Baby Steps

Ananda Day - Senegal


November 10, 2009

I sat watching baby Muhammad run (or waddle depending on your definition) across the courtyard and realized that while we are definitely opposites in almost every aspect, (I do no wake him up at ridiculous times in the morning each and every day); at this moment we are more alike than we ever will be.

See, we both want to do everything, and all at once. He wants to run up and down the stairs and tries to put his shoes on by himself. I already want to know every routine of ever day, what to do in all the different turtle situations, and how do things without asking everyone… just so that I can start learning and doing even more. Muhammad can now get in his rolly without falling, most of the time. So far I’m really good at raking turtle feces and feed for extended periods of time, weighing, measuring, bathing, and feeding baby turtles, and painting giant rusty metal barrels with oil paint.

We are both trying to figure out the world. Everything is new for him, something that hasn’t happened before, which is much the same for me. Except I come with a whole eighteen years of American baggage and experience. Even if I think I have ideas about how people work, they don’t really apply here. In a culture that is based on so many different things than the United States is, I, like Muhammad, have nothing to go off of. This week I tried to describe members of my host family to Rachel. But in doing this I used western constructs and references which came just from what I can see and understand (which is little at this point). These descriptions didn’t work because I didn’t know the reasons and history behind my family’s actions. What shocked and confused me was something that was normal, just not normal to me. If babies really are blank slates then, I must embody them and just take things in. Try not to judge, and only to see.

Then there is the language of course. While our vocabularies are different, we both talk in telegrams. In French I can talk about alleviating poverty, but I still forget to contract articles that a third grader would make fun of me for. In Wolof I can get basic ideas through, but the vast majority of my success relies on my fast improving hand motioning skills.

It’s a fact then: baby turtles, baby Muhammad, and baby Ananda. But hey, everything is easier the second time. Maybe that means I get to grow up faster too?

Ananda Day