Forward, Into the Field

Samuel Parson - Senegal


October 12, 2011

Hey, so I’ve titled this article ‘Forward, Into the Field’ because “the field” is the name that Global Citizen Year found for the place where we the fellows call “home” for our 6 month stay while we work through our apprenticeships. The range for these places of ‘nesting’ is actually pretty wide. Some fellows are placed within cities, small islands, varieties range to being even within the deep jungle. Me, my village, my country, is actually within a field. In my case, going Forward, Into the Field makes a whooole lot of sense. Here though, Senegal would rather hear me say it in her native tongue, Wolof.  So with my arms raised as pillars holding up the sky, I say to Senegal, “Suba mangi dem sama dekk, Butlamine. Tomorrow I set off for my country, Butlamine.”

Now let me tell you a little something about the village of Butlamine. The place is rural, the place is hot, and then on top of it all, the place drives work, hard. My village life is a golden example of how down-to-earth life is really lived outside the of rich first-world borders of the USA. I mean, Butlamine has no electricity, oven-stoves, showers or toilets; our water even comes from underground wells! But man, the people are still so happy!  So with heart-felt honesty I confess, as far as I can see, Butlamine resides within perfection for those families that reside in this place.

I actually had trouble deciding how to describe “these families” deciding between the words people, citizens, even inhabitants in the paragraph above. I went the way I did because in Butlamine everyone is literally family, with one exception being me, the adopted one. Butlamine holds two big families of about 30 to maybe even 40 roughly approximated family members to both one of two last names, making the village total population about 70, with a lot of kids, mostly kids actually but also a lot of nieces and nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles, and so on. Strolling over the soft sand of the village floor, you wouldn’t know who’s an immediate family member as opposed to being only distant relatives, or even passing traveler for that matter, because of the ‘Teranga’ within the culture. Teranga is upheld as the most important of all customs and is defined as open-heartedness, hospitality, even love, as a friend, for your fellow man and woman. Senegal’s people may not be the most wealthy in wallet, but the country and its people as a whole are indeed far richer than most any king with hearts held up high by, Teranga.

I hope you’ll excuse me for that healthy side-step but my new family of Butlamine deserves no less, that’s Teranga at work for you! So Butlamine, this place is so great! It’s got a lot of goats, chickens, and a good few donkeys and too few but strong horses, with a large grass field on one side for them all to feed and grow upon. On the other side you’ve also got an exceedingly large peanut and black-eyed-pea farm growing on. Of course I speak with reason, and by this I mean that you won’t hear me lie. My village grows food to feed its families and also to provide payment and wealth through the export of peanuts and beans, only after the village families have enough to eat, of course. Believe me, the men and women alike really do both labor over the fields to insure the welfare of lively-hood within farm to shower abundance of benefit over, not only its families but also their wallets.  I most definitely look forward to working beside my families on the fields to benefit us all in the end. I’m also actually looking ahead with visions of a greener tomorrow in hopes that I have something new to bring and humbly bestow upon the table, or mat as the Senegalese would, to give back to my family for their open hospitality and Teranga to me.

Could you believe, that after all that I’ve seen in the world from the royal and luxurious palaces of Spain, to the thriving and ever-singing richness of the Amazon rain-forest, that I, still a boy before the mountain that is life, would be through-the-roof excited to experience life on the edge between wealth and wither. Could you believe that I am even more excited that for once my alarm clock will be the rooster’s crow, and that my payoff will be paid in full with many a night of friendship and loud-laughter  under a full starry night’s sky. A year ago I wouldn’t have believed even a dream of hint at this blessing of flowering fortune. So now with my arms still raised up as pillars holding up the sky, I say in Wolof to that mountain that is life, “Pare na sama xarit, nyungi dem“, I’m ready my friend, let’s go, and then begin my ascent. And as the phrase before is sounded, is now followed in thought by my language of Portuguese in which, “para nao” means, don’t stop. For my father, for my poetry and together all my art, with all my muscle and all my heart, I will not.

Samuel Parson