Washing the Day Away

Kyra Halpenny - Senegal


December 9, 2014

Here in Ndande, showers are a fickle thing. For starters if you want to have an ‘actual’ shower with water pressure you must to wake up between 5:30 and 6:45 in the morning. After 6:55 almost everyone in Ndande is using their faucets and spigots – if not for filling the large water barrels – it is to top off troughs for the horses and buckets for washing clothes. If you do wake up late, you are the winner of a bucket shower – frankly they are much better in my opinion.

This morning, I stood beside our faucet as water poured into my bucket, and the mist still hung around. I most certainly looked out of place, in my sea scape beach towel, to the young boys who enter the compound asking for the rice that would later be their lunch. It took a while to fill my bucket as usual, but with no urgent business awaiting me I could take my time. A few minutes after starting this process I was able to head into the tiled building that is our toilet and shower rooms. In the afternoon, at about 3:00, I am again in need of a shower because the heat was so great today. However, then I had a shower head in full operation and two kinds of washing to do, physical and emotional.

My day was riddled with ‘Toubab’ ringing in my ears as I slowly trudge down the sand roads; small hands tried to explore my pockets; others mocked and imitated my actions; unknown commands were given and I was asked questions in a language I currently lack the ability to really speak or comprehend. The heat was intense, and sand found its way into every nook. Some people stared, others formed their mouths into frowns, and to my distress, most children I met cried. My emotions ranged from disappointment to frustration and I found myself struggling to understand. So, with a mind of racing thoughts, the simple act of water soaking my hair and covering my face took away the red heat from my cheeks, settled my mind and let me enjoy a moment of peace, and solitude to be refreshed.

Now this shower does not change how I am living or feeling, and does not give a full view of my experience here, but some facts to keep in mind are these. First, is that we have to make sacrifices, and one that does not weigh too heavy on me is waking up a little earlier to achieve cleanliness. Second, I am going to have bad days, and that would be the same anywhere else in the world, but great days will happen too, because I have already had some. Third, it is tough to adjust and people will not always reciprocate your patience or kindness, but you cannot let it affect your behavior or actions. I still have a lot to learn here in Senegal, but finally, amidst the chaos of a walk to work, and the struggle of learning Wolof, I am finding my place and some peace here.

Kyra Halpenny