On est ensemble

on

The people, the people. The city is dirty, dusty, polluted, and without the people: blatantly insignificant. The people, the people here and there and skirting the moving traffic. Flowing, wrapped in the colourful fabrics, draped in traditional robes, sitting, sipping, standing, being always everywhere there are people. I left my car keys with the guy who runs a make-shift parking spot near the heart of the city. I had never seen him before in my life and yet he was familiar. Only parking spot available, and I’m to hand a perfect stranger the keys to my car? I did, because we do that here, and because it’s OK like that.

“Madame, shall we wash the car while you are away on your errand?” Why yes, yes please. “You are quite sure it is OK?” I ask not because I think it’s not OK but to show them that I’m new at this still, and that I’m choosing to trust them. They laugh, settle into plastic chairs a bit deeper. “Don’t you worry pretty gazelle, it’s just fine”. “On est ensemble”, we are together. We are all together. A huge network of people, knowing people, sitting with people, next to people, dodging traffic until parked in a parking spot again, only to hand the keys to a stranger who is somehow not a stranger since surely less than that supposed global six-degrees-of-seperation separate us here where everyone knows everyone and everyone is people. In Africa there are fewer degrees perhaps, to compensate for the hotter temperatures.

How do you explain to someone who has never experienced it that my favourite taxi driver, the kind of taxi driver whom everyone asks if he worked other jobs because his degrees of professionalism and optimism far outweigh those of his fellow taxi-men… well this very taxi-driver, my very favourite, happened – oh, just happened – to be driving my dear friend who had come for a visit to Dakar for 2 weeks. She mentions Poland, he mentions me, they both exclaim my name and he calls me on the phone. I answer, I am astonished, of the hundreds of taxis in this bustling city that these two should meet is beyond wonder. They arrive, we extend handshakes. He holds my hand and simply says “You, me, this is not about you or me, there is a higher plan here.”

Here I enjoy lessons in humanity from taxi-men, from parking agents, from all of the people. We are together. On est ensemble. The people, they are my first and my last reason for calling any place or time here significant to me.

Image: courtesy of www.raid-latecoere.com

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