Crossing Borders

Kedisha Samuels - Senegal


November 15, 2010

I don’t think that van would have passed a car inspection back in the states. In fact I know it wouldn’t have. Not with the door constantly flying open during the drive. The seats were unsteady and the glass in the window was cracked. The busboy poking me in my back repeatedly urging me to get on is what caused me to move. I rolled my eyes once then climbed on. There were twenty people seated shoulder to shoulder including myself, I counted.

The inside of the vehicle was swarming with flies as they seemingly looked for seats as well. But there was none, so they pitched on us. I conveniently sat perched on a bench in the center of the bus with no place to brace my back on. The man behind me coughed and I resisted the urge to say something as I felt a speckle of spit hit my arm. My host mother Yaye Olay coughed, then the lady in front of us, and another gentleman in the back. Cover your mouth I thought. They were taking this teranga thing a little too far because they were sharing everything including their germs.

We almost hit a man on a bicycle, almost ran over a bystander, and drove on both sides of the street as recklessly as one can imagine. The bus came to a halt when police officials dressed in army fatigues stopped to inspect the bus. The lights went on and the only thing I thought at that particular moment was, Damn…this is going to be a long ride.

In the ‘Big Apple’ things happen. People dream of coming to the big city to do something. Start a new life, pursue goals, chase a dream, and maybe make a dollar or two. It is a place of inspiration a place that encourages prosperity and entrepreneurship. Sky scrapers, busy streets, congested bus and subway stations as people wait for public transportation, and lights, lights, lights! The city that never sleeps. Everything is fast paced and you would certainly have to be lying if you said there was ever a dull moment in a place like this.

Ross Bethio is a small community with somewhere close to six thousand inhabitants. This little town comprises mini markets, huts made from straw, randomly stationed boutiques, and one paved road that runs throughout its entirety. It is quite common to find yourself strolling along the same path with turkeys and donkeys, or to engage in one-sided conversations with sheep as they make bleating sounds directed your way. Life here is pretty predictable as you tend to engage in the same routines daily. Nothing really changes…well except for the intensity of the heat from day to day. But you get the point.

Everyday Yaye Olay spends the majority of her time at home cooking and cleaning, otherwise known as housework. Everyday merchants open up their market stands positioning themselves at the forefront of it in the pelting heat, even when they do not receive customers. Everyday tailors hover over sowing machines to make traditional African clothes. Everyday children run around on the garbage filled ground at all hours of the day. Everyday animals roam the streets as if they own them. And every day I find myself taking in these common occurrences, wondering when I will not be able to foretell what my day is going to be like.

This is life for me here in Ross Bethio. Although a month ago I could have told you that what I am experiencing now would happen, living in the moment makes everything so real. Almost like when someone dunks water on you in the morning, you really wake up. Well now I’m awake and I need some action—but I won’t get any.

Where’s the spontaneity? There is none. This is just not that kind of place. I am trying to get myself out of this mindset…this empire state of mind. Where you live expecting the next day to bring you something new or where you simply do what you want.

Life in the country, or rather life in Senegal.  People live like this their whole lives. Everyone knows everyone and in such a small setting there is little room for change when everyone has the same mindset.

Where’s the surprise? There is none. Tomorrow I will wake up as the sun rises to begin yet another day into the un—I mean the already known.

Kedisha Samuels