Observations a Month and Three Quarters In

Ellie Van Gorden - Senegal


October 24, 2018

Sometimes, you start writing, but then the pen explodes and the mosquitoes
find you. It is at this point where you recognize that the world is telling
you to stop and start again. So here’s attempt number two at this blog!

~

There’s been a man in my entryway seated in one of our creaky, fake-leather
upholstered stacking chairs for about thirty minutes now. I know not his
name, but this is perfectly acceptable here because everyone deserves your
respect and wishes of peace upon them and their family.

As I made my way into the living room, I greeted him and then took off my
house shoes to walk across the faintly cool tile floor. I am now sitting on
the sofa facing the wall that separates us. I wonder what he thinks of the
Westerner that made a brief cameo? I shake my head and smile at the oddity
that is my existence here in moments like these. My red notebook pulls me
back from my distracted state, and I begin to write.

~

When I walk through sand on the streets, if I use my toes to grab my
flip-flops real tight, I glide right over the miniature sand dunes.

If you lay on my roof starting around 6:45 pm, you’ll see the birds fly
over in formation with a sky blue-pink backdrop. It’s straight out of an
indie movie.

My brother takes a nap in the same chair, in the same position and with his
hands neatly crossed over his tummy every afternoon.

I’ve come to love tea more than coffee. (I continue to surprise myself with
this one).

There’s an orange cat that lives downtown, and sometimes on my walk home, I
swear it winks at me.

I enjoy the wind on my face when riding in a bus. It calms my nerves that
manage to appear each time I board through those tiny doorways and have to
squeeze past various, eccentrically patterned outfits to find a seat.

Sometimes I forget that I look different from my family members. I don’t
wake up and consider that I’m white. It is only when I leave through the
rusted, red front door and am met with the numerous cries of “Toubab”
(Westerner), that I’m once again reminded of my foreign appearance.

Writing is hands-down my favorite activity.

I have three spiders that live in my bathroom. Marv, being the largest,
Lizzy and Wayne. We’ve had many a talk about boundaries and respecting
space. They take care of annoying bugs for me, and I leave them be. It’s
quite the symbiotic relationship.

Grinding spices the old-fashioned way in a pedestal is a spectacular
release of emotion.

I have learned that I’m not too bad at making attaya (sugar with a hint of
green tea).

Walking places has become a time for me to observe and learn.

Skirts are extremely practical.

I find that I am able to truly listen to music now. It’s no longer simply
background noise. It has meaning and purpose. The lyrics have become more
important, and the sounds themselves appear in my head periodically
throughout the day to remind me of my happy state.

You must make wide detours around the street dogs napping, as to not
interrupt their doggy dreams (also so you don’t get bit).

Ice cream is an essential.

No one questions my leg hair here. I would highly suggest you grow it out
if you’re even the slightest bit interested in seeing what it looks and
feels like. The definition of femininity is being challenged daily. *More
on this topic to come*

Going running in the sand is significantly more difficult than Blake Lively
made it look in The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants.

If you open your heart, your mind should follow.

Isolating yourself isn’t always a bad thing.

Cat-calling may be normalized, consistent and even justified with sexist
ideals in this environment, but this does not mean that you have to justify
it in your mind.

Always bring more underwear than you think you need.

French cartoons are strange.

It’s best if you try not to keep track of how much oil is being put in
every meal.

Human nature is a beautiful thing that we all share.

Words are merely one means of connection.

It’s important to savor those cuddly moments with little kids.

Having someone to write to or about, even if they never receive it, is
powerful.

You learn as much as you allow yourself to.

Self-reflection is essential to self-improvement.

Birthdays can be as big, or as little, of a deal as you wish.

Life goes on without you.

The chances of you living here and now are unfathomable.

Pay attention to the decisions laid out for you in life. You’re being
guided more than you think.

People first—and that includes yourself.

Your old habits will haunt you unless you pro-actively challenge them.

Ellie Van Gorden