Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wishing on a shooting…airplane? Where did all the stars go?

The first time I heard the song “Airplanes” I liked it. The single, which came out just over a year ago, was released by Atlantic Records and has verses written by B.o.B. and chorus and music by Kinetics (Jeremy Dussolliet, Cornell '09) and One Love (Tim Sommers, Cornell '10). I first heard about the song from fellow PCV and Cornell graduate. I have listened to it quite frequently over the past year, but it wasn’t until just a couple months ago, when my family from America came to Senegal to visit me, that I really started to think about the song’s lyrics and how they relate to me here in Senegal. The main theme is summed up by the following lyrics: "Can we pretend that airplanes/In the night sky/Are like shooting stars/I could really use a wish right now." As I lay out in the bush in Senegal on my outdoor bed staring up at the star riddled night sky, this seems like a really strange question to ask – why in the world would I want to make a wish on an airplane when shooting stars are so much more common? Clearly these lyrics weren’t written for an audience living out in the bush in Senegal – they were written for an audience living in the countless towns and cities in the US. There, with the high degree of light pollution and frequency of airplane flights, wishing on an airplane is a much more reasonable desire than wishing on a shooting star. But here in Senegal, I can lay on my bed outside behind my hut and often on a clear, moon-less night I can see at least one shooting star within the span of half an hour, if not several. To see an airplane streak across the sky, on the other hand, I would probably have to wait weeks if not a few months. With all these shooting stars I must be making lots of wishes, right? Well, yes. So what are all these wishes that I’m making, you might ask. The wishes I make on these numerous shooting stars range from wishes related to my work, such as a wish for the pesticide that one of my gardener’s sprayed to work so the rest of his tomato and eggplant crop isn’t destroyed or a wish that the training I’m preparing for goes well and the farmers that attend understand and implement the concepts I teach them or a wish for people to start being more careful when they’re out in the bush roasting peanuts or tossing a cigarette butt out so no more bush fires are started, to wishes that are more trivial, such as a wish for a nice breeze so I can sleep comfortably that night or a wish for fish for lunch the next day instead of the slimy okra dish we sometimes get or a wish for my internet in my hut to work sometime soon so I can check my email. The one wish I’m saving to make when I see an airplane, though, is a wish that these 2 years I’m spending out in the bush in Senegal not only teaches me many things, such as how to be more independent, confident and resourceful, as well as what international agricultural development really looks like (because I already know that I have learned these things), but also truly makes a positive difference in the lives of the people I work with and get to know – and a difference that will not just be seen in the next few months or years, but will rather be sustained for generations.

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