I’m Still Here

I heard a thud behind me and my head jerked around. A few feet away I saw a rock. I looked up from the rock and saw a young kid in a dirty yellow shirt surrounded by a pack of other kids pointing at him. “He just threw that rock at me.” I thought. I felt scary calm. My jaw was relaxed, my shoulders were back, and my heart thudded in my chest. My eyes zeroed in on the kid in yellow’s face which somehow looked shocked, scared, and blank all at once. I started walking with slow purposefulness over to the kids. The kid in yellow ran over to his grandfather and the crowd of companions, which had somehow grown larger, raucously followed him. When I reached the group, I greeted every one, starting with the grandfather. I shook each of their hands one by one, asked their names, and wished them peace. I got to the kid in yellow last. He wouldn’t look at me. A kid I knew from soccer joined the group “Mane Alice Ndiaye! His name is Musa! He is so mean!” he told me loudly. Musa cowered behind his grandfather looking terrified. I asked him if he had peace. When he didn’t respond, I smiled at the group, told them I would see them later and continued on my way. God I felt sad. I almost cried once I was out of sight. But I’m still here. I’m still here because I believe pain, fear, frustration and even violence isn’t the end of the story. I believe in the moments after. In the moments after Musa threw the rock at me, I visited Ndig, the guard at the NGO behind my house, and his family. After I walked through the straw gates of his house, I was met by smiles, Serrer greetings, and the fat rolls of two month old baby Malik who was put in my lap. We had a lazy afternoon drinking Ndig’s ataya, ogling at Malik, and discussing the next phase of the family’s gardening project. Once the sun started dipping below the horizon, Ndig and I lumbered back to my house on his donkey cart. When we arrived, I nimbly hopped off, giggling as my littlest brother tottered after my big brothers as they watered the garden. I greeted my host mother and gave her some instant coffee I’d bought because my sister couldn’t find any that morning at the market. Her face lit up with joy, she grabbed my cheek for a kiss and she shrieked “MY DAUGHTER BOUGHT COFFEE!!!!! SHE KNEW WE NEEDED IT SO SHE MUST SPEAK WOLOF!!!”. Those were the moments after. Peeking through moments of pain is an invitation to look darkness in the face, believe that the story isn’t over and be fully present in the moments after. That is what has wooed me through the past five months and that is why all of me is still here.