DAKAR, Senegal - What an amazing first day for the Husky players and team personnel as they visited Senegal on Thursday.
After arriving from Paris on Wednesday evening, the team checked into the Radisson Blu hotel right on the Atlantic Ocean. Waiting in the lobby was Aziz N'Diaye's family, including his mother and two sisters. It was heartwarming to see Aziz reunited with his family, who he had not seen in two years. Many of his teammates snapped pictures and took video of the reunion.
The team met in the lobby at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday and headed out to the Reserve de Bandia -- Senegal's most popular safari park. Along the way, the team got its first real glimpse of Senegal on the two hour drive out to the park. It was definitely a different world than most of the guys are used to. The infrastructure of the city, housing and transportation had to catch the eyes of the players on the bus.
In America we are so accustomed to the way we live that we ofter forget about the struggles many around the world make on a daily basis. But, as the tour guide pointed out, the people of Senegal are peaceful, friendly and enjoy their lives very much. The smiles and waves from people as we drove through the towns confirmed that sentiment. Everyone on the bus already knew that the people of Senegal are great...just look at Aziz!
After the long drive out to the park, the team piled onto three 4-wheel drive safari trucks and started out on their search for animals. The party was not disappointed. They were treated to visions of curious monkeys, brave ostriches, impressive giraffes, beautiful zebras, graceful impalas and huge rhinos...adjectives could not aptly describe the spectacle the group saw.
The travel party ate up the scene. They snapped photos and took videos at every turn. Hopefully when we return to the states, we can gather some of the groups' videos for all Huskies to see.
After the safari trip, the team headed to the city of Thies for lunch and then to the nearby SEEDS Academy where Aziz got his start in basketball. Aziz came back to the academy with a heroes welcome. The students and administrators of the academy greeted the team warmly and kindly. Aziz saw many former coaches and several of his fellow students.
The Huskies were introduced to the kids of the academy and then Aziz led his teammates in a quick clinic for the younger members. It was awesome to watch Aziz lead his teammates in providing tips to the eager students of the academy.
The team also appreciated the chance to see where Aziz came from. Aziz was the last one on the bus after the clinic concluded and his teammates applauded him as he mounted the bus. The team and kids from the academy equally enjoyed their experience.
The team bus then headed to a salt lake called Pink Lake. The lake has 10 times more concentration of salt in it than the ocean. Companies and locals gather the salt and prepare it on the shores to eventually sell it. The normal pink tint of the lake was missing because the sun was not fully out, but it was still a nice stop.
After that quick visit, the team spent two hours fighting through something all too familiar to Americans -- traffic! We arrived back to the hotel 12 hours after we left at 9:00 p.m.
Tomorrow, Aziz is taking the team to his house in the morning. The Huskies also have the final game of the tour at 5:30 p.m.
This trip has been an amazing experience for the players and personnel. Hopefully Husky fans have enjoyed our updates from the experience on Facebook.