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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

THE WORDS OF TÉMENTO SAMBA

Senegal Summer 2014 Photo by Anastasia Maranto

I have found many languages in Témento Samba. My Pulaar is a struggle and my family speaks about as much French as I do so common words are negligible. But leaving I feel that I understand the life and heart of my village. I have found a language in the way the stars over my house hold the world in an embrace of enchanting stoic wisdom. And I have found the same enchanting stoic wisdom in every generation of women in the rhythm of their lives. The knowledge and skill of these women is a story that speaks the same words every day but the mystery always sounds unique. There is a language in the pounding of corn and the strength of my Neene who every day transforms the corn from kernels to couscous. Their is a language in the sounds of the animals, the braying of donkeys and the roosters in the early morning. I have found understanding also in the rhythm of life. The song of community sings as I pass from one home to the next and in every family their love and warmth feels as present as their words. There are words in the peanut fields and in the cattle fields.

And so I have founds language in all of these places but the communication that has spoken to me beyond all others is that of human touch. The feel of my Neene holding my hand in her own two is a memory I hope never to forget. For that is where I felt her love. In the strength of her hands I felt the warm ways in which she was a mother to me and I felt protected. The other pair of hands that gave me a love I can never truly articulate are those of my grandmothers. Her constant concern for my wellbeing was spoken in the hands she extended to me every time I sat with her. We spoke a language that I could never have learned. Upon my leaving she held both my hands in hers, she looked into my face and I could feel her seeing more than the lines of my smile. And with a sure intent she pressed her forehead against mine and silently we held each other in this space. There were no words only the love of someone who no matter where I go will always be a pillar of strength in my memory.

These were the languages of Témento Samba, these were the stories and the songs spoken only in my understanding and these were the words that will live with me in little ways forever.