I became worried as the date of my flight to Dakar drew near. I had never been to Africa, and Senegal was a city rarely discussed in China. Family and friends warned me about security and health issues in Africa. The visa to Senegal almost failed to pass through. I also did not want to leave my summer vacation at home. All these issues made me less and less excited about my destination. However, the flights from Shanghai to Dubai and from Dubai to Dakar both reignited my interest in the trip. I sat beside an Arabic businessman and an Indian man, both of whom worked in Dakar. I have never met such people in my life and talking to them was an eye-opening experience.
The weather in Dakar was sizzling hot when I arrived. Fortunately, the horror stories I'd heard about customs did not become reality in my case. I went through customs smoothly, found my sponsor effortlessly, and went directly to my first host family.
I will live with two host families in July and August. The first is a Senegalese family in the Almadeis region, close to my workplace. They have a grand house with a tastefully designed garden and swimming pool. What attract me most are the lush plants and cute birds, of which I took many photos. Not far away from the house is the sea. In the morning I sometimes take a refreshing walk along the coast to UNICEF WCARO.
The first week of my work consisted of being introduced to staff in the whole office and reading key documents. It was a transition period. I adjusted to the local diet, which is usually rice and meat, and rarely includes vegetables, except onions. Mango is the most common fruit in this season. The combat with mosquitoes was tough, too, and air conditioning seems to be the only savior.
The second week my first task during the internship was confirmed: to design a virtual knowledge center guiding country and regional officers in their policy recommendations in different areas. This pioneering project is time-consuming; hence, I am focusing on one small area only: social protection. I am responsible for selecting the most relevant resources and organizing them, with four other staff members in the team overseeing and giving advice on my work during the weekly meetings. Otherwise I work independently, which I enjoy. I also appreciate the project's pragmatic approach.