I was a bit worried when I got my Dakar itinerary, it would be my first visit to Africa and ….. arrived at 11:55?. I got Meike’s (HIVOS) bunch of emails on some tips in the Dakar airport….do not bring much cash, do not withdraw money at the airport, you have to bargain for the taxy…. hm….confused but excited! It would be my first time joins the Constellation team in facilitating the training outside of my country.

Then, I was lucky enough to have Mukhotib, a participant from Indonesia as my company from Jakarta-Casablanca….. but not Casablanca – Dakar. Stuck for 14 hours in Casablanca because my flight was delayed after 16 hours flew from Jakarta didn’t subtract my excitement, especially until I met 2 Senegalis men, Baba and Thiam who travelled back from France. My first experience, changes my perception about African, especially Africa, a special place that I grew up, by watching and hearing million stories of people are suffering, war and conflicts. Thiam and Baba were so happy that I would visit their country, the country that they said still under developed but …peaceful! I think they are right and I didn’t have to validate the friendliness and cares of the people when they offered me anything to ensure that I would be comfort in Dakar. The excitement was even more when I saw Jean Louis (JL) and very friendly Meike at the airport, even though I had to wait for an hour getting my luggage and my special flip-chart (that I brought from Indonesia for the training :). More surprisingly my friend Mukhotib was also there as he promised to wait for me! What a trip!

Dakar has a nice weather as nice as the place that I stayed, Ndiye Kunda. I just felt like home and it reminded me of girls who sharing apartment, with Meike, Maartje, Miriam (HIVOS Team) and Indu, an Indian lady from the NGO called SIAAP as my roommates. We stayed in a secret paradise where you have to mention La Brazerade (a quite well known restaurant) to get to the place, walk on the sand, and pass small street vendors that sell a phone ID and local food on the right side with the house on the left side that always busy inside with women do the hair netting. Ndiye Kunda is a 3 storages building with approximately 6-7 rooms to accommodate 5-6 people in each room. It has a small garden and wireless is available to replace TV and you can check emails by sitting in the garden. Every time I walk to and from our secret paradise, there always someone greet me “ cava or bonjour”.

With my jet lag I attended the first preparation meeting for HIVOS Partners Training as it was also my first time met April, the Constellation coach who I knew only by her emails correspondence before Dakar. A special person, a combination of physically likes my ex supervisor but very soft and kind as a character, the person that remind me of my oldest sister who will ensure that everything will be well taken care of. I offered myself to accompany her for the rest of the day because I wanted to know her better and she gave me such comfort feeling while I was with her at the first day when we tried to find some necessary stuff to be replaced from her un-received luggage. She was born and raised within Salvation Army environment until herself join the organization and has been living in Kenya for 14 years. She considered herself as Kenyan and very proud of working and dedicating her life for Kenyan people, despite USA as her origin, something that I admire the most because it shows that she loves what she does and does what she loves…. very inspiring one!

We continued our day stopping by to get me phone ID, I really needed one to call home. The old man, the owner of the small shop gave me the new number but it didn’t work (I found out later on that my phone caused it, not the number) but he tried hard to help me to made the number work, he then replaced with another new number that I was afraid that no one would buy the previous one un-sealed (as it is in my country). Very kind man who didn’t think about business even he runs the business, something I learned that it is not about money but for him, being able to help me to call home made him happier!

I ended my day by meeting with a group of wonderful young people Erick, Marc, Marion etc from Mozambique and … Kenya (?), excuse my jetlag because my brain was completely stop at that time. I just feel so worn out but the meeting session as I always had with JL was….. about learning a new thing! I was thinking about link up Erick with my lovely friend Novy on how he could work with young people to make a difference in parliament. Very enthusiastic group that willing to always learn and they showed their interest to join the HIVOS meeting.

On my second day, I join the 2nd preparation meeting with Miriam and Meike. It was also the first time we had all Constellation full team as Ricardo arrived early in the morning. I didn’t have a problem to recognize him. He looks just exactly like his picture with a funky and unique hair. Behind his uniqueness, I found that Ricardo is a very positive mind person, mature with his very diplomatic ways of communication. In that day he could confirm Miriam to invite Eric and friends joining us for the training on the next day (thanks Ricardo!). We had a breakfast meeting in Kunda’s garden with the meeting agenda: reviewed the whole sessions and distributed the responsible person. I would be responsible for “getting to know each other” session on the 1st day of training and “building a dream” on the 2nd day. On the meeting I got to know that Ricardo came without his luggage! Again…? However…I didn’t see that it was bothered them, yes it was important to have your luggage with you when you arrived but more important think that they came for learning something more important than worried about the luggage!

“Today is the day!” Indu, my roommate said. I was a bit nervous on the the first day of the training because I would responsible for the critical session, the session that lead to the atmosphere of the whole training. My first experience team up with very experiencing coaches and I took the opportunity for this session. Some of the participants arrived on time and some were struggling to find the place for the training “Paya Residence Hotelier”, another secret place but it also happened that the board on the main street showing the direction to the place was disappeared on the first day of training. It was such a challenge to find the hotel which located in the middle of no-wher :). But once they arrived the spirit was emerged.

Getting to know each other session was turning back the atmosphere of those who were tired of a week conference of ICASA. Some said that there was a hesitation to attend the training, but they found out that this one was something different rather than just “another training”. “This is the time for me to talk about me and my life as a human being” said Parlaya from India after asked about who he is, what is his most concern in life and what his most proud of about himself, 3 key questions that was very thoughtful for the participants, the questions that were breaking the formal situation for the rest of the 2 days training.

Curiosity was slowly vanishing by the time that each session was presented by the team on what this all about. Each Constellation coach was introduced the concept with strong confident. “Sleepless energy” JL often had serious conversation with the team during After Action Review (AAR) when “innovative” Ricardo raised his million ideas and inputs, combine with a “calm” April showed the synergy and chemistry between team members, something I learned that the power of SALT brings positive energy and well teamwork when you apply it as a basic concept of your life. I got to know that this training was the first time for JL and Ricardo worked as a team. I was stunned when JL was asking everybody to criticize him on his session because he still needs to learn from others! Amazing people!

On the other side, April and Ricardo were having a unique friendship since they used to work as a team within the African countries, the working region of Salvation Army. Unique in the way they were joking and make fun of each other, they even have a special term to express the disappointment or showing that they were sorry by saying “khaaaa…” a voice of bird from the bad ending movie :)

We were lucky to team up with HIVOs team, Miriam and Meike. “this is my first experience on the training where us (HIVOS) involved in all step including facilitation, I was thinking that we paid this people and what are they doing???” said Miriam with laughing on our last AAR, the time when she understood that this is not about program but about life and this is the Constellation’s nature of work. It was also the first time for a “serious, discipline and well organized” Miriam revealed herself to HIVOS partners who she really is rather than talking about HIV/AIDS program. As Miriam’s teammate, Meike was always there for the team on bad and good time. And if we have to thank for all this, Meike is the right destination and she deserved it.

I couldn’t believe that some participants were maintaining their spirit well until the end of the training. These experiencing people showed that they always want to learn something more, especially the Self Assessment session that very well introduced by April and Ricard with the approach that I will apply within the training in my country. Everybody was involved and participated in a very serious discussion. I amazed with the open expression of African, they argued, yelled with hours of discussion to have one agreement but with no hard feeling at the end when they solved the problem. Felipe, the French Namibian guy, often showed his disagreement and critiques until the end of training but always presented and fully participated at each session. And at the end…he finally emerged his human being side by offering to arrange the taxy to the airport together with me 

I didn’t feel like go home until the morning that I had to leave, the time when I was not recovered yet from my jetlag and the time, when I was enjoying and experiencing strengths from others. As I drag my luggage on the sand from my secret paradise, I promised myself that I’ll keep this memorable short visit in my mind and I will share to people in my country as my special gift from Africa.

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Comment by Gaston on January 26, 2009 at 8:23am
Hi Risya, I only found the time today to read your blog. Thanks a lot for sharing. I can imagine much better how things went in Dakar. Nice to read this from your perspective. All the luck in Indonesia and with emerging IndoCompetence. Regards from Chiang Mai.

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