I know I have neglected my blog a lot in my second year of service. I think a lot of is due to nothing being “new” anymore. My inspiration in what I want to write about has dwindled. At a certain point, life in Senegal is just “Mungiy ni rekk.” It’s just how it is. After 23 months in a new lifestyle, it just becomes normal here. I may be dramatic in saying this, but I don’t fully remember what it’s like to drive, to take transportation that runs on time, have meetings at the actual time said, to eat Chipotle. I know I enjoy all of those things, but it feels like a distant memory.
My mom and I speak on the phone every week, and recently all the talks have been about what my life will be like in America. Specifically I’m making a list of everything I want to eat when I go home. As I think about it, I’m not sure anymore. My first year, I had very intense cravings, but now I can’t even remember my favorite dishes to eat, and what it’d be like to eat anything but rice and fish for lunch.
Just for fun here’s my current list:
– banzai burger from Red Robin
– steak fajita burrito from Chipotle
– hot pot
– my mom’s homemade pork soup
– cheesecake (I rarely indulged in this prior to being in Senegal, but now with all the Food Network videos on my newsfeed, I just want some berry cheesecake)
– ice cream from Mallard’s
Okay, so food aside, what about different aspects of American culture? I come home on November 10, and you might ask what I’m dreaming about. I’m dreaming about RAIN!!!! To pass my hard days, I’ve been rewatching Grey’s Anatomy, and that’s a show set in beautiful Seattle. In my service it has rained less than 15 times. I feel starved for lush green trees, blue lakes, mountains, and rain. Although GA doesn’t get the weather correct (it thunders way too often on the show), it still reminds me of home. I’ll be home for my birthday, thanksgiving, christmas, and new years when it rains every day, and I’ll get to wear long sleeves and rain boots that walk through clean (non-poop) water!
On the other hand, I’m nervous for reverse cultural shock. I wonder how much I’ve changed since I’ve been here. My perspective on the world has certainly been altered, but what about just existing in America. It seems silly, but I haven’t been inside an American grocery store in 23 months.Will I go crazy excited looking at everything there is to buy? Will I remember how to drive? I’m sure I will, but I can’t help but wonder (I’ve had a lot of driving dreams). Will I remember not to ask my friends a chain of greetings when I see them? (“how are you?” “how’s your health?” “how’s your family?” “how’s your sister?” “how are your parents?” “are they all in peace?”) Will I walk into a shop and automatically say “asalaam maalekum” out of habit? Will I remember it’s not always appropriate to take your shoes off each time you sit down. Will I remember it’s not appropriate to snap or hiss at people? Will I remember it’s not socially appropriate to talk about bowel movements (we share everything here)? All these things seem small, but they all have the potential of making me feel like I don’t belong. After 2 years of feeling that way abroad, I am nervous about feeling that way in the place I call home.
So now I’ve told you how I feel about America. What about my current feelings about Senegal? It’s really hard to not be negative, so when you read this paragraph, realize this is 23 months of frustration and redundancy. My patience is running out. Everything that used to bother me only a little bit, now bothers me a lot. When people show up 2 hours to a training they asked me for, in my head I understand it’s cultural, but my heart is frustrated thinking “if you really wanted this, you would have been here on time.” My American values are stronger than ever. When people call me a foreigner (toubab, chinowa, ching-a-ling, jappo japponaise, etc.) I used to ignore them or reason with them about why they thought that was appropriate, but now, sometimes I’ll just speak to them in English, “yes, the toubab knows Wolof, WOW! It’s a miracle, languages can’t be learned.” Don’t judge me for that, haha. I used to think volunteers in their last 6 months would do crazy things, and now I find myself engaging in the same behavior. Something about straddling the inbetween of mentally going home, but physically still in Senegal drives us crazy.
I promise I’m normal. After speaking to my fellow stage-mates, we all feel this way. We all react the same way to these small things. Local food is also presenting as another issue. Holding down Senegalese food is a struggle, it just doesn’t taste good and doesn’t sit well with me. I have no other way to say it except, my body is starting to reject Senegal. Even, dishes I used to love, I can’t finish anymore. However, food is such an integral part of Senegalese society, so how can I successfully manage the inbetween of eating different food and yet being culturally appropriate. I hope to find this answer soon, but I think it just means sacrificing a happy stomach to be culturally appropriate.
Good news is, I’m traveling for 2 weeks starting next week within Senegal. I’m doing some last minute visits to friends’ sites and then headed to Thies for COS conference! Woohoo! COS stands for close of service. The conference marks the wrapping up of projects and the beginning of saying goodbye. It’ll be hard, but it’s exciting, a new chapter awaits and I’m ready.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for…
– biggest lessons learned in my service
– saying goodbye to Senegal