Things I'm Learning about Myself
I feel like a baby.
I can't even type.
If I can't see, I can turn on a light and see.
I lived without electricity.
That didn't seem like giving up much for me. Things filled in the vacancies. I would be occupied by things that seemed really important. Like laundry and keeping clean. But I spent so much time not doing a damn thing. I read a bit. Sometimes I would read for days straight. The most exciting doings were trips out to other areas. But trips just to Mbour, 30 minutes away were such an adventure!
Maybe I feel like a baby because people in America are babied. It's so easy to do everything. If you want something, you can have it right away. Anything. It's like the purpose of civilization is to make living easier. Is that a good thing? Why did I like living away from that so much? My roommate Jeff started a conversation the other night about how people are really interested in his decision to leave a good solid job at a large company to work for himself and try to make a living as a musician. He related it to the economic downturn, how people were forced to give up a lot of things when they realized they just couldn't afford it. Then people realized they didn't need all the shit they'd been paying for for so long, and I think maybe it made them happier to realize they don't need as much as they thought they did.
I'd had that kind of craving and realization before, trying to live a low-impact lifestyle, and being extremely cheap in general. Living in Senegal made it easier for that to happen. Less is available. There's not temptation to buy a whole lot of shit you don't need, beyond souvenirs. And maybe that's why tourism is such a big boom for underdeveloped countries. People from the North are so used to buying excess on a daily basis, they don't even realize they do it, when they go to a place like Senegal, where there isn't all that excess, but there is this beautiful tapestry this vendor is showing you, and all these beads and necklaces this lady has for sale, and that really unique leather bag, and those bright fabrics you wont find anywhere else in the world, and for so cheap!, that of course you want to buy that.
And good for the native people who saw that desire and that money. The easiest way to make money there is to get it from a white person.
In America, you can be whatever you want to be.
When I was young, that was cliché, but in recent years I'm seeing the absolute truth in it and it's making me more appreciative of what America, and I guess I mean in large the government, driven by citizens, offers its' citizens. In Senegal, you can be whatever you want to be, if
you can find the resources and get over the million hurdles that are blocking your path. In America, there are hurdles as well, but they pale in comparison at the scale of opportunity. There is no comparison really, two different worlds, two different civilizations. Want to go to another planet? Try Africa first.
Another thing I'm realizing is how much the weather affects a civilization's way of life. In Senegal, it's dry and sunny for most of the year. I would get up every single day and know that it would be sunny and hot out. In the rainy season, things pretty much come to a halt. When it rains, it pours, and pours and pours every day. There's not much progress to be made when your house is flooded and the roads are flooded. And that's the whole country, the whole region. There will never be enough Red Cross workers, there will never be enough sandbags.
Being back in the North, I am continually in awe of all the intricate workings of services and technology. That there are so many people occupying so many jobs. There are people who know so much about things I didn't even know existed. For example, signing up online for a gym membership and all the small print that is written. Somebody wrote that for that one legal purpose for gyms. Somebody had to get the gym to be successful enough that it needed a website, somebody had to figure out what you needed to put on an online contract, somebody needed to write the code for the website, somebody had to provide the website, the customer service, the phone lines, the real estate, the whole internet! And there are a thousand gyms in this city alone. There is a service for everything! There are so many jobs!
I left my aluminum water bottle in Louly Ngogom. Anybody who knew me the past few years knows I go everywhere with that thing. I dropped it in Yoff one day when I was walking to Nas (Maimouna) and Sam's (Salimata's) house with Ako, to plan Rebecca's (Yacine's) surprise birthday party. The insulated plastic cap broke, the styrofoam exposed. I snapped it back in place so it held water, but the insulating quality was never the same again. When I got to Louly, and stayed hours each day out in the fields, 16 ounces of water wasn't enough, I needed to use a big Kirene plastic bottle. Packing for leaving, I left it. I knew there'd be better versions where I was going. Something not broken, something easier, with some nifty quality, like a carabiner attachment.
I got home and found it, a CamelBak Insulated Stainless-Steel Better Bottle - 17 fl. oz., with the "Angles" decoration. Perfect.
It's a baby bottle.
It's an aluminum baby bottle with a carabiner attachment.
I am a baby.
I can't even drink.