Reality 101

We’ve been here long enough that once I leave our house and head to school, it is quite possible to not see the evidence that we are living in a third world country. There are office buildings, banks, European grocery stores, paved 2-lane highways, homes with landscaping, restaurants. You pass (or are passed) by other cars that are BMWs, SUVs of many models. I go to friends’ homes and they, like me, have couches, curtains, beds–everything we are used to back in the states.

If you drove with blinders, the visible signs of poverty could be easily overlooked.

But the reality is that next to the dazzling blue ocean, I drive past people sitting on the side of the road. Sometimes they have an infant and children with them. Sometimes, its a man in a wheelchair. You might see someone sleeping on the side of the road under the shade of a palm tree. We pass or drive on dirt roads, some with craters bigger than a bicycle. You weave from one side of the road to the other when you drive to avoid the biggest of the potholes.

I’ve seen

handicapped men with flip-flops on their hands and feet dragging themselves.

Three men digging in the trash looking for anything that could be eaten, reused, or sold to someone else.

Yet, I can get up, take a shower, eat breakfast, drink my coffee.

I could leave my air-conditioned house that is clean, sturdy, and Americanized on the inside,

get into my Honda Civic whose exterior is clean and shiny from being washed daily by the guard,

drive the mile to the school with the azure-blue ocean in plain sight,

pull through the gates into the parking lot, be waved into a spot,

greet school employees-sometimes in French, sometimes in English

housekeepers in green smocks, maintenance men in blue coveralls,


walk down a beautifully paved sidewalk with immaculate school grounds and beautiful buildings,

turn a key and enter an office bigger and more nicely furnished than any I’ve had in the past, turn on my school-provided Mac computer, check my calendar, answer e-mails,

and spend my day in classrooms, offices, and almost forget that I’m not at any American school in the states.

We can swim after school.

Get back in our Honda, drive back to our house,

have our bags carried in by the guard,

be greeted by the housekeeper with a home-cooked meal on the stove, freshly ironed laundry put away in the drawers,

start school work, listen to music

until it’s time to go to bed and start all over again.

If you drove with blinders, the visible signs of poverty could be easily overlooked.

So I do what I can, and remind myself that even small gestures can make a difference in one person’s life, and for now, that needs to be okay.


About bestbookihavenotread

Kristine has been in education since 1993. She taught fourth grade in Ohio from 1993 - 2008. She has been a Curriculum Coordinator for four years. She is relocating to Dakar, Senegal to be the Director of Curriculum for the International School of Dakar in August 2012.
This entry was posted in Africa, Dakar, expat, global education, International School of Dakar, Senegal and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Reality 101

  1. Mary Lee says:

    Thanks for pulling MY blinders down!

  2. Sue Barton says:

    The people of the world, who have even modrate income, live with blinders every day. you grew up insulated from the outside world. In America all we have to do is head to any area, except NY
    city where its in your face that the very sickest and poorest are out there. WE all have to help in some way. Each of us are given an oppertunity to open our eyes and do something, even if just alittle. You can be our helper where you stand, you’ll find a way.

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