I’ve been having a lot of fun traveling this month. There are definitely aspects of traveling I find difficult, such as maintaining my healthy eating, my training schedule, and finding time to address all of the stress that comes with bouncing from city to city.
Senegal felt like a dream. I found myself calling home and saying “Hi, I’m in Africa!” This certainly started to get on my family’s nerves, but it felt so good to say that. I think that trip, in particular, proved to me that traveling is a true love of mine.
Now, I’m back in Cleveland. I spent the first thirteen years of my life in a suburb of this somewhat underappreciated city. I get a lot of flack for supporting this place, but Cleveland is a cultural hub. My love for exploration was fed by the diverse groups of people I met as a child. The West Side Market was the platform for these interactions.
I went to the market almost every weekend. I walked past the cases with whole pigs, Mandel splinters, clothespin cookies, handmade pasta, and men kneading bread for the next day. I talked to them, asked them questions only a kid would have the guts to ask, begged them to satisfy my curiosity about their culture.
They never could. My desire to learn about the world has yet to be crushed or appeased. Instead of going to the market and asking the old Italian ladies about their hometowns, I travel to their peninsula and experience it for myself. I hope I am never able to be content with this world. There is too much to see, too many problems to solve, too many unanswered questions. It’s funny to think that I have this crazy old market to thank for my many past and future adventures.
Ritsy cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, etc. usually share a lot of similar qualities. Dakar is the elite city of Senegal where the 1% of this mostly impoverished country ignore everything going on in the fishing villages and countryside as they party their life away.
Today is my last day in Senegal. I spent most of my time here in Mekhe, a small village about 90 minutes out of Dakar. That is where I expected to spend all of my time, working and creating plans and reports. Although I did spend quite a bit of time on that, I also traveled a lot while in Senegal. Dakar is not the truth of this country.
Yesterday, we went to a fishing village called Tivaouane. The roads were made of dark, deep, hot sand with goat droppings mixed in. Most of the villagers could be found along the beach, either catching, smoking, or selling fish. The kids were playing in the rough Atlantic, even though there were what seemed to be jellyfish litering the shore. Their boats represented their livelihoods.
You will not hear any words of pity from me. The Senegalese people, the African people do not need Western pity. The men and women of the fishing village do not want our pity, they want jobs, they want a functioning economy, they want opportunities to become independent.
African poverty is not a failure of people, it is a failure of democracy. Americans especially like to believe that more democracy is the solution to everything. Although democracy often leads to more economic freedom, it is not a solution on it’s own. Much more will have to be done before Senegal will see it’s peoples potential. Fortunately, there are people who do not waste time that work tirelessly to see this perpetual state of poverty end.
I will probably be writing about Africa for a while. I learned a lot while I was in Mehke and I see it as my responsibility to pass my newfound knowledge on.