Growing Global and Local

A spot to share my thoughts and experiences with language, education, people, and nature in a global and local context.

Location: Sandaga Market, Dakar, Senegal   Date: January 4th, 2017

The Sandaga Market in Dakar is full of life and items for sale. Languages float on the breeze through the market vendor stalls looking for ears to fill. Bargaining is in full force as the buyers try to get their item of choice at the cheapest price, and sellers are trying to convince the buyer of the worth of their product.

The high energy emanates from every corner and it intensifies the experience of trying to learn the culture and language. So as you can imagine, speaking little to no French or Wolof made the market experience that much more complicated. I noticed that many sellers would approach me speaking in their language and even though I could not respond, they continued to follow me a block or two down the street. Of course this is reminiscent of any large city where people are a bit more aggressive and insistent when it comes to buying and selling.

One moment in particular that stuck with me because amongst the flurry of language, it was a moment of non verbal communication that helped me avoid getting run over by a bus that was a little too close for comfort. I was distracted by three men playing instruments, who after us asking them about their instruments, begun to play and expected money for it. I was struggling to find the words when I saw a young boy approach. He was smiling and laughing, probably at me, because he knew what the men were doing as they continued to play for us. My friends and I were searching for a way away from the circle the men were becoming around us and as I backed up a few steps into the street a the city bus comes barreling down. I had seen it of course and had started to move back into the street side, but I guess I was not moving fast enough because the young boy grabbed my arm and pulled away from the street with a look of concern on his face. In the moment I could not for the life of me remember how to say “Thank you” in Wolof so I said it in English and the boy beamed at me and walked away, reminding me that there are something that are universal, like gratitude and compassion.

Location: Paris, France Metro    Date: December 28th 2016

I was sitting on the Paris metro exhausted and sore from a full day of walking when the lights suddenly went out and the train came to a screeching halt. The young women I was traveling with looked around at one another nervously hoping for some explanation. We got an explanation, but we could not understand it. A deep voice came over the intercom, announcing the reason for the delay and power outage, but in French of course. No one in our group spoke French. We nervously laughed and shook our heads in confusion. But we took comfort in the fact that the locals did not seem to be panicking.

I made eye contact with the man sitting across from me and we both smiled. He and I both knew that I had no idea what was going on and he clearly did. He said something I did not understand to the young woman beside him and she smiled as well. I knew he either did not speak English and could not help ease our worry about the non moving train, or he laughed because he knew he could explain the situation to us but chose not to. And the latter would have been perfectly understandable. There was no emergency and us Americans, at least in my opinion, needed to squirm, just a bit, to reminded that the world doesn’t revolve around us.