At the heart of a community

By Bryan Floyd

I started my morning off hearing the crow of a rooster as the sun started to rise. I noticed I was the first one in the group awake, so I took advantage the relative quiet to listen to the sounds that surrounded me. As I listened I could hear a wide variety of animals; the chirping birds, a screaming donkey, and the loud crickets. It was rather relaxing to listen to these sounds echo throughout the village.

After breakfast, we made our way to a nearby market to explore and possibly purchase a few items. This was a eye opening experience, seeing first hand how people here interact with other members in their community. I learned that the market did not remain in the same location throughout the week, rather the local merchants move around the region so that others can get their necessities without traveling too far from home. I noticed throughout this trip so far that others always offer kindness and hospitality even in the midsts of a busy market. From what it seems, they care more about the betterment of the country and community and are always welcoming to whomever passes by whether they buy their goods or not.

After visiting the market we went to a local health clinic because one of the children (from our village) was falling ill and was treated for malaria. While we waited for the medicine, not thinking twice, I hopped out of the van and started to watch a soccer match that was being streamed on a TV in someone’s shop. They turned their heads, looked over at me, but did not question what I was doing there. A little boy even walked up to me and started to interact with as if I have met him before. It may not seem like a lot, but I felt comfortable as I watched part of the game with complete strangers.

After leaving and arriving back at Kekuota’s village, Andrew and I found out that we would be able to play soccer at a neighboring village with Kekuota’s son, Baka. Andrew and I both hopped on the back on Baka’s motorcycle and headed over to the field. As we arrived, Andrew and I noticed the the field consisted mostly of sand and very patchy grass. Eventually, more people, varying in age, started to make their way over to the field, noticing Andrew and I as they came over. I did not know what I expect, but still I felt comfortable because despite the language barrier, we shared the love of the sport. Once there were enough people for a small match, we played until the sun started to set. After the game was over, everyone walked to the side of the goal to talk. Surprisingly, there was one member of the village that spoke decent English, and he was very kind and welcoming to Andrew and me. He said we are always welcome to come back and play whenever in Senegal because it was not one person’s field, it was everyone’s. This was a powerful statement because it made me realize the reason I felt so comfortable wasn’t because they were making a special effort to go out of their way for the Americans, but they were just being themselves.

At night, as we sat in the heart of our host Kekuota’s compound, I wondered what I could bring back to my community. Throughout the day and from the people I encountered, I realized the value of being a part of a community that cares about each other. My experience at home made me think this is something we need a lot more of in order to be more at peace with ourselves and with others.

5 thoughts on “At the heart of a community

  1. I anticipate these daily blog post from you, our CCS community in Senegal. Thank you Bryan, for helping us understand what you are seeing, hearing, and experiencing there.

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  2. What a great story, Bryan. You got the message wrapped up in that good experience. By the way, do not tell Mr. Cola how nice it is to wake up to a rooster crowing. He has always wanted us to start up a farm on campus!

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  3. What a sweet story!! I think a lot about the idea of being welcomed as a stranger versus being welcomed as an old friend, and how the idea of “southern hospitality” fits into all of it. Also, I love the title of your post and the idea of being at the heart of a community…Ngonani feels like the heartland for sure! This is great, Bryan – have fun!!!

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  4. Bryan, I really appreciate your reflection around how the soccer pitch made you feel comfortable because the act of engaging over your love and skill for the sport reduced language barriers and the deferential need that accompanies the host/guest dynamic. I think this highlights the importance of being seen and feeling accepted for who you really are – without pretense or performance. Unfortunately, I think the experience of feeling truly accepted for who you are in any given moment is rather rare, and I’m really glad you got to experience this through your trip to Senegal.

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  5. It’s interesting to think about what might tend to separate us around here. Ear buds, phones and social media, closed doors, status and clicks, not really knowing each others backgrounds, etc. Why does our culture put up the barriers and why doesn’t it seem like they do in the village?
    Most everyone strives to be accepted and feel like they are part of something. Why do we have such a hard time maintaining inclusivity and kindness? To what extent does luxury get in the way of community and happiness?

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