Senegal. The land of teranga, and the vast unknown to which I'll be plunging into shortly. It is a dive into a pool so deep I won't happen to surface from it for eight months. It looms like a titan in my imagination, its languages, customs, history, and overall presence unyielding thus far to my feeble attempts at comprehension. To this day, my heart is still torn between the two places I've called home: the bright and sunny town of Carpinteria, California, which served as the nest for my boarding school years, and Atlanta, Georgia, my proud Southern city.
Carpinteria was tiny, in all meaning of the word. Only 14,000 people strong, this sleepy beach town nurtured me for four years. It is where I rediscovered myself as a teen. I found myself in the salty surf of the Carpinteria State Beach, proudly proclaimed by Carpinteria residents as the safest beach in the world. I skated through its streets and ran along its rolling bluffs. I walked the streets feeling like an adult, confident and assured in my independence and ability to think and function for myself.
Atlanta is a different matter. Atlanta is a city of grit. It isn't ugly, but its not renowned for its gleam and sparkle. I love Atlanta for its cracked sidewalks and pine trees and April showers. And to me, an Atlantan drawl is the most comforting thing in the world, and it was the first thing to greet me when I came home on breaks. I love the gaudy golden chains, and the blue nose pit bulls. I adore the tattooed arms of East Point and the sweet, sugary kindness of Douglasville as much as I detest the explosive, fiery tempers of College Park.
These places, Atlanta and Carpinteria, are so close to my heart that I can only imagine how I shall fall in love with Senegal. Once I've walked the streets of Thiés, ate its ceebu jen, and lain back at ease with my new world, I'm sure I'll have torn my heart once more, and left a piece for Thiés to keep.