If by happenstance you ever find your eyes analyzing the stunning yet complacent midwestern skyline of Louisville, Kentucky, your eyes will bear witness to three features: the towering steel testaments to corporate ingenuity we laymen and women call skyscrapers, the various monolithic steeples ominously signaling impending religious exercises, and the few fading factories of the Ohio River. If subsequently you became entranced by these features, you may happen to dig further into the city, finding yourself in the gorgeous and city-bordered Cherokee Park. And, as you drove through this park, you would find yourself on Brownsboro Road, a main artery of the city, connecting the concrete heart of downtown to the extremities of suburbia. I’ve ventured this far, you would remark. Why not go further? And so, on your accidental journey through my hometown, you might finally stumble on a red-bricked house with coarse blue shutters, probably built in the 1940s. You would see the worn 2000 Toyota in the driveway and the hand-built picnic table in the back, all accompanied by overgrown grass and a gnarled magnolia tree. You would look at this house and pass it, never again letting this forgettable structure occupy your headspace. You would remember Louisville for the skyscrapers and the churches and the factories like all other travelers do.
That red-bricked house with the coarse blue shutters is my home. Unlike yours, my memory of Louisville is based not on skyscrapers and churches, but here in this red-bricked house, the only place I can be my truest self without any consideration of social circumstance, time of day or location. This unmemorable house you passed holds everything. All the endless nights of card games and the wintry mornings after petty disagreements find their basis here. To you, this is simply a house. To me, this is my home. You would leave this house with ease. I will not. In a few short weeks, this home with its comfort and security will be pried from me. I will fly first to a foreign city, then to a foreign country, Senegal. I initially will be like you, coasting through unfamiliar terrain, constructing my worldview with the lights and splendor of Dakar rather than the reality of civilian life. But as the shimmering new skyline loses its appeal, I begin building my new home, not with bricks and mortar, but with language and memories. This will be no easy task. Even now, long before my plane has left tarmac, I feel this challenge emerging. I see this mountain rising in front of me and, as it rises, so does my anxiety. It's terrifying, isn't it? Leaving your home to sweat and work and live in someplace so foreign, so unbelievably different. And its all a mystery to me. I don’t know where in Senegal I’m going. I don’t know exactly what challenges I will face. All I can do is pack, wait and learn French via Rosetta Stone.