I saw the Americans walk through the orphanage’s gate and my need to express myself was as strong as the thirst that plagues a dessert nomad when he spots an oasis. It had been weeks since I’d had a full conversation in my native language, and I could hardly contain my excitement at the prospect. Representatives from an American NGO were visiting the orphanage in India where I’d been volunteering full-time, teaching English to the boys that lived there. I had learned Hindi quickly out of necessity: there was only one other person at the orphanage who spoke English and she was only there a few hours each weekday, while I lived there 24/7 for nearly two months. So, I found myself playing games with eight-year-olds, whose fascination with me never weakened. You’d be amazed how much vocabulary you can pick up playing Crazy Eights and Sorry.
I knew the Americans would love the orphanage. It was easy to be charmed by the hope embodied by the boys. They were smart, optimistic, and despite their troubled childhoods, determined to enjoy life. The NGO staff (whose organization provided a large amount of funding to the orphanage) were being shown around the place, their guide describing (in English) the numerous ways the orphanage provided a new start. Education, three square meals a day, a chance to escape the horrible working conditions many of them had been forced into by their poor families. The boys were sitting in the classroom, drawing with brand new colored pencils on brand new sketch pads, both donated by the charitable visitors.
“Here you can see where the students learn English,” said the guide, pointing to the blackboard where the remnants of my earlier lesson remained. Continue reading …
Can you think of a better way to spend 3 minutes and 51 second than watching/listening to a rap video filmed in Senegal, sung in French? I can’t. The beautiful pink building with a sweeping staircases in the background is the House of Slaves Museum on Gorée Island. A slave trading port preserved, so that with the power of memory we can prevent history from repeating itself. In so many ways we are succeeding, in so many others we are failing. And yet no matter which side is winning, we always have beautiful music, bringing us together.
Grateful for: youtube and twitter, which brought me the video
Google recently updated to include a lot more detail in four african countries’ maps – Senegal included. Diene and I had so much fun finding his hometown, Yayeme (spelled Yayem on the map). How fun to be able to see the road I walked from Fimela, where the bus would drop me off, to Yayeme, where I would arrive to the sunny faces of friends.
I’ve embedded the map below for you to play around with. Why not try and find Samba Dia, where the I found myself in the market during this story. Here’s a hint: its walking distance from Yayeme.
I have been full of nostalgia lately. Memories of the past ten years have been invading my mind with a vividness I hadn’t realized was still there. I think about my days at Miami University and I can smell the coffee machine in the lobby of the building where all my early morning psychology classes were held. (Can’t remember the building’s name, though.) I can feel the crisp air in the morning, the weight of my backback on my shoulders, and the dampness under my arms from having to run to avoid being late for my first class. I can recall, with detail, a conversation I had with a graduate assistant sitting in front of a fireplace at a cabin over on Western campus. I can feel the awkwardness of arriving at frat parties where I knew 1% of the people there.
I have no idea why these memories have come, or why they are progressing chronologically. Last night, after reading about Porches in the Sun’s Readers Write section, I was devastated to realize I could not remember a single detail about the porch in the intern apartment in Kalkaji, New Delhi where I lived for months. I laid in bed and squeezed my eyes shut, forcing the recall. Eventually, the pervy neighbor who talked over the porch walls to all the cute interns came to mind. Maybe somethings are best left forgotten.
Generally, I don’t feel regret, but rather nostalgia. I miss the people who make cameos in those memories; especially those that are so far away – Diene’s family, old friends from college, the characters I met in India, my teenaged and early 20-something self.
I take solace in the fact that all of us, spanning time and space, can look up in the night sky and see the same moon. Its one of the few constants in the various frames of the filmstrip of past. I am grateful for it.