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Here's looking at you, Rabat: Kalyani Monteiro Jayasankar

Jan 25, 2012 by Kalyani Jayasankar in Africa

As-Salamu Alaykum! My name is Kalyani. In exactly two days, I will board an airplane bound for Rabat, Morocco, where I will be studying for almost four months as part of the School of International Training's (SIT ) Migration and Transnational Identity program.

I am a Sociology major with a interest in Urban Sociology, particularly in migration and public space. Though Rabat is smaller than Casablanca and certainly smaller than the city I come from, Mumbai, it still shares the characteristics of many cities in the global south. The SIT program focuses on migration, a very relevant theme in Morocco, which has a high emigration rate and a large transit migrant population. I am especially interested in the ways in which migrants negotiate and occupy urban public space.

While I know that learning and living in Rabat will be an exciting experience, I'm a little nervous since I speak very rudimentary French and virtually no Arabic (or Darija the Moroccan dialect). Fingers crossed that it all goes well and that I will be able to rap in Darija when I get back.

Here's looking at you, Rabat (with due apologies to Casablanca and Humphrey Bogart!).

Blogging in Dakar: First Two Weeks

Jul 25, 2011 by Yuanmei Lu in Africa

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.

Unite for Children in Africa: Yuanmei Lu '12

May 18, 2011 by Yuanmei Lu in Africa

(Photo taken in my hometown: Yangzhou, China)

Hi, I am Yuanmei (May)! I am going to work with UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) Western and Central Africa Regional Office in Dakar, Senegal, from June 28 to August 30!

As an economics major and religion minor, I am going to focus on developmental economics and social policy research on children's welfare, and I will observe Islam and Christianity in Senegal during this internship.    

A fun fact about me is that I love and am good at playing with children and always want to work for them. I have been especially drawn to the issue of corruption in international adoption, for which I created this site: Bought or Adopted? Welcome to email me at lu.yuanmei [at] gmail [dot] com to share whatever thoughts you have!