Asalaa Maalekum! It’s likely that Mrs. Blackwell’s class will not see this post, as their school year ends tomorrow. But DANG, what a sweet and goofy group of kids! We started off our final celebration by learning how to say Hello (Asalaa maalekum; maalekum salaam!) and How are you? I’m doing well! (Nanga def? Maangi fii rekk!) in Arabic and Wolof. We listened to some Youssou N’Dour, passed around some goodies I brought back to Dakar (including wax fabric, a hand-woven box, jewelry, bin-bins, and glass paintings), and talked about some of the highlights of my time in Senegal. There were many good questions, from the kiddos as well as Mrs. Blackwell! I felt welcomed from the moment I stepped into the classroom, seeing the smiles break out across the students’ faces. “It’s Rheanna, she’s here!”
As a parting gift, I left the kids each with a plastic bracelet wrapped in wax fabric and a sothiou (pardon, I’m not sure of the Wolof phonetic spelling), a Senegalese toothbrush made of a particular kind wood that is supposed to be chewed and scrubbed against the teeth. They wanted to use them as magic wands, which was to be expected, and we parted on a high note as the class ran outside for afternoon recess to show their friends the goodies and feed off that end-of-the-year energy that seems to be universal in the elementary school experience.
My experience in Senegal felt heightened throughout the 4 1/2 months I was there when the thought constantly streaming through my head was, “I can’t wait to tell my class about this!” It gave me a lens to view my experiences through that encouraged me to pay closer attention to my surroundings, remember conversations I had with people, take photos of things I may have ordinarily passed by. I looked forward to the questions from Mrs. Blackwell’s class each week, as sometimes they, too, added a perspective to my experience that I would not have considered before. The brash curiosity that comes from kids is an untapped resource for discovering new angles, ideas, pathways to things we wouldn’t necessarily consider as adults.
Jërëjëf, samay xarit – Thank you, my friends. This semester would not have been the same without you. I hope I’ll be reading about your own adventures soon enough.
Ba beneen yoon, insh’allah – until next time, God willing.