Miknas Returns after Decade Abroad

Madeleine Singh, Staff Writer

Freshman Fatou Miknas speaks 4 languages and goes to New York every summer to live with her dad.

But perhaps most interesting is that Miknas spent 10 years living with relatives in West Africa’s Gambia, which has a population of roughly 1.8 million people. “I moved there [from Oakland] when I was 2 so I could spend time with my grandma, aunt, and uncle,” said Miknas.

Miknas is fluent in English and knows a lot of French, along with the African languages Wolof and Serahule. She lived in the coastal Gambian suburb of Fajara. “My favorite thing about Fajara is that it’s such a tight community; everyone knows each other, and there are a lot of parties and fun celebrations that people host for the whole town,” said Miknas. 1 of her favorite traditions in Africa was a holiday which Miknas described as “like Halloween, except instead of candy, we got money. It’s always really fun, and we celebrate it here at home sometimes.”

Other things she loves about her African community are “camps you can attend, horseback riding on the beach, and the food is amazing. The people are so nice and welcoming, it’s a great place.” The camps offer classes in poetry, sewing African clothing, African dancing, cooking African food, and more. “We also take trips to farms and important businesses in Gambia,” Miknas added.

She returned in 2013 because her mother, who lived in Walnut Creek, wanted Fatou to attend a good school. “I thought it would be hard to adjust, but it really wasn’t. In Gambia, we mostly spoke English,” Miknas said.

Now in Moraga, Miknas is flourishing, despite missing about a month of school in the beginning of the year when she was still in Africa. “Fatou is the most fun and beautiful person I know,” said her friend, sophomore Patricia Bagalihog. “I can always get an opinion out of her. And she knows all my secrets… I think,” Bagalihog added. “I love spending time with her, and we’re never bored.”