest underneath Buda.

This is a picture of Parliment in Budapest. I was told on one tour that it’s the largest parliment in the world, on another tour that it’s the second largest, and on still yet another tour that it’s the third largest. I don’t know whom to believe but I can says it’s BIG either way!!!

Budapest behind me.


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