The Big Chill

So today I got a message from a friend back home.  Put me in a frame of mind to get writing again about my time here in Senegal.  Her comment was that my picture of life here gave the appearance of a “chill” lifestyle which, in fact for the most part, is true, but it really got me thinking.  Time can pass by quickly, semi-quietly and without incident.  Greetings and handshakes are common and welcomed and local chitchat is all part of the day.  Those are the pictures I have provided to friends, family and acquaintances.  But as we all know, there are always two sides of a coin, and that certainly applies here.

Today I walked on the beach to nearby Toubab Dialaw.  Its always such an interesting walk along the beautiful coastline, passing through the local fishing village where life is in full swing and the beautiful little African children keep busy building creations in the sand and playing in the ocean.  The incredibly beautiful Senegalese women in their colorful costumes going about their duties, and the men often adding new paint designs to their huge wooden fishing boats and making and repairing nets for the next time out.  It seems all in place and paints a pretty picture.   I love seeing the life here.  But underneath all those amazing images, there are “things”.[/col][/row]

I watched as one of the beautifully painted pirogues (African fishing boats) arrived back to shore with its morning catch.  Other years the fish supply was plenty and people came from the village with their baskets and tubs to collect the fish that would provide food for their families and provide income for the ones that sell in the market.  Today the catch was minimal and only a small crowd gathered around.  Our friends, who we used to see on the beach at night when we were fishing, tell us that the fish are not coming.  That saddens me as I know how important that supply of fish is to the people here.  It can’t be easy going back with an empty pail.

A little further down the beach I see one of the beach dogs that has not survived the night and is washed up on shore, and just a short distance further, the same fate for someone’s sheep.  That is hard thing to see and had me thinking about the many times I passed the dogs on the beach offering me an opportunity to photograph them as they laid in the shallow holes they dug to cool from the blazing sun.  It also reminds me of the very harsh lifestyle the animals endure here.

The beach was so clean and litter–free today, minus the animals mentioned.  That’s when it shows the pristine beauty, but a few other times it has been littered with garbage and waste from the village and from the polluted ocean that spills back what has been emptied into it.  It’s easy to delete a picture from my camera file, but not so easy to erase that from your mind, so I keep that hidden away.

Combine all that with over population, high unemployment, high costs of food, power, gasoline, heath care, the pollution, harsh weather and of course the unimaginable number of small boys that roam the streets which brought me here in the first place, you’ll see it isn’t an easy life here. That’s the “unchill” part; the part that steals a little bit of the joy of seeing life in action.

So as I sat on the cliffs high about the ocean and watched the big African sun dip into the ocean, I felt “chill” and thankful for my day, knowing well that the sun will rise again tomorrow and life will go on again.  Count your blessings, where ever you can find them.

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