Heather in Senegal

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I've hit the "sweet spot." After nearly two years in Kolda I am comfortable with my Pulaar, I have friends, I know where to go, who to avoid, how to joke with people, how to take care of myself, and I'm involved with successful gardening projects. I can greet a woman who is lounging on a mat under a mango tree, sit with her, eat with her and her kids when someone brings over a lunch bowl, and join her in teasing the people who walk past. I'm comfortable. Also, knowing I'll be leaving soon, and that I am doing things here for the last times, has a way of making things sweeter.

Yesterday afternoon Seck didn't come to the garden. A friend of his is visiting from Spain, so it was just me, his daughters, and two younger kids. All we had to do was water, and with a hose it's really a one person job. If we had a well we'd all be working and would probably finish faster, and we would never have to worry about the water getting shut off. Of course, then our hands would be far more callused and we'd be fantasizing about the ease of hoses. We tried to divide the work by using the watering can, but since the water has to come from the hose it doesn't save anything, so eventually Nafi took over watering and the rest of us just messed around.

Awa, the kids, and I chased one another around the garden trying to grab other peoples's hands and force them to hit themselves. We danced, pretended to threaten one another with rocks, and threw water. Eventually we mellowed. Awa took over the watering, Nafi sat on a rock, and I sat on the old tire beside her, eventually lowering in it so I could lean back on the inner rim. It was a golden, picturesque scene. The sun was setting, giving us pink and purple clouds and coolish air, Nafi and I were chatting about nothing, and Awa was singing. My coming departure makes me savor and focus more thought on times like these. I was fully at ease in the garden with these kids. It felt like a triumph, a comfort won by almost two years of time and work.

It's so odd that these two years are almost over, and that so much of my life here now reminds me of older parts of my life. Awa's voice took me back to times I've dozed with my head in her lap as she sang to me. The garden itself holds countless memories of interactions with Seck and the range of emotions I've felt while trying gardening techniques, laboring, and lounging here. Finding myself so comfortable sitting in a tire got me thinking about how much tires are part of my life here. I've pulled them out of dumps, had kids retrieve them, bought them off mechanics, transported them, cut them, planted in them, taught people to plant in them, planned days around them, swung from them, bounced on them, sat in them, smelled them burning, and seen them lying everywhere. Chatting in Pulaar makes me remember struggling with Pulaar and feeling so exhausted by it. I'm by no means brilliant at it now, but I can have conversations, hear stories, and not feel the once constant stress from the language.


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