Chapter 7: Some Cheese for Thanksgiving Dinner

Xandra Coleman - Senegal


November 21, 2018

People tend to be most thankful when they experiance a thing’s absence,
addition, or it’s unexpected aid. I am no different. Upon coming to
Senegal, I found myself thrusted into a new world where things I’ve always
had, I no longer had easy access to, things I’ve never know became common,
and in a strange country full of challenges for a new resident, I found
unexpected aid when I most needed it. Therefore, there are plenty of things
for me to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season, and I’d like to share
my top six with you.

1.

More than mere access to medical care, I am thankful my family lives in
a country with easy and widespread medical knowledge. I have now seen too
many people come into the clinic with horrible injuries due to unchecked
diabeties. Detremental effects of the condition that could have been
prevented if they only understood, yes, bread can raise your blood sugar,
and no you shouldn’t be eating that either. I have seen infections on
little kids that could have been prevented had they been educated on how to
clean and cover a small wound. It is information which in the US is easily
researched on google, if not common knowledge. I am thankful for what I now
understand to be a priviledge.
2.

I am thankful for the ability to communicate in my own country and in my
own language with ease. Not everyone can. I think of people with non-verbal
autism, speach impediments, people who are deaf and may be restricted to
communicating in sign language, a language not widely known, or even
immigrants stuggling with learning a new language in a new country. Having
now experianced the incrediable frustration of being unable to express
myself, connect with people through words, and understand what is going on
around me, I have a new found appreciation for my ability to communicate
with ease back in the States, and I contain a new empathy for those that
can’t.
3.

I am thankful to have attended schools with plenty of resouces and small
classes. For sure the kids here are getting a satisfactory education, and I
am surrounded by examples of amazing teachers. However, it wasn’t until I
helped teach a 50 person class that I realized how lucky I was to have
attended classes half that size throughout my entire educational career
thus far. The fewer the pupils means the more questions you can ask, the
more direct help you can get from the teacher, and the harder it is to fly
under the radar. I also never before realized how awesome it is that I had
my own personal textbook and exercise books in school. I didn’t have to get
hand cramps writing down the exercises for homework, and I had access to
all I needed to study within that textbook I could open whenever I wished.
Furthermore, let us all be thankful for those amazing teachers we have had
in our schooling careers. I believe everyone reading this can atest to how
the teacher can make or break a class no matter the size, resources, or
subjects.
4.

I am thankful for little kids. Okay, so while here, I have come to
realize what a true double edged sword kids can be, however, since this a
blog on thankfulness, let us focus on the positive edge. Kids have saved my
life and mental health. Just last weekend we had a scare because we
couldn’t find my little sister. It was already passed sun down when I
walked home from the naming ceremony. I was told Assé had gone home earlier
with her cousin, but when I arrived, I quickly discovered Assé wasn’t
there. I rushed back to the place of the party. As I walked in, a group of
guys kept harassing me to come over, obviously not reading the stress on my
face. So over to the group of kids I went. (In Wolof) “Can you help me, I’m
looking for my little sister Assé”. They immediately got on board, dragging
me inside and scattering around to look. When it was clear she wasn’t
there, and I was headed back home, one girl looked at me, told me it was
dark and proceeded to have the whole group of children walk with me. A
little girl about four grabbed my hand as one of the guys from earlier came
up to me trying to walk me home himself. When I got back to the compound,
the children explained the situation to my yaay before heading off. It
turned out Assé had proceed to go to the other naming ceremony down the
street. God bless the kids.
5.

I am thankful for my community of support, from family to friends new
and old, American and Senegalese. To my American community: I have dearly
appreciated every letter, text, financial donation, and words of
encouragement. To my Senegalese community: thank you for your every ounce
of patience, act of kindess, and for taking me in. I wouldn’t have thrived
thus far without you all by my side.
6.

Lastly, I am thankful for washing machines. I am so bad at hand washing
my clothes, and goodness it is exhuasting.

What are you thankful for this season?

Xandra Coleman