Precious Moments

Claire Amsden - Senegal

March 7, 2013

This is a journal entry that morphed into a blog with some additions and editing. I like it because it shows how important the family integration part of this experience is to me. Because I didn’t decide to do this to “save the world” or even to make a difference in a village. Don’t get me wrong, I want to do those too, but I understood when I applied that I’m young, 8 months is short when it comes to real change, and that this program is about learning and not doing. I applied because I wanted to adopt a Senegalese family as my own. This process is very different from parents adopting a child. Instead of the adoptive parents anxiously waiting for the child they’ve chosen to call them Mom and Dad, I, the adoptive child, have been dying to be called my daughter and my neighbor, my sister and my friend. All I’ve wanted this whole time is to feel like I belong. And I’ve found that all it takes is one small precious moment to feel like I do.


It’s all the small precious moments that add up.

Precious to me, although no one else here will ever know how much I treasure them. This evening the moments were so small I’m having trouble recalling them even now. But my heart has been filled with warmth – and that’s what matters.

It’s kind of like stuffing a pillow with feathers one at a time. The moments may seem small, but together they are making my experience. However it’s not quite the same, because one feather doesn’t add a whole lot, but one moment can change my mood for the entire day. But the accumulation of moments makes my heart feel like a pillow full of feathers. Light and airy.

My most recent moments:

On the way back from the corner shop, my youngest brother was helping me practice counting to five in Arabic. We pass the resto, and a family friend starts counting with us. I tell her I can’t do it and then continue walking and talking with Modou, my brother. As we walk away I hear her say, almost to herself, jambar nga (you are nice).

Sitting in my sister’s room with her and Astou Fall while they tak crème (fill little plastic bags with juice for freezing and eventually selling). The thing is I don’t remember what was said. All I can remember is that I felt like they both liked me and appreciated the fact that I was there. And what you feel is often more important than what actually happened.

After coming home from Dakar, I ate leftovers from lunch in my parents’ room while my 12 year old sister and mom watched TV in the room with me. I invited them to eat, like any polite Senegalese would. My sister’s insistent and adorable pleas that I eat it all – reminding me how much she cares for me – continued until the moment I finished eating. As for my mom, I caught her smiling out of the corner of my eye, and as memories of my first months with hardly any interaction between us came to mind tears started to fill the corners of my eyes. She likes me.

To a few people in Senegal, I am no longer an ignorant, lazy, know-nothing toubab, but a sweet, although foreign, sister/daughter/friend. And when moments come up that prove this to me, that I am liked in a country where foreigner is a synonym for rude, lazy and greedy, that I am liked in a place where people are so blinded by the whiteness of my skin that some have yet to see my soul, I feel like that single moment is all I need to live happily for the rest of my life.

For when two human souls cross unknown invisible barriers and truly see each other for the first time, creating friends where there used to be strangers, potentially even hostile strangers on one side or both, the respective souls begin to feel their worth. That’s all you need to keep on living – knowing that you matter, to someone, somewhere.

Claire Amsden