Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Trail of Teranga

Learning to make attaaya (the tea)
It has been a while since I've posted, and I'm gonna just blame it on the speed of time's passing. I'm no longer in Senegal, though every day I remember where I was the past 4 months. God really blessed my time there. From the friendships I formed with others on the program to the daily interactions and friendly banter I had with the vendors on my street, I made some very special memories and experienced some really incredible things. Alxamduliaa for everything!

18 Mai: My Last Day in Senegal
Some of my family: me, Lydie, Bébé Co, Herbatin, Marie
My final day we participated in the "Dakar Semi-Marathon" to which my group showed up about 10 minutes before the supposed start of the race, only to get yelled at by the registering officials about how we needed to learn to show up on time (we were actually scolded by Senegalese for being late-- it felt a little ironic) and handed the remaining shirts (all sized XL). The race began another 40ish minutes after that. Most of us ran the 5k, with a few doing the half-marathon. As I ran down the street, jumping curbs, dodging car rapides and street vendors, and nearly getting hit by a bus in front of the main university in Dakar, I realized that I was glad I was only running the 5k. That had to have been the hottest 5k race I have ever run in my life, made slightly better by all the people in the cars and streets yelling words of encouragement and pity after me. My red face must have made a pretty great contrast with the white shirt (though the shirt got darkened some by the coating of exhaust and dust I got running down the streets). Since this was only a couple hours before I was getting picked up to go to the airport, I "hurried" home on a car rapide and spent some time with my family (I ended up on the rooftop chatting with one of my brothers and found myself wishing I had more evenings to spend up there with them). My final dinner, though rushed, was delicious all the same-- peas from a can with "yapp" (some kind of meat) and bread. Leaving the house that night was more emotional than I was anticipating. Saying goodbye to Marie and to Lydie (my host mom) were the hardest farewells, and I had to hurry away to make it easier on all of us. The van was waiting when I walked up the street with my host dad and another friend from the program, Camilla. My last purchase on the way was a bag of thiakry (the yogurt millet stuff) which I accidentally sat on and therefore popped in the airport about half an hour later (I was hiding it in the pocket of the coat I had wrapped around my waist). At the van was a crowd of Ouakamites from our program and some of our Senegalese friends there to say goodbye to those of us getting picked up. It was a really special moment, though sad, saying a "ba beneen, inshalla" (until next time, God willing) to all our friends gathered. Driving away and entering the airport felt surreal, and it is taking me a while to realize that that whole chapter of my life is actually over.

I flew through the night to Madrid with two other friends from my program to meet up with my friend Becca from my university back in the States (she had been studying in Seville). Mike was one of them, and we had a great time chatting up in Wolof the grumpy Senegalese man trying to sell wooden carvings on the street side. I soon found that every time someone tried to speak to me in Spanish I answered in Wolof. This was a problem. I never got to the point where Spanish came out, though this could be aided by my inability to speak Spanish. Some culture shock happened wandering those streets, and I am still caught off guard by the easy accessibility of public trashcans. We spent two nights in a cheap hostel-- a good experience for me after all the horror stories I had heard from friends. Living in Madrid is spendy, thus, we walked everywhere we could and I was forced into buying a McDonald's value menu burger one night for dinner. We saw famous art at the Prada and ate tapas in a large square filled with street entertainers.

Greenwich Meridian Line!
Becca and I met up with a family friends' family in London and stayed with them for 3 and 1/2 days. Their generosity was incredible and their jokes were hilarious. I got a lot of great laughs out of all our conversations, especially since the man seemed to think that my British accent is actually an Australian accent (personally I have spent my whole life thinking I was incapable of speaking in an Australian accent). Apparently it needs some work ;) I loved being back in a place where coffee and tea are drunk on a regular basis, and the first half day we were there I drank a total of 4 large cups of tea. We saw so much during our time there, from Big Ben to the evensong service at St. Paul's Cathedral (and at Westminster Abbey). We went for a walk our first evening there with the couple we were staying with and came across the Queen's barge in this little harbor on the river! We took a healthy number of pictures of red telephone booths and we even got to meet up with an old friend of mine from high school who is from London. God gave us good weather, generally speaking, meaning we only really had to deal with the rain our last day there, the day we had already designated a coffee-shop day. Becca and I kept having to remind ourselves that we were actually in London, that we were actually riding that red double decker bus, actually watching the guards at Buckingham Palace change their posts, actually standing on the Greenwich Meridian Line. A beautiful city to be sure with a lot of history attached. And the family we stayed with was so generous. Teranga has really marked our trip-- teranga being the Senegalese cultural value of hospitality.

Ireland: (so far, Limerick)
Cliffs of Moher
We are now staying with one of Becca's extended relatives. To get to the first family in Limerick, we had to spend the night in a London airport on the cold stone floor (all the transit chairs were taken by 11:30pm). We didn't sleep very much, but managed to make it on our 6:40am flight. Her family picked us up and fed us an incredible breakfast of sausages, bacon, fried eggs, toast, and cereal. After stuffing our bellies we slept till about 2pm, at which point we got up and ate lunch. We saw an old castle that day and went to the Cliffs of Moher the next. Really gorgeous countryside here and more green than I have seen in ages. I'm realizing you don't see real grass in Senegal. They don't have it (at least not in dry season). You see sand and the occasional desert-like brush and baobab trees. Here you walk outside and are engulfed in bright greens that seem to dance across the rolling hills. Rafet na (it's beautiful)! Becca's family really spoiled us and even took us out places, paying for everything. There is no way we can really pay them back for their kindness. Teranga. Something I thought of is that this is a bit of how it is in our relationship with God. He has given us everything, unfathomable blessings and love, and yet there is no way we can ever pay him back. We have to live each day in a state of thankfulness, knowing that we are incredible debtors to his grace and yet He gives it to us so freely because of His love. When you can't physically pay someone back a great  debt, you have to thank them in other ways-- in your actions, in your words. A state of perpetual thankfulness.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a great experience for you Jodi! So glad you kept us up to date so we'll have talking points when we see you next!

    Aunt Leslie