Chapter 3: Gone with the Run

Xandra Coleman - Senegal


September 27, 2018

-A passage adapted from my journal on 23
September 2018-
It was one of those days. I’ve been gone away from home for almost a month
now, and I had one of those days. For starters, I’ve been perpetually sleep
deprived, and, well, we all know how most Colemans, especially me, do on
lack of sleep. I found myself getting frustrated while trying to become
accustom to certain cultural nuances. For instance, how it is completely
normal for the members of my family to use my one pair of flip flops
without asking, and how some days, after a morning of cooking or work you
may very well sit and do absolutely nothing all afternoon. I go stir crazy.
It was also one of those days where I was getting increasingly frustrated
having no idea what people were saying and lacking the vocabulary to
express my own thoughts. Basically, I was having a bad day. You know those?
So what do I do when I’m having a bad day? I run. I was originally running
in the morning when I first got here. Then my yaay told me to run in the
evening, so I had started running to the garage, where you get taxis, and
the market and back before dark. Today, however, my yaay decided that I
wasn’t to do either. Instead, I was to run laps around the sand dune block
of nearby compounds, and on top of it all, my little sister was to run with
me. I wasn’t too happy at first. I don’t enjoy doing laps if I can help it.
Furthermore, running has always been the time for me to run my own pace and
take the time to center myself, so if I run with other people, I prefer to
run with people who also go my pace and have my endurance. Not, bless her
heart, my 7 year old host sister. “A run is a run, a run is a run,” I
rehearsed it in my head as I threw on workout clothes. I couldn’t foresee
past my grumpy attitude that, yes, a run *is *a run, *every *run is a good
run, and *this *run was going to be just what I needed.
You see, when I got to the start of the block at 6:00 with my little sister
in tow, all the bats came out. It’s an amazing sight. Hundreds upon
hundreds of bats flocking out into the sky to the soundtrack of Lindsey
Sterling. I started running.
By the end of the first block I could feel my frustration slowly ebb away
as my sister’s energy quickly drained. She ran another lap with me before
opting to sit as I took a lap on my own. I began to notice all the other
young kids that were out. Some yelling “bonjour” or “tubob” (foreigner) as
I passed while others just stared. On the fourth lap, my sister rejoined me
with a horde of kids from my yaay’s sister’s compound. Around the third
bend, one of the little boys started crying, so I picked him up and gave
him a piggy back ride to the finish. Some of the kids joined me for lap
five, and others sat back down or joined the soccer game. I ran lap after
lap listening to the soundtracks of Les Mis and Rent or jamming out to
American Authors while my little sister habitually rejoined me.
Each time around I saw a new kid. A different boy would yell “bonjour” and
a different girl would call “Nanga def?” (How are you?). After thirty
minutes of slipping and sliding over the sand, I took off my shoes. It was
then that two young boys decided to “dawi” (run) with me. We raced one
length, and then stopped to do ten jumping jacks before starting another
lap. After once, twice around with these boys, a group of girls between
ages six to eight joined. We raced a stretch, did ten jumping jacks, and
gave high fives all around. Two more boys joined. Then another two girls.
High fives, Nanga def?, Mangi fi (I am fine), ça va?, ça va bien, Danga
soon? (are you tired), det det (no).
I was running for fifteen minutes with a flock of children from the
community. Old women laughing and nodding as we passed. At 7:00, I gave a
final round of high-fives to eager upturned faces. I repeated Mangi Nibbi,
Mangi Nibbi (I’m going home). All I heard in reply was laughing, smiles,
and “Ba Suba”, “Ba Suba?” (See you tomorrow?).
Ba Chickanam
A chorus of Ba Chickanam (see you later) said in reply.
I walked home with my little sister listening to “Do You Hear the People
Sing” and feeling completely re-energized.
I felt no frustration and no annoyance.
I was home again.

Xandra Coleman