By Charlie Lange
As the days of my independent research slip into the African horizon, I think about reuniting with the group in the coming days. On the outside, it’s a connecting with my friends, the English language, and inside jokes I had forgotten. On the night before we returned to the Dakar airport, I pondered how much the rest of these people really meant to Mr. Alter and I. While absolutely pounding seafood, I came to the conclusion that although I call CCS home, I often don’t feel like it is such. We most often associate home with a physical place with family, the feeling of acceptance, and comfort. This definition, however, limits where we can feel loved and understood. Aaron Alter’s official motto is, “be at home in the world”. At first, this motto seems very self-explanatory, but the more I thought about it I challenged the specific definition of “home”.
I associated CCS as my home. I’m safe and comfortable and understood. It fits all the tenets of a typical American home. Jump to southeastern Senegal where I danced with children and sweat under the stars. I was completely uncomfortable and confused but I felt more at home than at school. To be “at home in the world”, I need to be at home with discomfort.
Looking out over the waves crashing over the western most point of Africa, I accepted that home to me cannot be defined simply as a place of comfort like we tend to do in the western world. Buddhism teaches that the world is suffering. Therefor to be at home in the world I must accept the discomfort that comes with everyday life.
With comfort stripped away, home became confusion, shattered expectations, and it was personal. I sat on the moon-like ground in the village and allowed the French and Wolof to be with me instead of confusing me.
The smooth roads of Dakar lead to the airport. Hands resting on the rust proof gate, I stand ecstatic to see my friends and teachers. I may not be in Texas or CCS but I know where I am and I know who I am. I am ready to see my family once again, so I can share with them the family of the world.