I don’t really think that the sole purpose of studying abroad is to necessarily compare two cultures and go home with a new understanding of another, but rather to find your place between both of those cultures, within the world. I think it’s about understanding yourself, your beliefs, and your gifts, and figuring out how you can best apply or even change those to be a better person for the world.
Rooftop reflections: the smell of burning sugar. The burning of chemicals into my pores. The pouring of thoughts from my head to my heart and back again in agreement with the tea flowing from kettle to glass. This place is not easy to digest. physically and well, you know the rest. Or maybe you don’t, but one day you might and it might be when you find yourself letting people into your life you never thought to give a chance. Or when you meet people who are giving chances to people they don’t even really know. Or when you hear that unexpected and unfamiliar voice say— creativity. It’s the most important thing. It helps us to see the world differently, to solve problems, to find solutions, and to find the true nature of humans. See the world from a rooftop, at two a.m., in a country not quite our own, but had become a part of us if even for that second.
A lot of times I think that I have caught myself finding comfort in knowing that I will only be here for ___ more days to hide from the fact that the living conditions and amount of poverty here hurt too much to really take on. Everyone here is so complacent with their lifestyles, very much unlike America, whether it’s the smell of sewage and endless garbage roasting in the heat on the streets or the people sitting around their compounds on empty yellow, plastic, vegetable oil cans eating unripe fruit taking care of their babies, or health clinics with long waits and less than sanitary conditions. Even though a majority of the citizens are living in poverty, Gambians have a way of always being positive about things, whether you are running two hours late, or you have been cooking a meal all day, Gambians don’t really show that they are suffering.
“Suffering in silence” is the Gambian way, I once heard. It’s one thing to acknowledge it, but it’s another to truly understand and change your way of living and interacting based on such realizations. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the sound of lizards scurrying on the roof. Or the subtle pecks of bugs making contact with my skin. Or the way a child will want to hold your hand before they even know your name. Or the way the earth burns for what it wants and what it needs. Or the way it sucks it out of you too. Or the amount of sweat my body is capable of secreting. Or the way it feels to find teeth and bones of a creature long gone, preserved in the dirt to be dug. Or the way the sound of some people’s voices fit perfectly into that hole you’ve dug yourself. Or the way the stars look like glitter whenever you’re secluded from the city. And how much that makes me feel so small and so tall simultaneously. But I can take nothing for granted and find comfort in knowing that I am here on this earth for___ more days, but right now, I’m alive (“fingertips trembling, though they may be”).