FROM ONE BIG GIANT TO TWO HUNDRED HUNGRY TALIBE

I am finally writing my last article before  returning from Senegal.  After recently returning from Nigeria; a country which I can quite readily call the "Giant of West Africa", I type away on this computer whilst exploding with enthusiasm and excitement about the place. I found Nigeria; the country where my Dad was born, to be bursting with energy, people and dangers. A country where people love to shout and laugh, talk and joke and above all never stop moving. I was overwhelmed and astonished by the richness of Nigeria’s diversity ; differences in ethnicity, language and religion create a colourful society which I am so eager to learn even more about.

However, I am going to refrain from devoting my final article to a travel log of our trip to Nigeria. I will wait to share the rôle of story telling with my Dad once I am safely back in the Parish.

                                                  

For now, I would appreciate focusing on what I am experiencing since returning to Senegal, and more specifically back to the children’s centre. After just one week back at the centre, I have found myself being thrown right back into the lively and energetic energy of the children.; the constant murmur of the children whilst they recite either Koranic verses or snippets from Senegalese promotional adverts as they take their showers, the tugging of my arm by impatient children as I give out soap and toothbrushes , and not to mention the curious questions concerning my  3  week absence whilst being in Nigeria.  "Where did you go ? Is it far to Nigeria ? Will you take us with you next time ?"  All of these questions asked with such innocence and naïveté about the world that these children are living in. During the course of my stay, I have grown to realise that many of these boys do not even know which year we are in, whether they are 10 or 12 years old, the name of their President: so it’s no surprise that they struggle to locate Nigeria on the map.

All in all, I was greeted with a warm welcome from the children, regardless of their slightly confused and curious state of minds ! I had been feeling the need to have some time and distance away from work, the children, the intense (not to mention hot) workday. And since coming back from spending time with my Dad and time in a new place, I feel refreshed and reenergised. This is something which I feel this last leg of my journey really requires. Often it can be the last hurdle which is the hardest to get over, and I feel that it was right to recharge in the lead up to this final stage.

And a large amount of energy was needed last Sunday as we celebrated the « National Day for the Talibe.  The day was marked by a traditional Senegalese wrestling match between the children (la lutte), drama, dancing and finally a gigantic spread of food to go round 200 incredibly hungry mouths. I was lucky enough to climb on board with the women in the community to prepare this banquet. We were up by the crack of dawn to wash the sack load of rice, scale the bucket loads of fish and endure the sting from chopping the dozens of onions. However all the work was paid off once the children poured into the centre from all different quartiers of Saint Louis. 200 children, not to mention 200 hungry children created a lot of shouting, laughing, pushing and shoving but this seems to be what really animates the centre. The children’s energy is something which I will very much miss.

And that is the note that I want to leave you on, because this is the stage that I have recently reached. After arriving in the country 7 months ago, battling with language and cultural barriers, at times loving the place, disliking the place, often irritated by people’s behaviour, at other times enchanted by the country and its customs, riding the waves of homesickness which seem to come and go. It's at the end of this eye opening journey that I have reached the stage where I am simply cherishing the moments with the people and places that I will soon be leaving very far behind me.
And it’s a very interesting stage to be at, sometimes my mind tricks me into thinking that I have only just got arrived in this intriguing country.. I start to find things which had become an every day norm once more fascinating: the constant flow of traffic and sounds of taxi horns, the sheer number of goats around my house, the number of people who seem to fit in a bus and above all the children’s strength and display of solidarity.

My journey has been fascinating and I feel truly blessed to have been carried along by the unwavering support of the Parish.
Thank you once more and I look forward to seeing your friendly and familiar faces very soon.

Love and prayers,
Rachel Inegbedion
 

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