By Gracie Wessinger
We just passed the airport on our way into Dakar for our last full day in Senegal. Ms. Valadez “Maman” said, “it feels like a lifetime ago that we left the airport for Bandia’s house.”
We tend to think of changes in our lives on a yearly basis: New Year’s resolutions, birthday wishes, anniversaries, school year goals.
Senegal has shown us that change can happen gradually and overnight all at once. Each sunset brings someone new.
Reflecting on the people we all were in those first few days, not knowing what would come but feeling how special this place would be, we had no idea we’d be the people we are now. Through my experience I was able to see:
Jordan’s ability to lighten the mood and also be a witness and empathic face when needed.
Fran’s fire in everything she does and compassionate friendship at the drop of a hat.
Mr. Alter’s steady guidance and his generosity with the knowledge and emotion he’s acquired over his years living and being with the people of Senegal.
Bryan’s perseverance and comedic timing: things he had way before this trip but is now familiar to those who didn’t know him well.
Cameron’s quiet leadership and strong sense of word choice (for blogs and in person.)
Maman’s way of not only pouring her heart out to everyone at any time, but also to wear her heart on her sleeve freely and without apology.
Khoudia sharing not only her country but her experience of seeing new and familiar things in her own country. Her patience with us Toubabs has been remarkable.
Ms. Brumfield’s calming presence to myself and everyone else around us. Knowing that when she was there, all was well.
Andrew’s strong spirit, taking in all the trip had to offer and being vulnerable in the spaces created by our tight knit group.
The personality traits of this group have shaped each of us daily as we all learned to communicate, eat, (fight), and live in community with each other.
Each of these humans will be connected because of our experiences with each other over the past 11 days. Each day changing us more and more.
As we head back into the US, with new COVID scares, physics homework, and preparation for another break so close to this one, I hope we each recall the dusty air, the inside jokes, the intense heat, and the quiet moments of reflection we had when we were all together. It was in all these moments, we transformed into our current selves and realized that transformation can happen at any time, not just when society tells us to do so.