P.S. I Ate Onions

Olivia Orosco - Senegal


September 25, 2014

Dear momma,

Eight am is the perfect time of day here. The sun casts long shadows, it rose not too long ago. The dust from the comings and goings of the previous day has settled, leaving the air fresh. The breeze is crisp, for West Africa. Women clean their stoops as men head to work on mopeds. I greet those I pass and receive nothing but warm smiles in return; the day is new and the possibilities are endless. It is at this time that I walk to the corner boutique to buy bread for breakfast. It is my favorite moment of the day. A time for an inward glance, an introspective meander…

No one walks quickly here, a brisk pace is not understood. If you are in a hurry, leave earlier. It is far too hot to rush. I have to consciously slow myself to the languid days as I walk to language school each morning, step by step, I use fellow pedestrians to pace…

Leaving my gate I pass the two palm trees that mark my alley, turn left at the road that follows the yellow soda pop mural and continue straight on until the highway. I pass mon ami the mango man, the street meat man, vegetable woman, a tailor, and some friends at the local hairdressers. I venture with runners and students, young kids in worn flip flops, women dawning colorful head turbans that accompany traditional boubous, men dressed spiffily on their way to work. I travel in front of a strange chawarma restaurant that turns into a club at midnight on Saturdays and overcharges for my favorite soda, Gazelle Pomme. I continue on past a large building that has something to do with fish and always has a security guard. An ominous gated wall thing guides my walk to the left; I have only ever seen one person enter (I assume, obviously, it was by secret knock). I turn right at the man who sells cold drinks in pouches that you drink with a straw…

All the drinks here are very sweet. There is bissap, a bright magenta-y drink that is best when served with a hint of mint. Ditax is a green drink, that I admit I must still add water to. The ginger drink is great for sore throats, but I don’t think I could muster drinking it for much more than that. Gazelle Pomme is an apple cider like, but better, soda, it is TRÈS MAGNIFIQUE. Buiyi is made from the fruit of the baobab tree, which adorns the country emblem and is treasured here in Senegal…

The baobab tree has shallow roots that allow it to absorb the few rain falls it gets. It is said to last up to 30 years without water. It’s trunk is quite wide and branches spray into a beautiful mushroom shape spreading far from the base, reaching wide, but not too high off the ground. They say that in more rural areas a person is brought to the baobab twice, once at birth and again at death, placed within the tree to be surrounded by the spirits that reside within. A baobab can be found in the middle of most villages, a center of life and community. It is not difficult to see the magic of the beautiful baobab if one just pauses to look…

It is amazing what you can see if you just take the time. I have become more self aware here. I feel that I am able to stop and listen, observe the world around me. I am able to perceive others emotions and am trying my best to think and question before I act or speak. Many ask me what is wrong, because I am often quiet, but I am just absorbing, pensive. I have much to ponder…

I wish you could see it here, the sky is blue everyday and at midday it matches your eyes, that crinkle around the corners when you smile. The colors are so vibrant, juxtaposing the beige terrain. Life is so full, yet everyday is much the same. Your kindness has gotten me far here, a big smile has made friends and spoken for me when my French “words” failed. A big heart is all one can have when communication lacks, and you, you have equipped me well.

You would be proud…

Al prochaine mama,

With love, your daughter,

Olivia

P.s. I ate onions.

Olivia Orosco