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When I stepped out of the dry, freezing cold plane we’d been on for 8+ hours, the warm, wet Dakar air actually felt great. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought. But then I realized it was 6am, possibly the coolest time of day. I took a breath and smelled the ocean. I took a deeper breath and coughed a bit when I smelled the trash burning mixed in with the sea air and scent of incense that permeates the entire country. It smelled like home.

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Upon arriving at our apartment we found out that it (and much of Dakar) had been without water for several days. We had one big bucket of reserve water to do everything (showers, food prep, flush toilets, etc…). That night as I was headed back to take a bucket bath, the power went out. Bathing by flashlight and cup of water, my fave. But it was so, so nice to not be frustrated or irritated by it. I guess this summer away really was a good (and needed) recharge for us.

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The next morning when my jet-lagged self woke up to the sound of the birds that I’d missed, I found out that a (very) pregnant woman had carried buckets of water on her head up four flights of stairs so we could have water. That was a serious moment of culture shock. Part of me wanted to run out and stop her, but the other part knew we needed the water, I couldn’t carry it up the stairs myself and she earns a living doing this.

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There have definitely been some ‘oh-wow-forgot-about-that-sound/smell/sight’ moments, but overall it’s been wonderful to settle back into the familiar. The call to prayer from the mosque at 5am, the hum of fans on high, sitting strategically so that the air stream from that fan hits you, the rhythmic pounding sound of women preparing meals, and oh those amazing smells that follow…

So what’s it like being back? Wonderful.