Common Ground

There is something extremely unique about children that cannot really be explained. It might be the innocence of their youth, their short attention spans, or how insensitive they can be to even the most serious things that grabs my attention. There is no judgment with them because they just simply live and be free. And for exactly those reasons I love them.

Throughout the three weeks that I have been living with my host family here in Dakar I have been trying to discover my place in the family.  Despite the ever so obvious communication barrier I do my best to express my interests in learning more about the family while informing them about myself and who I am. As is expected it does not always work out entirely the way I intend it to but with each day I learn what works and what does not. At times I feel as though I am merely just a guest, which I am, but I desire to be a little more integrated into the family.

On Sunday I awoke around lunchtime to my name being called so that I could come and eat. Not needing to be told twice I immediately hopped out of bed. For one I was extremely hungry and two, part of the reason I had been lying in the bed for so long was because I was bored. So eating meant automatic interaction with others and I didn’t mind that at all. Like usual I ate and sat around until everyone was finished, left to retreat to my room like a turtle does his shell for comfort.

However, this time instead of doing the norm and walking into the room I stopped in the hallway because Ibou (my host mom’s grandson) stood there bouncing his ball. He flashed me one smile and the next thing I knew I was throwing the ball towards his awaiting little arms. I found myself pretending to be a basketball hoop, making a circle with my arms that he aimed to make a basket with. That lasted for a while in the hallway before we decided to go outside and play.

In my plaid pajama sleep pants and tank top I played soccer with Ibou and had fun. I laughed as I ran back and forth kicking the ball, catching it, and rolling it back towards him. Sadly our adventures ended when I kicked the ball and it landed in the tree hovering above us. I went back to my room with a smile on my face…a smile of satisfaction. Although it was only for a short while I think that I made the most significant connection I had with anyone in the family in three weeks. And I accomplished that without words! Ibou the five year old did not care that I did not speak French or Wolof and he paid no attention to the fact that I was a foreigner. He saw me for me and did what he wanted to and for that I am grateful. His willingness to accept me and energetically welcome me to accompany him in his quests around the house warmed my heart in a way that I had not expected.
For the first time while being here I felt like I was on common ground.