I grew up with a big tropical yard with lots of grass, bushes, trees, flowers and makings of mud. (Oh, and snakes). Minus the serpents in the garden, it was a great place to play and explore and imagine.

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Dakar’s rinky dink city yards in a desert climate seemed like a sad substitute for our kids. But then again, we live in an apartment so don’t even have the luxury of a rinky dink city yard, so I shouldn’t be knocking them. Instead we have a parking lot where people gather to drink tea all day and then a stretch of dry, dusty nothingness behind the building. The wall behind the barren nothingness features bad Wutang Clan graffitti and is topped with barbed wire. The only bright spots of color are the clothes on the laundry line or the trash strewn about.

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But Pinterest was letting me down after reading loads of articles with titles like ’20 Indoor Games for Preschoolers’ and ‘Fun Crafts for Boys’. So I grabbed a bottle of bubbles and Pape’s hand and we went to the stretch of nothingness.

Nothingness is in the eye of the beholder.

He played happily for hours, sometimes running around with the neighbors’ little girl (her English is coming along, his Wolof is… meh). They found sticks and rocks and sea shells and monkey bread from the baobob tree (and yes, horse poop and glass too) and had a blast.

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So much so that we are back in the so-called nothingness again right now. Today’s games include throwing rocks at the wall, building a ‘fire’ and racing to the guys drinking tea, giving them all high-fives and then back to me. The find du jour was a broken tape measure that served as a ‘fishing pole’. It’s been a pretty fun-filled afternoon!

On our way inside, he stopped for a quick peanut and attaya (tea) snack with the guards. “Mom look! It a picnic!”

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Not quite, little one. But I’m glad you had fun.