Koulari- My Little Village

Koulari is my home in Senegal. It is a small village, so small it doesn’t appear on google maps. Small enough that most Senegalese do not even know about it. I always get confused responses when I tell people I live in Koulari. The nearest city is Tambacounda around 35km away. To get to Koulari from Tambacounda one must travel down the national highway to Goloumbou. This town of a few thousand people sits adjacent to the Gambia river. A bridge is the only way to drive for hundreds of kilometers. Thus Goloumbou gets a lot of traffic from Tambacounda to the South and vice versa. Once in Goloumbou there is a paved road leading West. The paving last about 1 km then it turns into a dirt road. Follow this road for eight kilometers and you are in Koulari!

My Hut at Dusk

Only about 500 people live here and it feels like most of them are children. The kids are everywhere! There is a mix of ethnic groups: Sarahule, Mandinka, and Pulaar. I live with the chief of the village, Mahamadou Goumane. Our last name is Sarahule, originating in Mali. The family moved from Mali to the Gambia around 1950, then after moved to Koulari in the 1960s. Apparently the proximity to the river and fertile soil made it a good place to settle. Mahamadou has four wives, three Sarahule and one Pulaar. I consider the Pulaar wife as my host-mom because I learned Pulaar.

Sometimes Kids Are Shy

Peanut, millet, and corn fields surround the village. The Gambia river is 4 km away through the forest. The area is semi-arid. We don’t receive as much rain as Southern Senegal but there are still many types of tree. We have a five hectare women’s garden where 107 women have garden plots. There are two small schools, one for studying the Koran and one for subjects taught in French. Older students go to school in Goloumbou. The Mosque is in the center of the village, about 25 meters from my hut. Everyone in the village is Muslim, the call to prayer plays over a megaphone on the Mosque five times a day. Everyone is very conservative. Men do not wear shorts and women mostly wear head coverings. I wear shorts because it’s hot and I told them I am not Islamic, they don’t seem to mind.

The Women’s Garden

 There is a well 10 meters from my hut where I get my water. I am fortunate as the proximity to the river means the water table is relatively shallow here(about 10 meters). There are many animals in Koulari, probably more animals than people: chickens, goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, guinea fowl, cats, dogs, pigeons. People take good care of their animals. Often times animals serve as a form of accrued wealth, perhaps the only form of investment.

Goats Are Everywhere!

I’ve enjoyed living here so far, even if I don’t have electricity or running water, I make do. I am thankful for the things I have brought with me and stuff people send me. Koulari is small, quiet, and an excellent place to volunteer! Feel free to visit anytime, we are very hospitable!


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