I can’t believe that I am typing this blog to you, less than a month from the date I will move out of Sinchurio Samba Foula, the place I have called home for the last two years. I am living that part of my service that seemed so far away when I was eating that bagel in Washington, D.C., musing about what those next two years would hold for me. And now, like everything in life, this time has been fleeting and it is time to transition again. It is on to the next step, the next adventure, and while I can’t wait to begin in Dakar, I’m trying to live as much as I can in the moments of this next month with my American and Senegalese friends and family.
This means many things for me: It means throwing all of my physical effort into early mornings swinging a pick at the soft rainy season ground and evenings elbow deep in dirt, packing baby cashews, mangoes, papayas, and acacia into the ground. It means spending more time with my hut door open, reading stories to my kids even when I’m tired, and spending as much time with them as I can, whether that’s putting puzzles together, making them play dress up, or taking naps on my bed during the rain. It means smiling like a fool most of the time as I watch my family while they go about their normal lives, and wondering how I got so lucky that these people have been in my life for the past two years. It means making tapala French toast with my dear friend Ruth, and dallying way too long over too many cups of coffee in her hut. I go on walks in my woods, I do yoga, I ride my bike, I say hi to everyone, I try not to cry when Kumba sits on my lap and asks me to read her a story, when Boye chats with me at night about what he wants to be when he grows up, when Sidou and Malicke plant a tree just how I taught them and say, “Our big sister taught us this.”
Here are a few snippet stories from my last month in village.
#1: Story Time
After a few days in the big city of Tamba, I headed back to Sinchurio Samba Foula with my friend Andy in tow. He had finally succumbed to my persuasion and promises of Ruth’s hut cooking and Frisbee in the woods.
When we got to Sinchurio it was double the excitement after they got over the shock of having TWO giant blonde toubabs in their village and one of them, gasp,… A MAN. I unlocked my door and as usual, Kumba was the first one in and already demanding a story.
Sorry Andy, I said, they love the books and I’m a sucker.
Andy just shrugged good naturedly, They’re cute, he said.
As an American, I have the luxury of being able to tell a story at any time of day of the day, unlike Pulaars who believe their parents will die if they tell a story before dark. The kids take full advantage of this.
My usual crowd of children and brothers pretending not to be into the stories gathered around to hear the story of the Hyenas Chicken Stew. It is the Wolf’s Chicken Stew, but they don’t have wolves in Africa. Kumba jockeyed for position, throwing a sly elbow and muttering insults at her new step brother in order to get her usual spot aboard my lap, a place the shy and unsuspecting Paete hadn’t be aware she owned, being the newest member to the house.
#2: French Toast
Why is it always when things are coming to an end that we finally realize “Oh, What a life we have! Look at what it’s been, what we’ve done, me and this person next to me that I care so much about.”
These days it’s the little things. Ruth lives next to a road town crossroads which makes it easier to buy things like eggs, bread, soap, etc. on a daily basis. Recently, every time I have gone to work at Ruth and Mamjean’s master farm, we have also planned indulgent breakfasts. We spend a good deal of our time planning on how to make our minimalistic food options and cooking utensils turn into a five-star breakfast. Our most successful and delicious discovery has been tapalapa French toast. Turns out that the bread they make here is perfect for French Toast, especially when Ruth’s genius Mom sends organic maple syrup in a care package.
One morning, we decided it was too good to keep all to ourselves and that Mamajean, Ruth’s master farmer, and one of our very good Senegalese friends, should experience the magic of one of the ultimate American breakfast classics. We had Andy there as well and so beneath a tree on the master farm, we had ourselves a genuine breakfast party.
On that first taste of French toast, I thought about how we were sitting in the dirt, eating bread toasted over a coal stove burner, with flies buzzing around the syrup, and yet that this ranked among one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. Maybe I’ve tasted better French toast, but the fact that we had been creative in thinking and making this breakfast added to the taste and experience so that it was as good as any place out in an American city. Plus, the look on Mamjean’s face was priceless. The poor man can never go back to bean sandwiches now.
We weren’t taking for granted the experience. That’s probably one of the biggest things I’ve learned here.
The African rainstorm truly takes my breath away. The whole sky is a steely grey with clouds that roll as thick as dough and enhance the colors of the explosive green landscape and red dirt roads. There is an energy to the people and even the animals when a rain rolls in.
This last week when the rain broke, my whole family decided to race into my hut which we never do. I felt so much a part of the family because they had chosen my place to hang out. The women braided their hair, the kids read books and played music and I wrote. There were 9 of us in the hut, and yet I still felt so peaceful.
My Aunt sent some fun stick on mustaches which were a huge hit. Check out these pictures from a mustache fun time one afternoon with nothing to do.
The next time I write to you, I will be in Dakar, hopefully looking off my balcony at the ocean. I hope that you will continue to follow along with me on my next year here in Senegal, and discover the new cultural joys and challenges that I will certainly experience.