Sénégal: It’s the place to be

Sénégal: It’s the place to be

by Josh Hertzler

As a current second semester senior, I have a lot of things to be doing right now. I have a history thesis to write, graduation to look forward to, life plans to make and follow through with, and that’s only the beginning of the list. It is a little overwhelming at times.

During those times of indecision about whether to finish reading that thesis book or give up and move to Idaho to trap small game for a living, I am reminded of a question that one of my very favorite SST leaders, Sallie Jo Milne, asked our group the day before we left: what do you want to take home with you from your time here?

My subsequent response, of course, was easy: I wanted to take it all home. I wanted to come back to the U.S. and speak Pulaar (the indigenous language of my service village that we struggled so hard to learn); make attaaya, the traditional tea I spent so much of SST drinking; and in general spend more of my time enjoying the life and people around me. On a few of these fronts, certainly I have not done so well (to my credit, not many people in the U.S. speak Pulaar). However, I remain sold on the idea of spending at least a bit of my time “being,” that abstract cliché that is so tied to SST rhetoric.

I’m sure that I am not the only one who has heard stories about learning how to “be” on the service portion of SST, which, to the inexperienced, sounds like a nice description of intense boredom. However, there really is something to this “being” thing.

Sometimes it is really nice to stop, take a deep breath and enjoy one’s surroundings. It feels good to stop thinking about all the things that need to be done and spend some time thinking about the people one can be with. Call me cliché, but I learned a lot about how to “be” in my little village, and have a blast doing what U.S. Americans would certainly label as “nothing.” In those times of certain doom from school, work, and the pressures of U.S. American life, it feels really good to just be.

I encourage you to try it. Just be for a while. Appreciate what is around you, especially your community.  If you find yourself struggling to do this, shoot me an email; I’d be more than happy to make attaaya and be for a couple hours (and it is a multiple-hour endeavor).

Sénégal imprinted many of its legacies upon me before sending me home, and the ability to be stands out among them as a particularly precious gift. Give it a shot. Right now. Put down your paper and just be for a couple minutes. Doesn’t that feel good?

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