There are just twenty-four days left in Dakar. My frazzled nerves and scattered mind have made it impossible to tell you just one cohesive story.
It started with the laundry. I did laundry in the bathtub yesterday, and the murky, rather sinister charcoal color of the swirling water left me with the distinct impression that I owed every member of my team a personal apology. I feel like Pig Pen on Charlie Brown. And speaking of laundry, I am quite forward to wearing clothes that don’t look something that Grandma Moses would wear.
Which I can do in just twenty-four days. Has it hit you yet? I’m still wallowing in disbelief.
Yesterday, a group of Talibe boys were begging for spare change near a local bakery. I bought as many pain au chocolates as would fit in a bag, and promptly began to place them in the grubby, excited hands desperately vying for my attention. Without warning, I suddenly found myself mobbed by a group of approximately 15 hungry boys-each of whom wanted to make sure that he didn’t miss out on a chocolate roll. All 5’2 of me tried to look larger than life as I held the bag over my head and used my best stern “Senegalese Mom” voice and each of the seven words of Wolof I could remember at the time. [It’s baffling how little “Crazy no in the name of Allah!” did to deter them.] Indifferent to the petite brunette babbling incoherently, little boys scaled me like a jungle gym while older ones successfully ripped rolls out of the bag over my head. Michelle played the knight in shining armor to my damsel in distress, and I left covered in over-eager, sticky chocolate finger prints.
Last Sunday, Michelle, Christy, Karen and I braved the relentless African sun and crammed our sweaty bodies into a rickety, rather suspect looking yellow taxi. In a stroke of cultural brilliance, we decided to ask our Wolof-speaking taxi driver to stop on the side of the bustling, dusty road so Michelle could hop out and buy a carton of eggs on the way back to our apartment. These, mind you, are open cartons containing thirty filthy eggs that are covered in a thick layer of gray feathers and chicken poo-poo that can only be removed by enriched plutonium. Michelle successfully managed to procure just such a carton, and cheerfully rejoined the rest of us waiting in the oven masquerading as our ride home. I was sandwiched in the backseat between Karen and Michelle, absentmindedly observing the bustling, dusty African ghetto we were slowly sputtering through, when Michelle’s scream pierced the relative calm. Startled, I turned to find her holding the oversized egg carton towards me as a giant roach crawled out from between the eggs. Horrified, I began to holler at the top of my lungs as I lunged on top of Karen and begged Michelle to simply toss the whole mess out of the window-indifferent to her panicked pleas for help. [I would give that dear girl one of my $160,000 kidneys if she needed it, but she’s on her own with the roaches.] Meanwhile, our taxi driver was busily attempting to ascertain what in the name of Allah was causing the hullaballoo in his back seat. As the crescendo of our shrill, white-girl screams stopped passerby’s in their tracks, my Wolof Prince Charmant pulled stopped the car in the middle of the dirt road, wrenched the carton from Michelle with an indifferent eye roll, and promptly squished the offending roach with his fingers. He then proceeded to hold it up for us, as if to say “Hey, pansy white girl-it’s just a bug”. [And let me tell you, that little gem translates across languages and cultures all over the world.] Undaunted, we enthusiastically applauded him and sung his praises the rest of the way home.
No, really. I actually sung.
I have run literal holes in my tennis shoes. Help me, Rhonda.
We’re hosting a STINT recruitment night for our summer project on Thursday. I’ll tell them about Mohammad
the fruit stand man, team chocolate chip pancake nights, roach eggs and mangos.
I’ll also tell them about Sophie Bop. She came over for lunch this week, and quietly told me “everything I have learned about Jesus, I have learned from you.” No one had ever told her about Jesus before Christy and I moved to Africa two years ago.
Which is inexcusable, and heartbreaking. Those are the moments in which I wonder how on earth I’ll actually leave this place.
Sophie’s story will come later this week. But for now, my frazzled nerves need a break. And my feet need a pedicure.
Just twenty-four days. Half way there, and living on a prayer.
…a prayer, and mangos. So many mangos.