Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wendy's Blog Entry

I am a New Yorker. I’ve lived in “The City” for almost 9 years now. I have lived the most classic New Yorker life one can imagine: holding multiple jobs, working 16 hour days, living paycheck to paycheck, as a “freelance” dancer, personal trainer, cater, waiter, babysitter, and personal assistant. You name it, I’ve done it. My life is fast-paced. The myth of the New York minute is true. I can fit more into one minute than you can possibly imagine. And I had never been out of the country until I decided to go to Africa.

When I told friends I would be traveling to Senegal for my very first trip out of the country, I always got a similar response: “that’s a hell of a trip for the first time out of the country!” And I agreed. But what did I have to lose? Cait would be the perfect tour guide. Lisa would be the perfect travel buddy. There was nothing stopping me. I wanted to experience something so completely different from everything I know, to break farther out of my comfort zone than I ever thought possible. And so, I boarded that plane with no expectations. I was open to anything. Eyes wide, (doe-eyed, I think Lisa called us) heart open, ready for an adventure. And that’s exactly what it was. Lisa’s blog sufficiently described what we saw, how we felt. Her words are as perfect as they can be describing something indescribable. Her thoughts mirrored mine. So I will try to offer other insights into what I witnessed about this family that has left it’s imprint on my heart.

By the end of my first day back to work, I felt as though I had never left at all. My clients wanted to hear stories, but I just felt like I couldn’t do any moment justice. How do you describe the trash everywhere? The rotting animals, the sewage, the constant runny noses of the children? The negatives are the things you see first. The filth, the poverty. It made me very somber. As soon as we got to Kanel, I became quiet, observant. It affected me so deeply. I wasn’t necessarily sad or depressed, but it broke my heart. But then I saw the happiness. The simplicity with which they live. Love, respect, hope. That is the essence of Cait’s family. They welcomed us so completely with open arms. Those kids were the most adorable little munchkins I have ever seen in my life. The mischievous boys, the playful girls. They are happy! They keep themselves entertained better than any child in America. They do chores, go to school, eat lunch and dinner with the family, watch their hour of TV in the evening. The adults seemed to always be smiling, proud of their children.

Being a New Yorker means, by default, that one must complete 793 tasks by the end of the work day (which is at least 12 hours). As an overachiever, my number is somewhere closer to 1,000. I used to be ok with that, living in a hazy state of exhaustion approaching burn-out. But then I saw what was considered productive in Kanel: waking up, doing chores, going to the market, cooking and eating lunch, greeting the neighbors, washing clothes, cooking and eating dinner. In so many ways I began to desire that life. My new goal is to figure out how to bring these wonderfully simplistic ideals into my maniacal New York City life.

I realize it is virtually impossible to work less hours and keep my apartment, but something about my thinking has to change. I have to take those moments for relationships, with family, neighbors, friends. Life should be simple. It should be about the people you love, and doing what you love. Life is not just about paying the bills. Because what is the point if we spend our days worrying about how much money is in our bank account if we forget the people we love. I am eternally grateful to Cait and the Lam family for opening my eyes to this. And to Lisa, for being along for the ride.

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