A Day in the Life

Emily Collins - Senegal


January 9, 2013

I wake up slow. Drifting between my dream and reality, I let my mind slowly awaken before my body. I turn off my alarm, gradually lifting my body and do a series of stretches before I even open my eyes. I give myself time each morning to reflect on the day that passed, and prepare for the day ahead. I take a moment to pray for my family back at home, to pray for my family in Joal, and for inner strength courage and wisdom for this day and each to come. I do chakra to rebalance my energy and then head outside to take breakfast. Each morning I have a piece of baguette with jam and a cup of coffee. I stand and look into the ocean, watching massive boats passing slowly, or listen to waves crashing gently. Then I am off.

I work at two kindergartens, depending which day of the week it is. One is full of children who are now under protection by the Women’s Association of Joal-Fadiouth, a group of determined, whole-hearted, wonderful women. Most of the children were in bad conditions, and now are placed in a new family with food, security, safety, and an education. Each day I come in I get greeted with a massive amount of handshakes and “Bon Jour Tata Ami!” It lights up my world. We now have begun the days with me getting the kids moving around, stretching, racing; follow the leader, and any other game I can remember from my childhood gym classes. After that we take the 40 students, section them off, some to practice writing, drawing, or reciting poems. After snack time, we continue school until 1 o’clock where I am beyond exhausted for trying to keep up with the kid’s energies. At that time we clean up the classroom and I head home for lunch.

This is the hottest time of the day, where it is spent melting in the sun. My sister and I come home around the same time were we eat a big meal with my Senegalese mother as well. Since, I live on the coast, most days we get the pleasure of eating the freshest fish with some sort of rice, couscous, and sauce. At this time, my sister Bandel and I like to hang out before she heads back to school. We will make freshly squeezed juice, help clean, dance, or simply watch our favorite soap operas. At 3 o’clock she heads back to school. At this time, I take time to reflect. Reflecting, patience, and appreciation are such important concepts I have learned to grasp with my time here. I will either journal, study my French or Sereer, take a nap, or talk with my Senegalese mother about an array of topics. Then, at 5 o’clock my tutor, and great friend, comes to my house. Although we do spend an hour learning and practicing French or Sereer, he normally will end up staying far over, talking about life, cultures, dreams, and achievements we had throughout the day. As learning new languages is something that does not come easily to me, this is actually one of the best times of my day. Learning with my tutor is amusing and vital.

When Bandel arrives back from school, we like to do a series of exercises, mainly laughing at each other attempting to do them. We are both so tired by the end, and end up collapsing on the couch as my mother walks by just giggling to herself. At this point, it is the moments I live for here in Senegal. My nights here are beyond simple, and incredibly significant. Me, Bondel, and my mom will pull out a mat, sit down, and just talk. Embrace each other’s differences, and connect. They like correcting my horribly spoken French, and Bondel likes learning English. We slowly make our way to the kitchen and begin slicing potatoes, striking the gas, and preparing dinner. This is the time when I learn. I learn about their culture, their traditions and their value in family. When I watch my mother and Bondel, her granddaughter, interact it is so special. They care for each other so much; it reminds me of what it means to love. Regardless of how slow, fast, easy or hard the day was, the nights are peaceful and filling. The wave’s crash, the stars light the sky, and I cannot help but be so content in all that I am. After dinner, we watch the news until our eyes begin to feel too heavy and head off back into our dreams. Each night my head hits the pillow I fall asleep without a second thought. My days here are simple but sometimes struggling, slow paced but intense. Each small moment adds up to a whole lot, like each drop in the ocean creating a vast, dense, irreplaceable entity.

Emily Collins