Early Thursday morning the pouring rain began. Normally, I sleep straight through thunderstorms and torrential rain. But on Thursday, I drifted in and out of sleep, when I awoke I was not quite sure if I was awake: there was endless drumming of rain in reality but the sound of water also flooded my dreams.
My alarm brought me out of this strange fluctuating state. Rain still pattered away, but (knowing it was laundry day) I happily put on my last clean outfit: a red jumpsuit that still smelled like laundry detergent and perfume. As I entered the living room I directly faced the windows – I saw nothing but rain, rain, rain. Mama made me my usual coffee and we listened to claps of thunder that carried on far too long. Eventually the rain became a drizzle and I was safe to leave the house and buy my pain au chocolat on the way.
I picked up Abby, another fellow and my neighbor, and we walked through the Marmoz neighborhood hopping over a few puddles, dancing on and off of curbs with a frequent Asalaa maalekum to the people on the street. It was a muddy morning, yet we crossed the highway happily exchanging stories of last night’s family adventures. As we turned the corner to take the last major road before the school, we were met with a river: the street was totally flooded, orange water flowed rapidly around cars, and we were perched on the corner.
Its common to say, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it”. Well we’d come to it – except “that bridge” was a mountainous hike over old construction debris, tiles, trash, and mud. I had no concentration left for greeting people, I focused all my energy on stepping on the sturdiest piece of broken cinder block, performing amazing feats of balance on the rickety curb, and trying to keep my distance from the horses and goats who spend their day on the side of the road.
I began to laugh: This was the most ridiculous thing we had done yet. I leaped across the road to get to the dirt road that leads to school with a degree of joy. We sloped down the narrow road, naming all the kinds of mud we tried to (and sometimes couldn’t) avoid: slick mud, red mud, sticky mud, dried mud, petrol mud, that kind of mud that sucks onto your sandal, mud with an unidentifiable green color, stinky mud – the list went on and on.
I arrived at school, and gave a big Asalaa maalekum and Bonjour to the man at the door and the secretary. We’d made it! I was invigorated. Senegal has seemed at times to be a land of contradictions, of strangeness, of opposites working together, but there’s a certain Senegalese flow. My small adventures seem to be mirroring this characteristic: I had taken a challenging, dirty, exhilarating hike but it was just my walk to school.
Its the small adventures that have shaped my first two weeks in Senegal: a difficult walk to school, navigating a market, dancing with my host sisters, and bargaining with taxi drivers. Even the stressful moments, the times that did not seem to be adventures are shaping me and my perception of Senegal. Adventure would not be adventure without both challenge and joy, and most often the joy from the challenge is the true heart of the adventure.