Ca Va bien
Magni fi rekk
Naka wa khurgii…..
and on like that for a solid 2 minutes.
Ok, well not 2 minutes, but for what seems like a long time to an American.
Greetings in one of the native tongues of Senegal West Africa; Wolof. Many citizens toggle between French and Wolof, but as Wolof is the language that would be learned first, or before French if you were Senegalese, I decided that would be my starting point as well.
I usually don’t travel alone. As a performer, I have been blessed to have a number of international trips sponsored by the U. S. Embassy. Through dance, I promote diversity, social justice, and inclusion.
This is an ongoing learning experience professionally and personally. On a professional level, you are constantly reminded you represent a brand, you are not the individual, this is not a vacation, this is work; on a personal level—how awesome is it to travel on someone else’s dime??!!!
Meeting new people, becoming a part of the community even if only for a moment.
That is where my heart is and has always been, with the people, not speaking to them, not dancing for them, speaking with them, dancing with them; I don’t like the view from the tourist seat, I like the seat in the middle of the village with the villagers.
Dust on my legs and a local drink in my hand.
This is my passion. Any country, anytime.
Following this frame of mind, I decided to take a chance and travel to Senegal with an artistic group I wasn’t familiar with.
One of the best decisions I have ever made.
My students were amazing, we connected and music was our language, as I did not yet possess the same words on my tongue, the rhythm was our mutual vocabulary. Outside of the class, the people. So warm and welcoming, excited to greet you. That long introduction became a way of life, really caring about how the person standing across from you was doing, regardless of how well you knew them. There was love in Senegal, joy, a sense of camaraderie and peace.
Now, my trip was not perfect, but as all things, when it gets hard, you learn the most; about the world around you, and more importantly, about yourself and the role you play within it.
I got comfortable with the city of Dakar, the people of Senegal, and decided to branch off on my own.
It was my first time traveling a far distance alone, I asked one of the local women for help translating.
“Amy, how do I get a cab?”
“How much should it cost?”
“How do I tell them to go left, right, straight?” I grabbed my black book, wrote down everything I thought I would need.
“See you guys in a few hours!”
I hissed at a cab, hopped in and took off.
Turned around in the same cab and got back to the house 30 minutes later.
The cabbie was nice about it.
Me, on the phone with my friend who was waiting:
“Well, there are no cross streets, no numbers on doors just turns— and everything looks the same, same color, same houses, same everything—I need a landmark!!!!”
5 minutes later, I got another cab and tried again.
It wasn’t my last time getting lost, but just one of the experiences that led me to a place I can now never really leave, a place I consider my second home.
Even when in New York I yearn to visit and although I have since been back multiple times, when I am away Senegal resides within me.
I cook some of the Senegalese dishes (It’s been confirmed I make the best Thiacry), I speak Wolof with the Senegalese store owner down the block (I stumble but I try). I smile when I remember the last time I danced outside by the fire, guitar in the background and me pretending to know how to Sabar (traditional dance that I absolutely cannot do).
I fell in love.
With Senegal, the people, the food, the music, the ocean, the sun, the language, the life….the music (yes, again)
It is no longer a place I have just gone to teach in, it is a place where I have found family and friendship. It is a place that mirrors what so many people are missing- love, humility, and heart.
Senegal is a place I am proud to call my home.
Should we all be so lucky to have more than one.”
099/100 of #100DaysofConfessions Instagram Project