Tuesday, August 16, 2011

‘Y en a marre’ (Enough is Enough)

While we were in Senegal, several protests broke out in Dakar. It was over the 48 hour power cut. The government hadn’t been able to provide enough electricity to satisfy the people for years but no power for 2 days was just ridiculous. It wasn’t just about the electricity. There was recently a proposal by the president to change the constitution. The 85-year old President Wade, who ruled Senegal for 11 years, wanted to be elected again next year. Previously, one needed more than 50% of the votes to win the presidential election but he wanted to reduce it to 25%. I guess he knew that he wasn’t favored by the people. But it wasn’t just about him. He wanted to introduce the concept of “vice president“ to Senegal, which does not have vice president, so that he can transfer the power to his son, Karim. (Later, he withdrawn his proposal) US embassy sent out a warning and it was so serious that our professors had a meeting to decide whether it was safe to stay or not. We were escorted home but on the way I saw buses on fire and tires being torched. All the roads were blocked so it was hard to get to home. There were rumors that some people were heading to the Renaissance monument to destroy it. The police used tear gas to scatter the crowd and it was my first time exposure to the tear gas. Then, we went to Penina and Kalima’s house to see the mini protest that broke out in front of their house. It was an intense night.
We feel the aches and pains when we are growing taller. I think that it applies to the countries too. When a nation is growing and changing, it is inevitable to experience the aches and pains. When we look at the history, the fights and wars over wealth and power were usually nonsensical, excessively selfish and unreasonable. I thought that maybe it is just a human nature to want more and more. I thought what we should focus on in a situation like this maybe isn’t about how ridiculous the attempts of the President Wade are or how corrupted the government is, but maybe we should focus on about the changes in Senegalese attitude and awareness; how they now refuse to take it lying down, how they are taking the matter into their own hands and how they are reacting actively. Even though this situation made me frustrated and furious, I’d like to think that this is the beginning of new Senegal where no monarchy is allowed and people can use electricity without shortages.

Monday, August 15, 2011

a picture is worth a thousand words

1) Monastery

by ElizabethVincelette

by ElizabethVincelette

we had our first rain that day! for the first time in Senegal, i felt chilly. i'm sure a lot of Senegalese appreciated the rain... they could use some more rain though..

by ElizabethVincelette
This monk demonstrated how koras were made.
Kora is a 21 string harp much played in West Africa
Kora - West African harp lute

we got to attend the service. they had the most beautiful music.

The pink lake
it looks look because of the amount of salt and special bacteria that live in the water.
its intensity of colr changes depending on the seasons (sun light)
it wasn't as pink as i expected.

This is how pink it could get.

we had quite a ride ;)

piled salt from the lake to be dried

Sunday, August 14, 2011

health care system in Senegal

Internship- day 2

On our 2nd day of the internship, professor Cheikh came to the hospital with us. He happened to find out that one of his childhood best friends was the head of the pharmacy department at the hospital Fann. Then, kindly, the friend introduced us the chief neurologist. The chief neurologist took the time to give us a mini tour around the hospital and answered some of our questions. He was so busy because the medical staffs were on strike. He was a military doctor so he wasn’t on strike. The hospital was short of the staff, resources and everything else. It was devastating to see the patients lined up outside of his office not knowing when they would be able to get the medical help they needed. Health care system in Africa is world-wide issue. I have always been interested in the matter and it was such an awesome opportunity to have been able to witness the reality.
The hospital Fann was cleaner than I expected. It had wards and ICU. They were aware of sanitization and trying to keep the hospital as clean as possible. Even though there certainly was room for improvement, I was glad to see some kind of system similiar to the western hospitals and intelligent and educated doctors.

the records of the patients

“Child mortality, maternal death, malaria and sexual diseases (incl. AIDS) are the main medical health problems in Senegal.”  

Some facts for Senegal:
  1. Malaria is the primary cause of morbidity (25%)
  2. Maternal death: 45 Of every 10000 women who give birth to a child die in urban areas - but nearly 100 die in rural regions
  3. The infant mortality rate is 58 per 1000, the child mortality rate is 113 per 1000 – but with significant disparities between the regions
  4. Malnutrition remains a public health issue: almost 1 out of 5 childs are underweight)
  5. Vaccination coverage against the main childhood diseases remains insufficient: Only 42% of all children between 12 and 23 months received all necessary vaccinations
  6. Limited or absence of access to safe water is increasing health problems in the rural regions of Senegal – affecting mainly children‘s health

The organisational structure of the national health care system in Senegal
  1. Regional Hospitals (Hospital/Clinic Provincale)
  2. District Health Centres (Centre de Santé)
  3. Health Posts (Poste de Santé)
  •  lack of adequate health service provision due to poor infrastructure of health facilities:
    • 1 Hospital per 545800 inhabitants. (WHO: 1/150000)
    • 1 Health Centre per 175000 inh. (WHO: 1/5000)
    • 1 Health Post per 11500 inh. (WHO: 1/1000)
  • lack of personal:
    • 1 medical doctor per 17000 inhabitants (WHO: 1/10000)
    • 1 Health Worker per 8700 inh. (WHO: 1/300)
    • 1 Birth Assistant per 4600 inh. (WHO: 1/300)
  • lack of training and education
  • lack of motivation of staff to work in rural regions

I included these facts because I experienced them; I had to take Malaria pill every week, Sehee - who is an amazing pharmacy student but who definately does not have any medical backgorund to deliver a baby- got to deliver a baby which tells us a lot about the maternal/baby care in Senegal, I saw many many hungry street kids and Sehee got to go to some houses to give out vaccination and it didn’t seem organized. We also had to buy and carry our own water bottles everywhere since it was difficult to find safe water around.
It was sad to find out that there are people who are suffering curable disease just because they don't have money.. as a person who is studying pharamcy this was a moment. i do not have a solid plan on how and what to do to help the needed but i felt like it was something that i should not ignore.


healing the mind

 What is Art Therapy?
"Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behaviour, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. Art therapy integrates the fields of human development, visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms), and the creative process with models of counseling and psychotherapy." 

We were fortunate enough to shadow the experts in our interested area for few days. Some wanted to focus on dance & music, womens rights, education, medical care or art. I wanted to see the reality of the medical care system in Senegal. Our internship was at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Fann (known as hospital Fann). On the first day, we attended the art therapy session. It seemed like it was used mostly for the “mental” patients ( even though we couldn’t quite figure out their definition of “mental” illness since there were alcohol and drug rehab patients, deaf patients, college student patients who came for anxiety etc) but it was open for the public for free and there were both in-patients and out-patients. I absolutely loved the environment. It was a small studio with some reggae music. Nobody was judging or judged, and everybody was free to express whatever they were feeling inside by all means. Some drew, some talked, some just made tea all day, some listened to the music, some told jokes and riddles and some wrote poems. A patient that I worked with told me his life story. He mostly complained about the poor quality of life in Senegal and about the lack of opportunity to follow his dreams which were writing music and film making. Everybody had no shame in sharing their thoughts. Everybody was so welcoming and open-minded. I was thinking that I was going there to help but I was the one who was helped. How these people could genuinely love the others even us foreigners was heart-warming. I felt truly comfortable and “healed” in that little studio.

Omar is deaf. He was born deaf. His brother is a doctor at the hospital and that's how he found out about the art therapy. he was recently married and just had a baby boy! i could tell that he was so happy when we asked him about his family. he also recently sold his art piece which helped finacing raising the child. Now he is the head of the family and he feels like he is doing something right.
Omar; my favorite artist/patient.
one of my favorite art works by Omar.

Omar and us:)

by Omar.

also by Omar. He is such a genius!!

Some of the artworks by other patients! 1,2,3 are by the same artist. He actually went to an art school for 2 years. his work was somewhat more complicated and symbolic. most of his works had something to do with Africa.
1) face/ Kora



3) crying Africa

This is the patient i worked with. He was working on ancient Egypt and pyramid and Sun worshing. He said it was meaningful to him since he was beginning of the civilization and culture. He was admitted to the hospital for anger issue but now discharged, but he still comes back for this art therapy session because it gave him "peace" and "forget about everything."


Wait, I made this art therapy sound all emotional but not scientific or effective. I don’t know much about its history and its biological, chemical, physiological aspect of it except for what I read in Wikipedia. But to some extent, I could understand why it would work in Senegal. While In the states, individuality and privacy is much appreciated and respected, in Senegal, community and collectiveness is more emphasized. It is depressing to feel isolated or unloved in the state where everybody pretty much minds their own business. Imagine feeling left-out in Senegal where others except you seem to be always together and share everything together. Wouldn’t you feel even more sad and alone? Art therapy in the hospital Fann was in a group form. It was an activity that anybody could enjoy and socialize and feel belonged. Their unique characteristics were valued here and that “difference” was used in making creative and special arts. I could understand how this sense of being understood and heard could help to relieve some of the pains and negative thoughts especially when the patients are suffering the diseases of the mind.


This patient hears voices. He was drawing the war scene. there were airplanes, tanks, knices, guns and dead people. he said that somebody told him to draw that. later i found out that he was a street kid. his mother hd mental illness and he didn't have a father so he lived on the street near the French military camp. it was surprising to see how vulnerable human minds are especially when we are young. This made me think of other kids in other parts of the world where there are killings, bombing and all the inhumane things going on.

we went to the studio to say goodbye on our last day( it was very difficult to say goodbye.) they were focusing on music that week. there were several professionals who came from France and they were recording each patients' expression in music. we were told that they come once in a while to evaluate the patients and the access the effectiveness of the therapy. it was good to see some kind of support since it seemed like the hospital wasn't doing much. There wasn't enough equipments(brushes, paints, etc) to start with. They sometimes sell their artworks and the hospital and the patients get 50/50 to financially support the group.

check this out

Bring it on

wrestling; by Elizabeth Vincelette
Senegalese wrestling is a national sport in Senegal. I have never watched a wrestling match carefully enough to notice the rules or the goals until this day so it was little hard for me to compare and contrast the styles and rules of the international wrestling style and Senegalese traditional folk wrestling style. What I noticed, though, was that there were a lot going on. There was incredibly powerful and fun drumming before the match. The players came out and performed group/single dance. Then there were singers, interestingly mostly women, who sang Senegalese songs.
the wrestlers dancing before the game; by Elizabeth Vincelette

The drumming
 When I saw the game on TV, the wrestlers poured some milky liquid over their body for good luck but I didnt get to see the ritual in the field. All of those rituals made me wonder about their beliefs. It felt like Senegalese traditional beliefs and Islamic influence were mixed together to create a new culture in Senegal. For example, I am a Christian who believe in one and only God. So I dont believe in animism or any other indigenous beliefs that used to shape the spiritual lives of my ancestors. But in Senegal, indigenous faiths werent just the traces or remains of the past beliefs even though about 95% of them were Muslims who believe in monotheism.  All the rituals werent performed just for the sake of it or to keep the tradition. People actually performed the rituals and believed in them. It was interesting to how their traditional beliefs were still strongly practiced and imbedded in their lives.

Anyway, it wasnt just before the game. Even during the game, there were various groups who performed to cheer the players which were more eye-catching than the game itself to me. It was interesting to see the crowd getting all excited for their teams. We were told that the wrestler who wins the championship becomes the national super-star. I loved the enthusiasm and the energy.

the excited crowd

The cheerleaders

FYI, Senegalese wrestling was in a BBC documentary entitled Last Man Standing.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Nguente (ngen-tay) is a Muslim baby naming ceremony. Luckily, my host family who were Muslim had a baby on our 2nd day. After a week, they had a big nguente; until the ceremony, the baby had no name. Supposedly, an imam comes to the house and cites the Koran; this is called tudu. And also, traditionally, a griot- oral story teller- comes and tells the history of the family. I and Rohini had to leave the house because we had to go to the wrestling match but we got to see the preparation portion of the ceremony.
It was really busy and loud morning. I woke up to the sound of the ladies talking, laughing, and cooking downstairs. There were at least 7-8 maids cooking. Our host mom was dressed up and busy ordering people around. Our host family had bought a sheep about 4 days before the ceremony and it was no where to be found that morning. There was no man in the house. When I went outside to buy a baguette, I saw men sitting under the trees talking and having a good time. Later I asked Even who spoke fluent French what they were talking about, he said politics. I thought men are the same all around the world J Anyway, I stayed with the ladies. They were dressed up really nicely. It was bling bling everywhere. They would just randomly start drumming with the plastic chair and chant with rhythm. Later I found out that they usually have loud music and dancing in these rituals but since there was death in the neighbor recently, they werent doing music or dancing that day. I noticed that not only neighbors but the family of the babys mother also came into town. It was a very joyous occasion for the whole neighborhood. Our host mom insisted on us staying a littler longer and eating the food. So we did.. even though we were little late to our meeting. It was delicious. When we came back from the wrestling game, people were still there. They all had changed their outfits. Some of the ladies changed their outfit 3-4 times a day. It was like a live fashion show. Oh! The baby was named Bamba Evan. They named the baby boy after the exchange student from MN. It was so sweet of them. Now he needs to go back and visit Evan Jr. from time to time.