A while back (at least 9 months ago) the wheels were put in motion with the idea of living abroad. It's always something we've talked (and even joked about on one level for years but were challenged by the concept of making it happen) - so Manning started researching - he works for a non-profit called Techsoup -- and it all started with a good friend and colleague in his company that made a trip to Senegal along with another colleague who was from Burkina Faso (geography lesson here!). That led to a contact, which led to more contacts and more conversation and before I realized it -- the compass was not pointing to France (of which we were quite familiar with bike trips and house exchanges there) but Africa - a continent I never put on my radar. Then Manning talked with his company - they basically said - if you want a sabbatical we'll have a job for you when you return - they really like and respect him in the orgnaization. Major hurdle removed. Then I thought about my soap business and all my efforts to start the company - I'm really proud of what all has been accomplished with A Slice of Delight -- yet I thought to myself would I make A Slice of Delight be a barrier to not going for one year. After I worked through my sense about it all - I realized I would know what to do when I return. And have the confidence that I can just pick up where I left off with it - but there will be work of course to get the momentum going again. Along the way we applied to some French schools in Dakar (the capital of Senegal) and our kids were accepted - yet another roadblock removed - as they had to be accepted to an equivalent French/Senegalese school overseen by the French Education Ministry. In line with the curriculum at our kids school here in Berkeley (Ecole Bilingue) so there is a smooth transition back a year later. The admissions director of our kids current school was instrumental in helping us pave the way. We could not have done it without her. The last dynamic for the most part was the rental of the house and what felt like the eleventh hour getting this last piece in place- we heard from an ideal family from Denmark ready to take it over. A couple of mishaps with other potential renters fell through prior and that was deflating however - in the end - the Danish couple with 3 year old child was to only come with suitcases in hand and can care for our cat Houdini - was actually the best scenario!! Also their visa requires them to leave by July 31st, 2012 - so we know with Berkeley being such a 'pro-tenant' city we could avoid any unforeseen issues regarding our return. The last thing on our list was buying the airline tickets (and with the help of my husbands cousin who is in the travel industry- she can decipher any airline industry code!) and of course with us all being of sound mind and health - we would be headed to this develping country with alot to learn. When we arrive we will seek some support to find some temporary housing near our kids school in Dakar. And do our best to get oriented.
Manning and I will continue to take French lessons - the official language (and pick up Wolof too - a national African/Senegalese language). We'll be there along the way with Parker and Addison's attendance at their new school. And with the contacts Manning has made - we will likely be doing some volunteer work from supporting the conversion of a small non-profit software tool from French to English, fixing laptops for a program called One Laptop Per Child at this school outside of Dakar --> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPUXj7EqGWw - a must view, teaching basic computer skills to adults, Habitat for Humanity activities, perhaps teach English depending on needs of community centers or even our kids school which will be taught in all french. OR maybe even help woman start businesses!
Is this crazy - well of course it is - yet at the same time we've figured out that the cost (or savings) of not sending our kids to their current French school in Berkeley, taking the funds from renting the house and savings - we can accommodate and finance this year abroad in this country.
Let the adventure begin....