Intro to Side One

After spending most of my adult life in the U.S., I returned to live in Senegal. This is a little bit about the experience.

It is probably best to paint this picture anecdotally. I live in the Village of Camberene II in Dakar, Senegal. It’s a relatively simple place in an ordinary Senegalese neighborhood on the Atlantic Ocean. I am intentionally located away from tourists and the “U.S. expatriate enclave.” My area has all of the pluses and minuses of beach living. It has great sea breezes that cool the house while corroding the autos and appliances. It has the natural background music of the ocean and picturesque sunsets. Surfaces don’t hold paint well because of the moisture which also helps things grow – tropical plants as well as fungi. There is no winter here so there is no such thing as a heating bill. With a 12 month growing season fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful year around. Everything is organic. Without the cold of winter to curb population growth, we sometimes share our spaces with members of the insect world.

The compound does not have hot water but on many days it is so warm here that cold water from the shower head is hot by the time it covers me and reaches the drain on the floor. On days like that, showers are frequent and the water pressure is usually good. The electricity is a little erratic. It is an inconvenience but not life threatening. We are very resourceful and have all sorts of back-up systems ranging from candles to solar lamps and solar generators.

A lot of my effort goes into small business development. It is a slow and fairly difficult process. There is not enough money here in Senegal for the average person to accumulate a surplus to sustain business growth. That is not as big a problem here as it would be in the U.S. because everything here is considered on a day to day basis. This incremental approach to life has helped me to adjust my worldview. I have come to redefine what “important” means in this life. Having a clear sense of “what is important in this life” is critical – no matter where you live.

I am home where I feel at home. I only visit the U.S. now. To know where home is of the utmost importance. It is also very important to recognize who your family is. I frequently, revisit these two questions. The answers are not necessarily constant.

People in the U.S. always want to know about the money… I probably made more in a month in the US than I make in a year in Senegal. Although I made financial preparations prior to my coming back and returned using a process spanning a decade, my move was not about business. I have always had many responsibilities yet managed to keep “the bases covered.” Doing so is much more challenging now. What I lack in money, though, is more than compensated for by peace. Peace and tranquility are priceless and faith is essential. I was “successful” in America but my “success” was killing me. I am “getting by” here and flourishing. I am RICH here in Senegal, without material wealth and taxis readily stop to pick me up. I laugh to myself as I write this. At the same time my eyes moisten. I’m not sure why. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. Life is full of irony!

Most people in Senegal do not speak English (maybe 2 in 5 in Dakar). I don’t speak much French, the colonial language. I speak Wolof but it is clearly a second language for me. So much for brilliant oratory… I’ve learned that the important things are not always communicated verbally. Who are you? Do I love you? Do I respect you? Am I your friend? Can you trust me? Words sometimes confuse the issues because we have learned to say what we ought to say which might not be what we mean. We also listen best to what we want to hear. I strive to be a man of integrity…known as a man of my word yet a man of few words. “…content of character and not… color of skin…” or words, for that matter, maybe Martin Luther King’s dream was of here and he didn’t know it (or say it)?

So, why come home?…not for romantic idealism. I have had many disappointments but I have experienced plenty of pleasant surprises. Life here can be rough but it is also smooth and it goes down easy. It’s like good homemade lemonade – so tart that it makes your jaws tight yet so delicious that you’ve got to have another glass.

We are working with others to build the futures our children (and grandchildren) will inherit. For me, this is the place to do it. I have great aspirations!

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. V. Rouson
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 12:02:54

    My very dear friend, Ibou–

    How special, moving, personal and loving! I so relate to your sentiments and shared experiences though I live on one continent and experience only vicariously the others through visits and good friends who have become extended family connected through living right here. It is amazing how all intersect, how your worlds, theirs and mine intersect– sometimes, without even knowing that we know and love a common friend intensely.

    And miracles large and small envelope my life every day because of my intention to expect them (I think mostly subconsciously).

    Thank you and your family for every hospitable gesture during my visit to your peaceful enclave by the sea. It is, indeed, restful yet energetic to fall asleep, rest serenely, awake inspired and move energetically by the sounds of the ocean.

    Thank you for loving me back!

    Vivian–Mame Sokhna

    Reply

  2. Skywalker
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 15:00:25

    PEACE … the root of everything of any enduring value!

    Reply

  3. Luvmyroots
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 14:17:05

    So beautifully written…I am enjoying every post!!

    Reply

  4. insiderap
    Jan 04, 2016 @ 14:22:06

    Reblogged this on 2 Sides of the Same Coin and commented:

    I decided to re-read some of my posts today. Ended up reading this one – my very first. Provides food for thought…

    Reply

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