The Sidewalks are Full

Of cracks, like many other sidewalks, but what’s missing here are chunks.

Of sellers with with shirts, designer purses, and the right shoe of every pair in their stock, all lined up neatly by type. The shirts are everything from jerseys to Twilight (the Wal-Mart shirt with Team Edward or Jacob).
The shirts sometimes come from the losers of sporting matches in the Global North because we have no patience for champions’ memorabilia.
The purses aren’t actually knock-offs. They’re the designer items that didn’t pass quality control in China and other Asian countries that manufacture everything we “need” to protect our status.

Of food stands, tiny cart-like ones, each with their own local flavor.
There’s the Nescafe cart selling miniature teas and coffees,
The “nem” cart selling selling mini fried rolls stuffed veggies and other delicious things,
The stands containing the day’s fruits and vegetables, some better-looking than others, but always cheaper than the grocery stores,
The stands serving sandwiches: baguettes with tuna or some other fish, and other items ready to take away as you continue down the street.
And peanut sellers. Sand roasted peanuts are a way of life here.

Of women holding infant children on their lap with hand outstretched jiggling the change they have collected so far

Of disabled persons on mats, making the same hand motions and requests

Of sellers outside the university and other schools with study guides and books for the students

Of trash, so much trash it fills the canals where there used to be water. It is easy to see the waste we create when it occupies so much public space.

On Fridays, with children carrying buckets for change because it is Mosque Day and a day of giving.

Of trees, some of them gone, some of them fighting a losing battle against the desert that our changing climate has hoisted upon them. The sidewalks were built around them, not the other way around.

Of people, waiting to catch a taxi or Car Rapide to their next destination,

Of women and men clad in every color of every fabric in every print imaginable,

Of sellers with sheets full of cell phone credits from Orange and Tigo. They wave them at you as you walk or drive by.

Of people washing their heads, hands, and feet to prepare for prayer.

Of people praying on special mats in the shade, ignoring the bustle around them to be fully invested in their spiritual experience.

Of bicycles, choosing back and forth between whether the road or the sidewalk is safer.

Of cars, cars, and additional cars. There is little parking in the city, and the sidewalks are parking lots. In some cases, they are also a street substitute. Watch out!

And me. I occupy a small space on the sidewalk, speaking broken French and Wolof to those around me, attempting to engage in this vibrant environment, to notice the details around me.

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