Goodbye. I have said it time and time again over the past six weeks and each time it hasn’t gotten any easier. How do you say goodbye to your family and friends? How do you say goodbye to the wonderful people you met in California? How do you say goodbye to the host family that made you feel welcomed and at home? And how do you say goodbye to the fellows and team leaders you have spent the past month with? How do you do it?…how did I?
Although the goodbyes don’t get any easier, they are a constant reminder of each new person that I’ve welcomed into my life. The people, whom I have cried, laughed, triumphed, and struggled with. At first all I could feel in Dakar was excitement! I stepped off of that plane ready to take in all that Senegal had to offer. I loved the sharp spicy smell of the air, the sand that seemed to be everywhere yet coming from nowhere, and the people in their vivid colored wardrobes. The high of living in a new place finally wore off and the realization of what I was about to do hit me. I suddenly became easily frustrated whenever something remotely challenging presented itself. Like my 30 minute walk to school with no sense of direction. And the child who refused to let me sleep night after night. It took time and an immeasurable amount of tears to deal with the frustration and homesickness but I finally got past it and somehow found a way to enjoy each day.
I held on to each laugh and hug and pushed through the challenges most of which I was able to overcome. All except one. “Project Save The Kittens”. I was walking back to school after my lunch break with my fellow Fellow, Alison, when something moving caught my eye. I couldn’t tell what it was moving under the car, and at first I was terrified expecting something to jump out at me and as I took a step closer I saw the 3 smallest, cutest kittens I have ever seen in my life. Out of the three kittens only one was awake and trying to wake up its sibling who I thought was dead. Those three kittens under the tire of a car in the blazing heat on that Friday afternoon gave me hope. Its like I was back home saving another stray cat from homelessness. I eagerly went back to school and spoke to one of my team leaders and asked if I could keep the cats and of course the answer was no. But me being stubborn and persistent I asked my teacher if I could bring the cats to the school and she said yes. So I ran back to where I found the cats and placed them outside of my school in the shade on some plants where they would be safe.
After class the kittens were still there and they were now all awake and wandering meowing quietly. They were absolutely adorable and since I couldn’t bring them home I decided to buy them milk and feed them there. I successfully fed one of the kittens milk through a flower, but was told to take them back to where I found them because their mom would be looking for them. This time I did what I was told and took the kittens back and vowed to check on them and feed them daily even if it meant going to school a little earlier to do so. The next morning I was sad to discover that two of the kittens were missing and the little orange and white one was left alone. I cradled the kitten then headed back to school. The day after that the orange and white kitten was also gone. Although the kittens are now long gone all I can feel is a sense of accomplishment.
I managed to help the kittens at least for one day. I made a small difference. Although things don’t always work out perfectly I know that I can take my passion for helping others and use that when teaching the children in kedougou and planting that school garden. I expect that the next 6 months will be filled with all new challenges and accomplishments. I can’t wait to take on whatever the next six months have in store for me!