August 29

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Sayonara Philadelphia, bonjour/salamalekum Dakar

Departure day is tomorrow. Everything is as ready as it can be. The last 4 months have been somewhat predictable with a mix of GSK work and trip planning activities. Just a few thoughts though as I enjoy my last summer night for a while in beautiful Bucks County.

As I was packing the past few days, I came to grasp the sheer volume of pharmacy and parapharmacy products that I’m taking with me. It’s quite remarkable. Where are the days when I was going on hiking trips abroad with my friend Annie taking in my backpack just sunscreen, a few band aids and a single cream for muscle pain? I guess these days are gone; or rather the risk of getting malaria or other unsavory ailments is higher, so the preventive measures have to be up to snuff. But boy, it’s taking a lot of space! The silver lining is that these will be used or donated by the time I return.

Amy, my manager at GSK and my dear friends from Philadelphia made sure that I was sent off with relevant yet interesting guides about Dakar and Senegal. It’s a very good mix of books, with practical information but also some overview of Senegal’s history, people and customs. I’m also very keen on reading “Race to Dakar” that recounts the author’s experience with the “Paris Dakar” mythical off-road endurance race. This race has taken place annually from Paris to Dakar since December 1978 and until 2008 . The race has moved to South America since then due to security threats in Mauritania. I therefore won’t have the chance to witness it this year, but I’m sure the book will be enlightening.

Interestingly, the next 6 months will also be transitional – and maybe transformational – for many of my family members. Jean-Baptiste and Jean-Eudes, I’ll be with you in thought for your PhD dissertations in October and November. Floriane, I hope you’ll settle nicely in Paris as you embark in your Master’s Degree in Genetics (another biologist in the family, go girl!). Didier, I’m not sure how you get the drive and stamina to go back to university after 35+ years in the Navy, especially for a Master’s Degree in Math’s, I’m very admirative. Patrick, Annette, hopefully I did leave the house in good shape for your US immersion while I’m away; you’ll undoubtedly speak American English fluently by the time I return – that’s your mission if you accept to take it…

To my family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors, thank you so much for being excited for me and for your help in making this possible. Although I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to all of you, you are part of “my village” for this 6 month journey. I’ll try to share my experience with you as often as possible.

Sayonara Philadelphia, bonjour/salamalekum Dakar