Today I am thankful for…

Thanksgiving for 62+ people on the beach in Popenguine, Senegal!!  

Enough food for all, exquisitely orchestrated by Kathryn.  We BBQ’d 21 chickens, had two buckets of stuffing (one vegetarian), a huge pot of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, onions with cloves, salad, and 5 pies for dessert the size of small hula hoops.  Amazing.  We ate on the beach, on the roof, in hammocks.  So great to have a little bit of home after being here now for two months.  The beach itself was beautiful!  CLEAN! No trash!  Unbelievable for a country with no waste management.  There were cliffs that we explored, found some caves.  The weather was perfect, not too hot.  We rented two houses right on the beach.  One was the ‘party’ house and the other the ‘quiet’ house.  Each only had 4 rooms so most of us camped out in our tents on the beach.  It felt like we had rented out the entire beach!  The thing about beaches in this country, is that no one really uses them except for tourists and the occasional local wrestler working out or an occasional soccer game.  Other than that, no one swims, no one surfs, no one lounges.  And they look at us so strangly for doing so.  It seemed so surreal to have the chance to sit and not have to do anything!  We could nap, read, swim, drink, whatever we wanted.  There were no deadlines to meet, nothing to study for, no Pulaar to speak… all for just a few more days.  The calm before the storm.  But so calm nonetheless.  

Running water.  I am so thankful for that.  After not having it in my Community Based Training (CBT) family’s house now for the past month, I realize how amazing it is!!  (They had a spigot down the street that they would have to walk to multiple times a day with buckets on their heads) Having water in sinks is such a luxury.  Even most of the well-off houses here don’t have sinks.  The wealthy have a spigot in their compound – maybe two.  We all got a reminder of how thankful we are for running water in Popenguine when, even though we had a very western style house (sinks in the bathrooms and kitchen) they never actually got around to turning on the water in one of the houses.  This made dishes and bathroom usage (for 64 people) difficult. 

Western toilets.  Very thankful for those (when they work).  It’s so nice to have something other than a hole in the ground, and especially when there is toilet paper.  Toilet paper is REALLY something to be thankful for.  Some people here say that they don’t prefer it anymore and feel cleaner when using water (some people have sprayers in the bathrooms, sometimes plastic tea kettle-looking things, sometimes cups and buckets of water) than when using TP.  You do get used to it, and get used to employing really good hand-washing.  But there’s still nothing like a good, soft, 2-ply roll next to ya in your Western bathroom with a flush toilet.  *sigh* haha

Electricity.  Not necessary, but handy when you have electronics.

Refrigerators.  Great for keeping food from making you sick in the following days.. and days… and days…  

Yogurt.  One of the small things here that I look forward to.  It’s cold and refreshing. 

Clouds.  Oh gracious, wonderful clouds, how you shade my life and sometimes keep me cooler

Regular business hours.  Being closed during prayer times/midday/most of the day Friday/and all day Sunday… Really, when can you get things done?  

Fruit.  Better than candy, it’s so amazing when I can get it here.  Rare and expensive for the most part, but oh so refreshing!  And most of the fruit vendors in big cities are Pulaar, so I can usually strike up a nice convo with them!  

On that note, having things written in English!  Or people who speak English.  Not knowing French definitely makes things a bit difficult.  

Coffee shops!  They don’t exist here, except in Dakar and sometimes in touristy areas on the beaches.  Instant NesCafe, this country drinks daily and loves!  Can’t really figure that one out.  One scoop NesCafe, five scoops sugar, powdered milk.  Just not quite the same as a good espresso.  

Books.  For children, for adults, for anyone!  I wish people here had the opportunity to read more.  Most of them can, but they don’t often get the chance to read something for fun.  Kids LOVE picture books, but they so rarely ever even see them.  

Chocolate.  It melts so quickly that it doesn’t really exist except in the middle of Biskrem cookies (So amazing, by the way! They should get their own line)

Biskrem.  I am thankful for those little cookies that give me something to look forward to mid-afternoon sometimes when I need a little pick-me-up.  

Buying clothing that is already made.  Picking out beautiful fabrics at all the fabric shops is fun, yet overwhelming at times.  The fabrics are amazing though!  (Fashion blog soon to come) Unbelievable designs.  But then you take the fabric to a tailor and explain what you want.  This usually requires some local language knowledge.. or French.  You can imagine the difficulty here.  Most of our clothes have come back different than we had intended for them to.  There aren’t really places to buy pre-made clothes except T-Shirts and some men’s pants and underwear or soccer clothes.  However, theoretically your clothes are perfectly tailored to you and especially how you want them.  In theory.  It’s a good idea.  When my language improves, I hope my wardrobe will as well.  

So many more things.  I am thankful for so many things, this is just a few that I can think of off the top of my head, among the obvious – family, friends, community, and strong central government.  I love you all and I miss you all.  

 

I hope you all had a wonderful, festive holiday!  When you’re out shopping, take a second to think about people here and try not to think too much about material goods.  It’s the people who matter in this season of giving.  Give your time, your love.  If there’s something that I have learned so far, it is that there is extreme value in spending time with people.  Sitting.  Drinking tea.  Even if you can’t communicate with them, just the act of sitting, listening, being present.  It is a real gift, and something that you can feel in your heart.  Sit back, listen, and learn.  It’s the best gift we all can share.  

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