“It’s Great”

Erica Anderson - Senegal


September 16, 2011

In the process of keeping sporadic correspondence with my family and friends at home in the States, a lot of people have been asking me, “so how is Senegal?” There could not be a more unanswerable question; it feels approximately equivalent to being asked “what is the meaning of life?” Sometimes I choose to respond with an equally vague and frustrating response, such as “It’s great,” or “I’m lovin’ it here.” I wonder how I am ever going to be able to communicate what I am seeing and doing and feeling as I reside in Dakar. I can barely communicate all my thoughts to the other fellows and I certainly have not been journaling as much as I should have, let alone trying to describe what feels like a parallel universe to someone back in America.

Many people have been snapping photos and shooting videos periodically, but this also seems unsatisfying. A single image, however beautiful, cannot convey the smells of the food cooking and the garbage rotting in the streets, the sounds of the SICAP Baobab neighborhood at twilight, the feeling of at least ten pairs of coffee brown eyes staring into me wherever I go. I cannot put into words how my heart ached when I saw the iron shackles that once bound the feet of a West African slave, captured by his brethren and shipped to the Americas from the Maison des Esclaves (Slave House) located on Goree Island, a fifteen-minute ferry ride from Dakar. No image can capture the feelings of freedom I felt when on the rooftop of my school building, ACI, learning how to dance to the beat of djembes played by a group of young rasta men kind enough to want to teach a bunch of uncoordinated toubabs. No telephone conversation could allow me to describe how comfortable I am in my home when I sit with my maman after school and tell her about my day while we wait for the power outage to end. No email will share the immense self-satisfaction I feel every time I hold a respectable conversation in French or the sudden memory loss I undergo when somebody speaks to me in Wolof. Even now, I am trying to divide the past fifteen days into vignettes easy enough to digest, but I do not know which to share and which will simply remain in my memory, blurring to create a whole strand of my lifetime which I call my Global Citizen Year.

I apologize if you are feeling like you do not have a clearer picture of my life in Senegal, though I would say that sometimes I feel like I do not have a clear picture of it myself. It will take a lot of time, and a lot more than just a few photos, blog posts, and phone calls for the beauty of this experience to come into focus. In the meantime, rest assured that Senegal is great. Really, I’m lovin’ it here.

Erica Anderson