A New and Different Me

Thursday, October 18, 2018

When she was 7 years old, Nisha was the first child to move into the Kopila Valley Children's Home. She attended Kopila Valley School until she moved to the Netherlands to attend high school at UWC Maastricht on a full scholarship. In May of 2018, Nisha graduated and decided to defer college by a year to take a gap year. Nisha took over the BlinkNow Instagram for a week to post updates from Senegal! 


Hi! This is Nisha and I will be giving you some updates about my gap year in Senegal. This is what I eat every day for lunch. It’s called Ceebujen. "Ceebu" means rice and "jen" means fish so it’s basically rice and fish cooked together with cabbage, carrots, eggplant, turnip, and cassava. "Dama bëgg Ceebujan" in Wolof means "I love Ceebujan." My most useful phrase in the first week was, “Duma lekk yappu nakk” which means I don’t eat beef.

When we came to Senegal, we were told that we would be given a Senegalese name because it’s their culture. When they dropped me at my host family’s house, my host dad opened the gate and said “Mamdaba Fall Ndiaye” and I had no idea what he meant. My team leader told me that was my Senegalese name. I am named after my host grandma Mamdaba Fall who is super sweet and always tells me she will visit me in Nepal. I am still getting used to my new name and I don’t hear my real name until I meet other fellows from Global Citizen Year. Now I realize how important your identity is. All my life I have been called Nisha and now all of sudden I am called Mamdaba. It’s weird how you feel so connected to one name and how important your identity is. But I like my Senegalese name as well. I will always be Mamdaba to my host family and my community in Senegal. Sometimes having this new different name makes me think I am a different and new me. 

Nisha and her host mom

This is my host mom, Coumba Ndiaye. Even though I have been here for only a month now I really feel like I am part of this family and I have known these people forever. They don’t speak English and my Wolof is as bad as my Spanish but I feel like we understand each other. My host mom is such a strong woman. She married when she was 13 because she lost her father and her family couldn’t support her big family anymore. She runs a clothing store in the market now and earns which I think is wonderful as many women here do all the domestic works and take care of their children while the men go to work and earn for the family. What I love about her is that she also goes to work in the morning and comes back home in the evening just like my host dad does and not just base her life within the compound we live in.

A day in the life...

What I love the most about Senegalese people is that they are always smiling and very hospitable. The whole village is like a family. It’s normal to see them say I love you or I want you to be my wife/husband even if you have never met them and they call this a cousin joking. I have been asked if I have a husband or if I want to be their wife many times since I have been to Senegal. This environment is very different for me from culture to people to language everything and I am learning so much about Senegalese culture. I am learning about Senegal but that doesn’t mean I know everything about African culture because Africa is a continent, not a country. A lot of people ask me how Africa is and how I am here to help them. I just wanted to say that I am not here to help them or make their lives better, I am just here to learn and explore a different culture.

Nisha in Senegal!

Until 1 week before I flew to Stanford for my pre-departure orientation I was sure that I was going to Ecuador for my gap year. Ecuador was my first choice and I was so excited to improve my Spanish because I had taken Spanish in my school for two years. But I had a visa issue, so the program sent me to Senegal which I am very very happy for. Even though the host country changed for me, my goals remain the same: to explore different cultures and learn the language and make the best out of it. Yes it’s very challenging and I miss home especially when it’s festival time and I can’t be with my family but I also like it here. I have 3 apprenticeships. In the morning I go to the high school and co-teach English. I work with my supervisor at agriculture and in the evening I learn tailoring.

Love, Nisha


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