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Alexander Taylor - Senegal


January 17, 2019

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> In Wolof, one of the languages I’ve learned while in Senegal, there is a word, ‘Teranga’, that means hospitality. Hospitality, not just in the sense of welcoming, but in welcoming so graciously that one feels at home. The Terenga of my host family in Senegal and of my community has made me feel so at home, that I feel that I can contribute in a meaningful way.
> It’s morning in Darou Khoundass, Senegal and I awaken to the soft sunrise and breeze dancing through my window curtains. I take a moment to appreciate the stillness an proceed to start my day. I begin my stroll to the tailor shop, one of my apprenticeships and commence the morning rituals of the greetings and salutations that are fully and graciously reciprocated. Along the way, I stop by the bakery. Here, the baker knows me by name, not simply by a number waiting in line. I walk into his store and am handed a carefully wrapped loaf of fresh-baked bread, accompanied by his pride-filled smile. We converse in Wolof, the predominate language in my community. I thank him profusely and proceed on my journey. Greetings and appreciation are important and very much valued here.
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> I settle in at the tailor shop. Today I will learn how to create a Bouboo, (a traditional men’s garment) and then finish up a small dress. My instructor, goes over the importance of the details: the spacing, the alignment of the patterns, the quality of the stitches. He instructs me with patience and with pride. I’m learning to not only take pride in my large accomplishments that all can see, but in the details to which no one may pay attention. Thanking my tailor for his time, I walk back accompanied by the smiles of children kicking a soccer ball down the sandy path to my home. It’s midday in Darou Khoundass. Darou is not just a home it is a community.
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> I arrive home to nothing short of a feast prepared by my host mother. I eat the traditional cheb bu gin, (cooked rice and fish). We always pray before eating. My host family is Catholic, which is a minority religion in Senegal. Yet, whenever I mention who my host-mom is, I discover that she is a highly respected member in the community. After lunch, I change into my athletic clothes and run through the community. As I exit, I chat with my host brother. He has set up a space in the shade of the tree next to my house to sell clothes to those passing by. The informal economy reigns supreme in the sands of Darou.
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> While doing a four-mile run around the community, I greet other runners that nod and move to the side as I pass them. As I run ahead of one runner, he actually slows down to help encourage the runner behind me who is has slowed his pace to a walk. Onlooks smile and cheer. Again, I am reminded that this is a whole community. There is a silent respect amongst the running community in Darou. We are too, a family.
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> On the way back home, I notice a car stuck in the sand and trying to get back onto the main road. I run over to help him push that car and people all throughout come out and help me assist the driver. As he drives off, I take a moment to reflect and appreciate the Teranga, that empowers this community. And, I too am empowered.

Alexander Taylor