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Finding small-town Alabama in Senegal

I suppose each individual’s journey begins from a rather unique starting point. My journey, therefore, began in a town of 4,000 in rural Alabama. I did not know it at the time, but that starting point, much like others’, has shaped my worldly understanding and dictated the person I’ve become. In my hometown, I rarely meet strangers. I watch trains. I live rather simply.

In Senegal, I have already met an innumerable amount of strangers, but I have also drawn upon many similarities from my home in the states. I’m not sure how the stars aligned to place me in Senegal, but I do feel an almost innate attraction to this place. Admittedly, I often miss home a good bit , whether that be in a foreign country or at my boarding school in Tennessee. Perhaps, I miss comfort, though I much prefer uncomfortable exploration. Maybe, it’s because they don’t have Hawaiian pizza, Cage the Elephant or toilet paper, so adjustment is necessary. However, much like my home down south, everyone is very welcoming and has made me feel at home instantaneously.

Whether it’s over a shared glass of attaya or a disorganized soccer game, I find myself experiencing the same sense of openness in Senegal that I know so well back home. Senegal embraces the weary traveler with open arms. That is simply a way of life. After just two weeks, I have brothers and sisters. I have a family and a name in Wolof. I belong.

That sense of openness and the community here are the very things that will make this trip such a memorable experience. Relationships, openness, and homeliness are valued here, just like home. Senegal is by no means small-town Alabama, but my experience here does go to show how similar people can be. I could never equate the two places for they are drastically different, but Senegal reminds me of home more-so than I’d ever expect because of how kind everyone is. Here, we are all family despite differing backgrounds.

For their willingness to accept and include me, I am eternally grateful to my families in Senegal. Although I come from such a different place, I know we share the same glass of attaya and the same love for Senegal. I’d even bet we could share the same Hawaiian pizza because, as my time here has taught me, we’re all human. We have so much in common.