A Lesson in Patience

Maya Panicker - Senegal


November 6, 2015

"Things take the time they take. Don't worry. How many roads did St. Augustine follow before be became St. Augustine?" – Mary Oliver
I certainly hope St. Augustine remembered to bring a toothbrush and a change of clothes, because if he were maneuvering around Senegal he would never survive without them. Things take pretty long here. The Senegalese "take their time" on a whole new level.
This blog post is about one of the many examples of a day trip turned into many. Our mission (and we did choose to accept it): Go to Kedogou and find an internet cafe to finish college apps and post blogs. The task itself seems simple enough. we would take a car from Dindefelo (a village about 5k from my own and the home of another fellow) to Kedogou. the car ride should be about an hour long granted it doesn't rain the night before and the roads are not completely flooded. But here's the thing, its never that simple. Senegal has a way of slowing things down so much that even deciding to go on something that should be a day trip becomes quite the commitment. 
I woke up that warm, sunny Saturday morning to the sound of birds chirping and corn stalks swaying in the breeze. With our typical American sense of urgency Anita and i rushed around to pack our day packs with our electronics, money, and plenty of freshly purified well water. By a stroke of luck I thought to pack a spare change of clothes and my toothbrush, just for kicks and giggles. 
First on our to do list was to get ourselves some delicious oil and MSG sandwiches (bread stuffed with a deep fried, oil soaked egg, seasoned with an ultra-processed, packaged spice mixture called "nokkos"). The sheer amount of these sandwiches that we consumed was probably killing us from the inside out but BOY were they delicious. We walked up to the sandwich lady's stand, easily 4/5 stars if she had a Yelp page, and pointed to the bread, "buru," and eggs, "bofo," and hoped that she would understand what we were asking for. And she did. Maybe because we are masters at charades, but probably because that was one of the only two sandwiches she makes, the other being with beans, "niebe."
"Njorro!" she said motioning to the bench next to her. So we sat 
and waited
and waited
and waited
In the meantime she had made buru e niebe sandwiches for at least four other customers. Eventually our sandwiches were made and were so good that her transgression of not thinking I am the most important person in the world at that moment was forgiven. We paid her, thanked her, and made our way to the garage to get prime seating in the car leaving the earliest. A little background on the public car system in Senegal: there really is no system. you go to the "garage" and hope there is a car there going where you want to go. If you get that far, you sit and wait for the car (a 7 seater) to accumulate at least 11 people in it, and usually a baby and a goat or two, before it goes anywhere. 
So we sat in the car
and waited
and waited 
and waited
Fast forward to after we managed to go to an internet cafe, get lunch, and find a store that sold ice cream.
I leaned against the empty car in the hot afternoon between Anita and and old man holding a pocket Koran. Goats and cows with their newborn babies and skinny jean-wearing young men on motorcycles passed by with increasing frequency. I glanced down at my watch and read 5:45, beginning our second hour waiting for the car to leave. I looked to my left and saw the driver walking towards us. 
"Eng yahay jango bimbi," he said with an apologetic look on his face. We will leave tomorrow morning. Somehow I knew this was going to happen. I have come to be quite acquainted with waiting, as you have probably guessed by now. 
As he locked up the car and walked away, I looked over at Anita. As soon as we made eye contact, we both burst into laughter. We were tired, hot, and frankly quite delirious. 
"You know Maya, things take the time they take. How many roads did St. Augustine travel or whatever?" Anita said in tears. This quote from Pre-Departure Training had become somewhat of an inside joke to our cohort and made us laugh every time without fail. I tried to suppress my snorts and simultaneously keep from falling off the bench. It must have been quite the scene for the innocent bystander. Two strange foreign girls sitting in the middle of the garage laughing so hard they were crying and muttering things in a language they didn't understand. The whole situation was utterly ridiculous. 
Why do we find this quote so funny you ask? BECAUSE ITS SO TRUE.
Things really take the time they are going to take and sometimes they take a really long time. The proverbial public car of life sometimes just doesn't fill up in time for you to go home today, and that's okay. There's no use rolling your eyes and wishing they would hurry up. Life is teaching you to be patient. you just have to laugh like an idiot and come back to try again in the morning. 
So I don't really know the answer to the question. I don't know exactly how many roads St. Augustine took, and I don't know how long I will have to wait for this car to fill up, but I am not worried. I know that in the end, St. Augustine became St. Augustine, and I will eventually make it home. 

Maya Panicker