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I have recently had the pleasure of getting to know Anna Martin, a lawyer who lives up in the Lake Tahoe area. She has a daughter who is applying for college and had spent some time in West Africa. Because of my passion for Africa, Anna was kind enough to share her daughter Julianna Gordon’s college essay with me. I wanted to share it with you because a) it captures the wonderful experiences and lessons one can learn from traveling to Africa and b) because it is just a wonderful story! Enjoy!

Guest Blog by Julianna Gordon

This summer, I, Julianna Gordon, a person open to evolution, became one with the Faye family.
I was shaped on the coast of Africa in a small Senegal village, Pal Marin. For nine days, I embarked on a beautiful adventure filled with insight and belonging. My father and mother, Augustine and Genevieve Faye, named me on July16, 2013. My Senegal name is Yande Die Faye, but you can call me Yande. It sounds just like Gandhi, a person set to change the world. I have four Senegal siblings Agathe, Jean, Liddy and my soul-connected brother, Rene.

Julianna Gordon and Faye Family

Julianna and Faye Family

I am known as a “tubob,” due to the color of my skin. This is not meant as an insult, but instead as a compliment. My little brother, Rene, took pride in having a blonde, tubob sister. The children of my village chant, “the tubobs save.” I provided for my village by constructing, painting and cleaning five of their classrooms. When finished, the school was full of color, an inviting learning environment fit for the children of my village.

In my village, all families are linked and know each other’s ancestors, children and stories. It can be difficult to communicate, without significant strength in a common language, yet, with my family there were no barriers present. Late at night, my family and I sat, in the absence of the African sun with only the moon to light our faces, discussing the differences and struggles in our lives. I realized that these are the moments travelers live for. I am an adventurer, because I crave such indescribable moments. In Pal Marin, those moments were often presented to me. I want to live a life filled with those moments.

There is strong community in Senegal that differs from those I have known in the United Sates. I have never felt so accepted, as I did in Pal Marin. There is an acceptance, generosity and hospitality that I wish to bring to every place that I travel and live. My village has taught me about who I want to be as a humanitarian in this world. Through education and knowledge, I dream of an impact that I could have, just as my family and my village had an impact on me.

I do not claim that my village transformed me entirely. I claim that my family and this village have shown me what the world has to offer. I have learned that with so much of nothing, one is able to have so much of happiness. Many of my peers speak of how they want to travel and experience other cultures, but I speak of what I want to do for others. I want to have an impact that will be so meaningful that the stories shared by families at night will be of memories made with me and of our adventures together. I want to feel the world just as I have felt my village, the village that now runs through my veins and feeds my soul.

Julianna Gordon and Rene

Julianna and Rene

My soul-brother Rene gave me a funny look, when I made a fist, grabbed his pinky with mine and made him kiss the end of his hand, while I kissed mine. When I spoke the words “je promets,” he understood the meaning, which his soul-sister will never forget. As I looked into his brown, almond-shaped eyes, under the African sun, a tear had fallen down his cheek. I had then found a different meaning to my life.

I write this to share a time in my life that has lit fire in my own eyes that burns straight from my soul and, perhaps, to inspire you. It is time to comprehend and remember what matters in this world. I want you to know that in a small village on the coast of Senegal, a young boy lives and grows, and he is a gift of the world. He matters.