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Roses bloom in the desert, after all

I bought a rosebush last weekend.

This was not something on my to-do list. My to-do list included very practical things like:

  • Drop off absentee ballots at Embassy (took twice as long as anticipated)
  • Pick up tortillas at American Store (they were out)
  • Pick up Rick at English Center by 10:30 (delayed by a jackknifed semi that had spilled its load of gravel across the entire road)
  • Accomplish all of this with a minimal amount of cussing, honking, yelling, and hand-gesturing from behind the wheel (really, I don’t even know why this is on my to-do list. It’s just an exercise in futility.)

After I had accomplished mostly nothing on my list and navigated The Most Poorly Planned Intersection In The World on my way to pick up Rick (Dakarois, you know this one — in Point E where the VDN meets the road that takes you to the Sea Plaza roundabout), we decided to stop at a roadside plant vendor and pick up a few potted plants for our balcony. While we were perusing the city-block length of assorted greenery and flowers — palm trees, bougainvillea, and lots of flowery things that look like weeds we’d Round-Up the heck out of in the US — I spotted it: a legit rosebush with a single pink bloom.

I have never seen a real rosebush in Dakar. And I knew right away that whatever other plants were bought, this rosebush would be among of them. The vendor loaded up the bed of our truck with five potted plants, a cement-bag full of potting soil (which is actually just a mixture of sand, pine needles and random animal poop), and one pink rosebush.

Friends, I know jack squat about growing roses. My thumb is more brown than green, and I really have no idea if roses are even supposed to grow here in the desert.  I don’t know if the soil is right, how to fertilize it, how to prune it, how to keep flies and insects from eating it up. It was sort of an impulse purchase that I didn’t really give much thought to. (I have since consulted Google and my friend Esther, who has better luck growing things than anyone I know here, and have been sufficiently terrified by how high-maintenance these suckers are. The good news is, it likes coffee grounds so we have ample fertilizer.)

What I do know is that waking up every morning and looking at those pretty pink blooms outside my bedroom window makes me happy, and their lovely smell almost — almost! — makes me forget about the exhaust and diesel and trash and fish factory smells. It is a daily reminder for me to — excuse the cliché — “bloom where I am planted.” Even if the soil is foreign. Even if it means that staying healthy is going to require a lot of work. Even if it means I need to do some heavy pruning.

Seriously. Best 5,000 CFA ($10) I’ve ever spent. And if you’re in the market for a rosebush in Dakar, you’re in luck — there’s still a red one waiting on the side of the road to go home to a sunny spot on your patio.

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