“We’re going to the beach this afternoon” my 12-year-old homestay brother, Babacar, told me on a Saturday morning. I immediately agreed, and spent the rest of my morning excitedly looking forward to swimming in the ocean in Dakar for the first time. I would lie if I said I didn’t have very high expectations for how the afternoon would pan out. I’ve noticed over the past month and a half in Senegal, that every time I go to the beach here I get in a bit of a reflective mood. Before coming here, I’d lived my whole life in Cancun, Mexico, and the beach is a crucial part of what I consider home. Now that I’m on the opposite side of the Atlantic, being in the shore feels a little bit nostalgic, but meaningful at the same time. I figured that this first beach outing with my homestay family, where I would get in the water for the first time, would be a mix of emotions that made way to some reflection, and, who knows, maybe even a yak.
At around 5:00 pm, I was putting on my swimsuit in my room, and gathering my stuff for the beach, all while listening to many infants’ voices chanting “Binta, pare nga?” (Binta -my Senegalese name-, are you done?) outside of my door. When I was finally done and I walked out, I was greeted by the sight of nearly all of my younger homestay siblings, all dressed in their beach clothes and ready to go. We started walking towards the beach, and I looked around and suddenly realized the situation that I’d gotten myself into. Turns out, our beach trip cohort was made out of the following participants:
At this time, I surprisingly didn’t panic as much as I probably should have. I just used my newfound role as responsible adult to focus on these children’s survival while crossing the streets on our walk to the beach. Admittedly, they did most of the work, because I had no idea where the beach was, and the older kids were pretty much leading our group. I basically just held hands with the smaller ones and tried to ensure that none of them wandered off or stayed behind.
Finally, we got to the beach. It was beautiful, the water was refreshing, and life was great.
Then things started to happen. I’m not super sure of the order of the events that unfolded on this Saturday afternoon, and I like making lists, so let’s just say that over the next two hours, the following happened:
When we got back home, it wasn’t even 8:00 pm yet, and I was exhausted. I wasn’t in a bad mood though. I can’t really explain how, but I actually had enjoyed our little beach excursion, stress and mini-crises and all. As I watched them all hobble into the shower and eat some dinner I realized just how fond I am of these kids. All throughout our time outside, I was feeling extremely protective of them. I realized that even with everything that happened today, if they asked, I’d probably take them to the beach again in a heartbeat. Although next time, I might just ask my mom to come along as well. Just in case.