At Home in the World on a Concrete Slab
It’s just a concrete slab.
Hard, dirty, dusty, bumpy.
A thick piece of concrete nestled in the center of the compound.
It’s a bed, a star-gazing station, a place to tell jokes and recap the day, a place to lift up your feet, to hold the baby, to snack, to prepare the day’s meal.
It’s a concrete slab that is home to me.
This particular concrete slab lies some 100 miles up-country in the tiny country of The Gambia, West Africa. It’s home is the village of Nyanga Bantang; my home for two years serving as a Peace Corps volunteer.
This particular concrete slab is found in front of the women’s huts in a square-like shape. The younger kids need some help getting themselves on top. The goats and chickens may find themselves walking about the slab if the day is quiet.
What makes a concrete slab so special?
Why do I think of home when I remember my time upon that slab?
Because it’s connected to family, my African family that welcomed me and fed me and taught me. It’s this family who always made room for me on the slab. It’s a family who laughed at my attempts at learning the language, it’s a family who taught me the meaning of community, it’s a family who shared their traditions and customs with me, it’s a family who fell asleep with me each night on the slab as the breeze cooled us off from a long day.
It’s a slab of concrete that represents everything home can and should be.
From one’s position on the slab, life in all its intricacies and beauty can be observed. One can hear more deeply, listen more intently, smell more powerfully. It is here on the slab that time stands still, if time is even such a thing to be measured. Neighbors walk by and greet one another. Children laugh and play. Sweet, green tea is shared and savored through three rounds of brewing. The slab welcomes all - no questions asked. The slab offers respite from the heat or a place to lay one’s head after a long day of travel. The slab offers space to rock and nurse babies.
Home is found in one another.
The concrete slab reminds me that home isn’t about some place that always makes you feel comfortable, but more about a place that allows you to be who you are and welcomes you.
I came to The Gambia as a recent college grad. I found my new home to be exciting and intimidating. I found the language and customs and religion filling my head with new learning and understanding.
But ultimately, I found a family and a people who walked with me on my journey opening their hearts to me; giving me a space on the concrete slab. It took me a while to feel comfortable enough to fall asleep on the slab, some nights it was just easier to be by myself in my small hut. Some nights the homesickness took over. Some nights I felt utterly exhausted at speaking a new language.
But the slab, and my family, were always there for me.
Poised to meet me when I came to join them on the concrete slab.
This is home for me. A concrete slab. The beauty of feeling comfortable enough in my own skin to sit and listen to the stories and laughter spoken in a foreign language.
This is home for me. A concrete slab. Providing home for my family and I under the star-filled sky realizing that we are all connected.
Home found in the beauty of living slowly, in patience, and in paying attention.
Home found in a concrete slab.
**This post was inspired by Tsh Oxenreider's newest book, At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging while Wandering the Globe. For this travel-loving gal, I love the book! And it's inspiring me not only to dream about future travel destinations but about feeling at home right where I am now. Go here to learn more about the book and order your copy: At Home in the World