As I take my Siesta time, reminiscing rather than sleeping, my mind is racing, wondering what to think of it all thus far. I flash back to a “Fellow” and I, searching for his house, wandering aimlessly, confused on what was left and right in a district in Dakar known as S.I.C.A.P Mermoz. In our moment of distress, he confides in me that he is not sure he’s really taken in the adventure fully, divulging that he has not been wowed yet. Processing his words, I begin to think that I, too, have not been “wowed” either. Simultaneously, a freight train of thought concludes that I did not come here to be in a wow state of mind. I traveled over ten thousand miles, from New York to San Francisco, then San Francisco on to Senegal in order to embrace the culture, language, food, etc. Through that, no sense of wow has come to my attention, except when seeing the occasional Hummer, Mercedes Benz, Porches, or Audi whizz by. (Yes, those cars do fly by on the streets of Dakar regularly.) Instead, being here has put me in a state of woah.
After only a week of being here, I can already feel the peace that exists within this country. Where as I only feel enraged with the Electric Company, the Government, the President, and all the things he stands for. The natives only see the light of things. Every night, the power in my residence goes out and every night my family proceeds with their evening as usual. While for foreigners, power is a necessity, for the Senegalese power is merely chocolate. When its around its enjoyed but when its not there, its not missed.
Another problem in Senegal is money. Few live comfortably, and those who do have their own private section of Dakar. Most live on next to nothing, earning $1.25 a day, U.S Currency. And other families and citizens live in the streets, starving and begging for whatever can be handed out. Whether it is food, drink, or money that’s given, they are not greedy; aggression or jealousy towards others is not in their mindset, the people of the street simply thrive to stay alive.
Hope, from my perspective, seems to be a lost cause here. But the Senegalese are able to wake up everyday and make the most of what they have. They live by the Wolof motto “Mun Ku Munn Munn” which translated means “One who accepts, smiles.” The people here accept what’s going on, understanding the positions they’re in and are still able to make the most of everything. Unlike Toubabs, (Foreigners) who take all moments as a given the people of Western Africa stay grateful. When things go wrong we are troubled. Burdens and failures hover over our head, when in reality it is not that grave of a situation. There are starving, homeless children on the street that enjoy their day more then most Americans; and they have nothing. We American are “spoiled” – there really are starving kids who would accept anything and glow with happiness. Change in this country is necessary, but my “cohort” and I did not come here to make a difference. We came here to see the difference. And I can’t speak for us all, but in only a week, I’ve begun to see it already.