California Cob comes to Senegal Village!

Yène Kao is a traditional Lébou fishing village just an hour south of Dakar where Hans and Roos, the Dutch hosts of CruzinCobGlobal’s first month-long cob building workshop in Africa, have leveled out the upper part of their plot to build the first salvaged tire foundation/cob and sandbag house in Senegal.

Prepping the tire foundation for cob with toothy laterite rocks

Prepping the tire foundation for cob with toothy laterite rocks

With 100 feet of cob walls built using their own ochre and brown clay soils dug up to create their 10-foot deep septic tank and added to local sand and straw, the house build is a very visible model of sustainable locally-sourced and affordable construction for the passers-by to witness each day.  Hans and Roos moved to Senegal 4 years ago to create a non-profit called Studio Placemakers, in which they team up with locals to create attractive and artsy functional public spaces from abandoned and unkempt land.  The building of their house is an opportunity for Senegalese and foreign students to come together and learn cob building while erecting the walls of their house.  The tire foundation was built the week before the cob workshop began by Ecomen 3000, a local non-profit that has trained people to build tire foundations all over Senegal.

All the students coming from Europe and the US are living in two rented houses right in the middle of Yene Kao, right on the beach, and each day walk to the build site after breakfast getting ready to make their 6 daily batches of cob with their Senegalese counterparts.  Everyone is new to this material, even the Africans,

The Afro-American Cob Dance

The Afro-American Cob Dance

who have forgotten the art of earthen construction through the last few generations and are amazed at how hard and simple the cob is.  Yesterday was our second day of wall building and it seems everyone is getting it quite quickly.  The 7 foot walls will go up quickly with this 20-people strong workforce, the hot and dry climate and the quick-drying mix which is rock hard after only a few days of drying.


Early morning run below the gorgeous ochre, orange, red and purple Gareye cliffs

Each morning at 5am the Imam prayer calls from the beachfront Mosque wake me to my meditation time.  Sounding like Sanskrit mantras, the repetitive chants are a soothing reminder of Gratitude and Love for the day to come.  Early morning workouts on the beach are communal and I am met by the other healthy bodies jogging back and forth on the sand in their soccer garb as I spread my yoga mat out to welcome the morning in Africa.  The big yellow disc rises over the land behind me highlighting the palm trees shading the village houses.  The small and large children call out their morning greetings: “Toubab! Toubab! Ça va?” “Oui, ça va bien. Nangadeff?” “Mangui fi! Yanguisi jam?” “Jama rek”….and on and on.  Greetings in Senegal are indispensable.  They are a sign of spirituality, education and politeness.

At 8am Sissy has the breakfast ready that will launch our day.  Watermelon, rice cereal, round Moroccan bread, local exotic baobab, green lime and cashew apple jams decorate the morning table and welcome us to a new day.  The Tai Chiers arrive and soon the long wooden tables are a bubbly atmosphere of laughter, stories and happy smiles.  IMG_5297Oliver calls the warning bell and at 8:50am more or less we are off to the site across the road,  where we meet up with our Senegal counterparts waiting with big welcoming smiles.  Sometimes we have to remember we are in Africa because we are a little bubble of a family enjoying our learning vacation here in Senegal.  Walks through the old village at night, down the beach or on the road through the line of fishing villages bring us back to the reality of Africa.  My favorite times have been when I am not visible and can watch the Africans in their daily activities without my presence interfering.  On two occasions I could not help but follow the African drum sounds at night and ended up once  in the middle of the whole village celebrating their Soccer Championship with IMG_5318wild drumming and dancing and another time watching a very whiny and endless Baye Fall chant accompanied by drumming and ritualistic stepping movements that went on all night.  I love those moments. True Senegal. True Africa. A lifelong dream come true.