These are the soporific, lazy days between Christmas and New Year when the leftovers seem never-ending; piles of chocolates and mince pies still adorn every surface; and everyone is in a slightly boozy state of relaxation. It seems like a good time to start thinking about the year ahead, as 2015 ambles to an unseasonably warm close. For me, it’s all about destination West Africa, as I prepare for two months based in Dakar, Senegal.
Africa is a continent which has been calling me for a long time. I’ve worked as a film reviewer of African cinema, I’ve hosted an African series on this blog, I’ve completed a Masters in African film, and I’ve lived vicariously through friends’ experiences. But I’ve yet to really get to know any of the cultures or places first-hand.
2016 will change all of that, as I head to Dakar for a while. I’m planning to continue with education and research there, with classes in Wolof (the main language in Senegal besides French), meetings at the university, and lots of time watching films and researching cinema. But of course, plenty of travel will be involved as well. I’ll navigate the journey to Guinea-Bissau, one of the world’s least visited countries, perhaps via the Gambia, and I’ll spend some time in the Senegalese city of Saint-Louis, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
I’m leaving on the last day of February, arriving in Dakar on the first day of March, with everything, except flights, to sort out before then. But I have always been a last minute sort of a traveller. As with all my big adventures, I’ll be travelling solo, though my boyfriend Gez will be joining me for a week of travel halfway through. In that time, we’ll be doing some strenuous hikes, since Gez then has to dash back to complete a 24-hour trek around the Isle of Wight. Coincidentally, his hike is also Africa-related, though across the continent – he’s raising money for a hospital in Uganda, where his friend works, in order to buy a new incubator for the neonatal unit. If you’d like to find out more about his hike, or donate, you can do so here.
As for me, I’ll stay in Senegal for another month, living, working, and learning. I’m going with no expectations, since I’m woefully ignorant about the country and region – but I can’t wait to get there and start this new West African chapter in my adventures.
What are your travel plans for 2016?