Saturday, July 19, 2008

Just embrace it

To date, each week that I've spent here has felt more and more comfortable. The work is no longer foreign to us, we can finally remember the responses to the Mandinka greetings from the town people, and everyone has discovered the most efficient way to accomplish their house chores. I was expecting this week to follow the same pattern of increasing ease, and yet, it didn't. This week turned out to be an eye opener for me.

A few days ago we were talking with some of the masons at the site and they joking told us how good it is that we were comfortable doing the masonry work. When asked what they meant, they explained that being a mason was a great career, it meant you didn't have to worry if there would be breakfast the next morning. At first I almost thought they were kidding. It's not like we see Mercedes driving down the dirt roads, but I hadn't seen anything to make me think the people here struggled just to feed themselves. I didn't think too much of it until later that night we were hanging out at the compound with some of our friends after dinner. This time Lamin was telling us a story about how a girl he had been dating left him because her family wouldn't let her marry a poor boy. I guess the overwhelming generosity of everyone here gave me the false impression that everyone lived comfortably, even if only by African standards. The more I looked around and talked with friends, the more I realized how obvious it really was.

What amazes me more than the poverty here is how happy and satisfied everyone remains. All of our friends think we're crazy when we tell them that even some of the millionaires in America are unhappy. How could anyone be unhappy with all that money? They thought we were joking. It's so easy to come here and critique everything here. The government is corrupt, the health care system is poor, and they eat way to much fish. Even with all of these problems, it never ceases to amaze me that everyone here still smiles, still jokes around, and still loves the life they live.

That's all the rambling I have time for. We're bringing all of our friends to the beach tonight for a bonfire and the bush-taxi should have showed up 20 minutes ago. Finally, a culture that embraces my sense of timeliness.

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