Stories of Lizard’s travel adventures, how she got there, and where she might go
A brief overview…
Where to begin? The complexities of life have been extraordinary recently, witnessing the interconnected web of life, all the unbelievable synchronicities, the manifestations becoming reality. All of it, it’s beautiful and I’m truly grateful. Gratitude has been a big and constant theme lately. So much unending gratitude…
I write to you sitting in a coffee and art gallery in Mount Shasta, California, but how did I get here? Where am I going? Why start a travel blog?
How I got here will inevitably be the longest part of this blog, so let’s start with the last two questions first. It is my hope to document these incredible parts of my existence, to look back and smile, to share my experience, to inspire those who follow along with me on this wonderful journey of life. In less than two months time, I will begin the Camino De Santiago Del Norte in Spain. It is my great hope to find funding through this platform to support my endeavors in Spain, and Inshallah (God willing), throughout Europe at large.
Two years ago, I gave up most of my worldly possessions, found myself crying in a hotel parking lot with a partner I was irrevocably in love with as we said our long-term goodbyes.
she’s constantly running into the unknown,
facing her fears,
living with intentions of absolute freedom
I continued this pattern of goodbyes all the way to the airport, where my beautiful Mom cried hysterically as I left.
I moved to Senegal, West Africa, and more specifically, after about 2 months, to Mankono Ba, Sedhíou.
I became a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). I learned to speak Mandinka/Malinké, a small West African language originating from the Mandé Kingdom. I was chased by kankerongs, hitched rides in semis, Alhums, and sept-places. I lived in a circle hut with a thatch roof I helped weave parts of myself. I had no running water or electricity and my host dad was the village chief.
My host brother Bymore standing in the shallow waters of the Casamance River.
Memories I will forever cherish and love.
Then we watched as Peace Corps countries began to evacuate their volunteers, COVID-19 was spreading, and with it panic and confusion.
I was in the Kaolack transit house with an eye infection when I woke up about 5AM to other Peace Corps Volunteers talking quietly and ominously amongst themselves – I knew it was the end before I even checked my phone… Peace Corps worldwide was being evacuated.
My doctor didn’t even know yet. I called him to be medically released, not knowing if proper protocol existed anymore. He told me to stay, that the evacuation wouldn’t happen immediately. I sat around restlessly. He called back within an hour and said to go home and pack.
After a brutally long and hot day, sitting in the back middle seat of a sept-place, body odor mingling in my nostrils for hours on end, and then a packed-out Alhum ride, I made it home.
I was tired and sad, but mostly frustrated and unsure. The rumor mill had run its due course and the news was it would probably be weeks before we were evacuated. So, I took a nap. I decided not to tell my host family – my thoughts being if it would be weeks, I’d rather wait to tell them, as to avoid a few awkward weeks of them looking at me sadly, not wanting me to leave.
Handwashing clothes in the same bucket I used to bath, line drying them for a few short hours in the hot sun… Commonalities for this time period of my life
I woke up from my nap to my regional coordinator calling me, announcing to pack my things, a sept-place would be at my house at 7 AM the following morning. The rumor mill was wrong.
Guilt overcame me as thoughts filled my head about how I spent my last day sleeping instead of spending time with my host family. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
The following hours consisted of me telling my family (both Senegalese and American) I was being evacuated and packing up my Senegalese life into a few bags.
Somber is the best way to describe it.
Tears were present as I fell asleep that night. My alarm failed me the following morning, I awoke to my host dad knocking on my door. I called the sept-place driver to see where he was, knowing I didn’t have much time before he arrived. I was frantically shuffling through my bags in the still present darkness, trying to wake up and get ready. My host dad overheard and came back; the sept-place driver had already arrived.
My host dad, for the first and only time, barged into my room as I opened my door, desperate for headache medicine he knew I was leaving behind for them.
My family, well at least the ones who were up at such an early hour, helped me move my stuff, took a quick picture together, and then walked me to the sept-place.
My mama musoo, grandmother, prayed over me for the last time.
I suddenly realized that this was it. Once I got into the sept-place, it’d be the last time I was there for quite sometime. I turned to my dad, mom, and grandmothers with the shock of the realization hanging over me like an ominous cloud as I stood next to the open sept-place door.
My family realized it too.
In Senegal, men are conditioned not to cry or show “weak” emotions. Masculine suppression of emotion is a very prevalent gender issue (as in the states as well). So, when my host dad’s shoulders began to shake as tears streamed down his face and sounds of sadness escaped from his lips, I was truly, deeply touched, knowing how much I meant to him, and my host family at large.
That was the hardest goodbye of my life.
The realization of this being my last glimpse of Mankono Ba hit me as I began weeping in the back seat of the sept-place as we drove through and out of my village for the last time.
- Paypal – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Venmo – @Elizabeth-Buttram-1
- CashApp – $ElizabethButtram