I Wonder…

Kedisha Samuels - Senegal

October 7, 2010

Even with a set definition the question can still be asked, what does it mean to be content? What does it mean to be satisfied with what you have and the position you play in life?

I often find myself brooding over these 
questions and the truth is the answer will defer for everyone. I like
to look at it from an external point of view, where the material
things are what seem most important; and then from an internal point
of view where your feelings and thoughts are what matter.

My stay here in Dakar, Senegal for the past few days has made me more 
aware of how culture plays a significant role in the ‘happiness’ of
 individuals. The uneven sidewalks are occupied by people trying to
 sell everything from fruits to calling cards, and taxi drivers waiting
 to pick someone up; ultimately leaving little to no room for its 
intended purpose. A stop light to regulate traffic does not exist and
 car exhaust is the new oxygen.

Nevertheless, despite these 
inconveniences you find men seated under trees enjoying random
 conversation, determined pedestrians navigating their own way through
 the streets, and children smiling as they pass you by. How you manage 
to stay buoyant when the conditions around you encourage the opposite 
is beside me. Or maybe it just seems like that from the outside
looking in, and there is indeed a reason to be upbeat after all.

The man that has a family to feed is persistent in his efforts to
accumulate a few francs by the end of the day, so you become his
target. His goal is to make you buy what he is selling even if that 
means following you down the road in the sweltering heat. You reply
 “Non, merci” (No, thank you) or “Babeneen” (Next time) but still he
follows, willing to negotiate his price and entice you. Whether or not
you accept his offer at least he tried. I like to call Senegal the
land of negotiations because a simple “No” is never accepted…we can
always work something out.

That state of mind might actually be what keeps everyone going on a
day to day basis. That hope and that belief that it worked before and
it will work again. That respect for traditional methods of doing 
things and traditional life.

I cannot help but wonder though is it that Senegalese people are
 content with the way things are, or have they settled for it?  Is the 
maid really satisfied with making money by living in another family’s 
home, while her presence is missed by her own family in the village?
 Does the little boy that begs feel confident begging or has it become 
his duty?

Kedisha Samuels