All That Glitters

Naomi Wright - Senegal


October 9, 2010

In French, the word for trash is ordure: the remains of a destroyed or broken up something, now worthless and fit only for disposal.

To contradict my previous post, the last four days have left me feeling, well, trashed. As I lay stewing in a pool of sweat this morning, trying to will the power (and my fan) back on, it occurred to me that Senegal is too foreign to be a true home for me.

I grew up on a buffalo farm in rural Oregon, and I’m now living in one of Africa’s largest metropolises. Its centre ville is lightning-paced, grunge-caked and packed to the max. Giving up vegetarianism when I left the States has meant eating sheep, beef, fish, and chicken, all copiously lopped on my plate by my overzealous host mom. Between tours of Dakar’s cartiers (neighborhoods), Wolof and French classes, Senegalese cultural lessons, acclimating to my host family, and trying to sleep in 95 degree heat plus humidity, it’s been difficult to make time to drink a glass of bissap juice, let alone focus on grounding my inner self.

Today though, I managed to squeeze in an hour of yoga, one of my normal sources of self-reflection. It led me to this question: What if one man’s trash could be his own treasure? This bridge year is shattering my conceptions of comfort and normalcy. It is hard and sometimes downright scary. But without challenge, I would have no impetus for growth. Without the craziness of life in Dakar, I wouldn’t understand the magnitude of a slow moment to myself. These thoughts allowed me to begin panning flecks of contentment from the silt I’ve been wading through.

When I got home this evening, my host mom and sister had cranked Youssou N’Dour (arguably the most famous African musical artist of our time and pioneer of the style mbalax) and were dancing despite the heat. Where before I might have been annoyed, today I grabbed four-year-old Marie-Jo’s hands, and started jumping in time to the beat. We ended up spinning in circles until I was on the ground, literally laughing uncontrollably.

When broken down, the French word for trash becomes or dure, or pure gold. My life is rich with dazzling moments; I just need to sift through the adversity to find them.

Naomi Wright