Are ya ready big fella?!

Ruby Levin - Senegal


October 28, 2019

OH HEY THERE!

Long time no see! Wait… you can’t see me, but if you could, let me tell yah; I am covered in 53 pink mosquito bites (I count them when I’m bored), my skin is multiple shades of brown which makes me look as though I’m an ombre iced coffee. My feet are as tough as ever and I seem to have caught a tanline of my sandals onto them. My head is covered in red long box braids that are holding on for their dear life, and my brain looks as though it might just explode from a Wolof overload any minute! Time here so far (52 days and counting…) has been full of many “Wows!” and many “Waaws!”-yes in Wolof.

My name is Ruby Levin/Amina Tine, welcome to my blog! 🙂

As you read, come in with an open mind, let these words place you in my shoes (most of the time I’m not wearing any), and relax and enjoy these moments, lessons, and experiences I illustrate of my bridge year here in Senegal.

2 months before departure to Stanford

My friend and I decided to catch the 12 am screening of The Lion King. I sit in the velvet movie theatre chair squeezing my hand with my legs crossed anxiously. Tears as salty as the bowl of popcorn I grip in my hand begin to pour down my face. I am sobbing watching a PG movie?! I mean to be quite honest it was the scene where Simbas father died, but oh man I’ve never cried like this! I realized at this time all of my emotions were as sensitive as a bubble!

  2 months before saying a temporary “goodbye”to the windy city and all my closest family and friends, I decided to prepare myself in the most ridiculous ways possible because I was having trouble taking to reality the fact that what’s been ahead of me was coming soon.

One way of preparing was watching The Lion King! (I say ignorantly) A few others were taking shorter showers, not using headphones while traveling, watching all my TV shows with French captions (that counts as studying right!), hanging out with my best friends as frequently as time allowed, eating a lot of greasy fast food I wouldn’t find in Senegal, conditioning myself to not being afraid of killing bugs, spending less time on my phone, and getting ready to get comfortable in the uncomfortable. All these things, both big and small, I felt could help prepare me for the next 8 months of my life.

But now that I’m here, I have to say nothing could have prepared me for this!

Nothing could have prepared me for the BEAUTY of Senegal. The sunsets look as though they are painted by the people here themselves. With their wondrous undertones of the deep overpowering red along with the backsplash of the nightly blue sky, as the white fluffy clouds capture the last tints of color the sun has to give. As I ride in the crowded rusty taxi I see baobab trees, all tangled up and quirky as they stand. The naturally vibrant greens of the land, from the grass, to the tall obnoxiously wide leaves that dance in the shy wind. At night, the stars glisten, almost as though somebody spilled a cup of diamonds in the sky. The shadows from the footprints and scrambled events of the day display in the sand by the setting sun as the day comes to an end.

Nothing could have prepared me for the TERENGA in Senegal. From speaking in my broken scattered sentences in Wolof and seeing peoples’ faces light up. From the little broken conversations that spark daily greetings and friends .The lovingly aggressive handshakes and high fives I receive from my family members when I return home. The motherly love of my “Yaay”, as she helped me tuck my mosquito net into my bed the whole first week I arrived. My younger siblings who follow me like shadows as we communicate through smiles and silly faces. The reciprocated amount of affection, shared laughter and bright genuine smiles has been contagiously uplifting and has created a magical positive- good-vibey environment.

Nothing could have prepared me for the PESTS in Senegal. The continuous slapping and random claps that echo down the hallways as we motion to kill the many glittery flies. The unexpected, and very messy roommate “Jerry the mouse”, along with the many cockroaches both huge and small that decided to share my space with me! The mosquitoes that wait buzzing outside my bed net, who sound like a small hungry unorganized symphony.

Nothing could have prepared me for the SENSES of Senegal. As my family and I sit and eat around the bowl, grease drips from their hands as they scoop mounds of rice and Ceebu Jin into their mouths. My teeth vibrate from the little unexpected bites I take to the fish bones hidden in the steamy rice. We sip hot little glasses of bubbly frothy attaya in the cool shade on the sandy woven mat. Then in the morning, and just as it’s getting dark, we fill up plastic buckets with crisp cold water and take turns taking bucket showers, which have me saying “I will never take a hot shower again!”

Nothing could have prepared me for the SIGHTS of Senegal. Walking in my neighborhood, I see beat down rusty four wheelers that waddle in the sand. Goats and sheep twitch to shoo off flies as they chew and gnaw at garbage and plants. In the morning they take their sweet time strolling throughout the neighborhood. Yet, once the day is at its utmost hottest peak, they huddle as they pant and gather to lean on the cold stony walls in the shade. Tired horses and donkeys pull built up wooden structures with wheels that carry bouncing passengers whose long clothes flap in the wind. Strong women covered in layers of thin patterned fabric, ever so slightly balance heavy buckets on their heads as their feet brush through the sand.

Nothing could have prepared me for the SOUNDS of Senegal. Right outside my window, as the night is getting chill, the sheep in my family’s stable waddle about and have raaaambunctious conversation. As I sit in my room and fall asleep, over in the living room, I hear the kids rustle and position the plastic chairs on the tile floor while music plays from the channel “TNT events”. Over in the kitchen outside the ground shakes as my Tanta cooks and smashes up beesap with the wooden bowl and large stick, and it sounds as though she does it on beat. In the Tailor Shop, my boss hums and pridefuly belts out music from the loose signal on the radio. Above our heads, on the thin metal ceiling we hear the old tree branches leaves tickle the roof, and birds hop and skip like little needles. In the day, over at the white and teal Mosque, a man goes on the mike and gives his every last breath to worship in prayer. His voice bounces through the neighborhood for everyone to hear. My mothers’ strong voice yells loudly from across the compound “Aminaaa!”, as she calls me. It is 9:36 pm, we sit on the cold cement floor on the woven mat, spoons and hands scrape up the last remnants of dinner on the tin wide bowl, three feral cats sit gracefully and happily share the last fish bones, bugs dance and twirl in the gray light above head, another amazing day in Senegal comes to an end…

Prepping, expecting, and overthinking came before me as I worryingly asked myself how to prepare for these 7 months in Senegal, but I’ve finally realized; nothing could have prepared me for the BEAUTY, TERENGA, PESTS, SOUNDS, SIGHTS, SENSES and LOVE here, and that’s just the beauty of it all. How can you prepare yourself for such an eye-opening, amazing adventure like this you may ask? I realized all I needed was to be ready, and all I needed was my bravery, open-mind, positive mindset, outgoing personality, just myself, and a suitcase of course.  I can’t wait for the next 5 months to come, …I am ready!

Jamm ak jamm!

-Amina Tine  🙂

( My 19th Birthday! Celebrated with some fellow friends and my huge family. Thats my Yaay!)

( Eating Ceebu Jin! )

Ruby Levin