Blinded by the trash

Kaya Hartley - Senegal

March 6, 2012

I still remember my first impression of my village. When I looked at Potou through the rolled down window as we were driving through my senses were overcome. All I could smell was burning trash, rotting trash, and fish. All I saw were dirty animals cluttering the trash filled streets, barefoot children running around, fly infested chunks of raw meat hanging from hooks, and women sitting on the ground with their fish, cabbage, and onions spread out in front of them to sell. I felt nauseous, sad, and upset that there were people living in such conditions. I had formed an opinion of Potou, I hated it. I found it overwhelming and depressing. But at that time, I hadn’t known that it was Potou, I had thought it was just a polluted village we were passing through to make our way to my much nicer- peaceful village. We dropped off a fellow at his village on the beach, turned the car around, headed back into Potou, and stopped the car. I was then informed that this place that I had already grown to hate would be my home for the next 7 months.

Now every time I return home to Potou, whether by catching a ride with the ambulance, walking, or taking the ‘auto’ (being squished in the back of a truck on a wooden bench with 27 other people) seeing my village excites me. The trash is still there, the sides of the streets are still covered in piles of fish, but my view of Potou has become so much more. Potou is a place full of character and interesting people. Beyond the grungy marketplace there are gorgeous fields of onions, cabbage, and carrots. 2 miles from my house there is a seemingly endless white sanded beach that one would only expect to see as a screensaver.  The barefooted children I once viewed as an icon of poverty have become some of my best friends.  The relationships I have grown with the people of my village have helped me to open my eyes and change my perspectives.  I’m no longer blinded by my first impression.

Kaya Hartley