A Reckoning Begins

“Just up on the rise, the twin towers of the mosque loom just visible through the dusty sky. Faintly, I catch the calls of the pied crows on their lookout, scoping out carrion in the valley below. Do they take me for the dead? I wonder. I’ve walked a mile yet the distance never shortens when you’re this thirsty. My clothes are tattered, full of holes, and stained with sweat- no more belt, loops all a’bust. The empty canteen hanging limp by my side, brushes my leg with each parched step. The sand turns to lava midday, the heat- searing. But I’m on the way home now, crossing the valley and up over the plains where the twisters roam free. I pass through the skeleton graveyard of a riverbed run dry. These are strange trails I follow. I turn back but the path is gone. I’m not sure when. I’m not sure how. I swear I was on one. It doesn’t matter now. My legs know where to go. Not even fire could stop me. This is the Sahel. And summer is coming.”

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Back in March, I started having trouble breathing up North. I tried to wait it out. But weird cardiac events were happening. And mundane activities were causing me incredible fatigue like I had never experienced in my life. We’re talking just shy of spontaneous onset narcolepsy. Suddenly, I would feel so exhausted that I wanted to just lay down in place and sleep for an eternity, no matter where I was. “It’s ok everyone, I just feel really tired right now, not to worry, just let me nap real briefly under these shady eggplants” was my planned response if I didn’t pass out first. I gave in. The medical unit summoned me to Dakar. They took my blood, gave me a chest Xray, and sent me to a cardiologist for an echocardiogram. Everything was normal. Mysterious illness unsolved, but nothing serious seemed to be wrong so that was a plus. Here ,take this multivitamin and magnesium, you’ll be good. Went back North. Was still dying. Was back in Dakar mid-April. I went to visit my friend, get work done on my literature review, and scheduled a mid-service medical exam…

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The dust in the Fouta is relentless and coats everything, even the insides of your lungs.IMG_1866

Well, it had been uncharacteristically windy and dusty for this time of year up North. Turns out, I’m allergic to Senegal. Hence the non-breathing part. Now I’m on an antihistamine regimen morning and night. It makes me tired but it makes me determined too. I love Senegal and I’ve poured so much energy and heart into my service. The dust and the heat can’t stop me now. I’ve started my research. I’ve been traveling and meeting farmers and seeing agriculture here like never before when I was only focused on my own village. These next few months will be the hardest of my service. But I know the intensity of a Sahelian Summer and I burn with a fire much hotter than that.

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