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  • When I was 22, I traveled to Senegal to live and study for six months. I wanted to get away from everything I knew well, and go on an adventure. I had no expectations, or really any context, since I'd never been to Africa, or even a poor country before. So when I settled into my host family's decrepit compound in Ouakam, a near suburb of Dakar, I was elated to look out the barred window and see scores of people my age walking the dusty, dirty streets. Like my own friends at home, they had built their own world up around the massive trash dump, the red pockmarked football pitch, the mosques, the donkey carts, the belching taxis, revving motorbikes and the hustling salesmen. During the day they studied, joked around, flirted, fiddled with their mobile phones, squeezed onto crowded buses and listened to Wolof rap. Each night, after the dust settled and the sound of motorbikes died down, neighborhood men gathered around in a circle, kneeling next to scrap metal shacks, and sang religious songs. Starting off quietly--almost tentatively--their voices swelled late into the night, mingling with the pungent scent of incense burning by the doorway to each house. Falling asleep to those spirituals, I felt as far away from home as I'd ever been.
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