August 30, 2009
My day has been pretty rough, but it was just made immensely better because of an email from my darling brother. It was pretty much the best email that has ever been written describing the quintessential freshman year welcome week. Bravo CJ on a job well done and I hope you continue loving school and livin’ it up. College is amazing and it allows one not to live in poverty (most likely), unless you’re me and choose to move to freakin Africa.
Now, here’s my story:
Today we only had a half day of class and I still haven’t decided if it was a blessing or a curse. It was nice not to have to sit in a fly infested hallway for an additional three hours painstakingly learning Wolof grammar, but at the same time it left me with pretty much nothing to do. Luckily, Tamar, Byron and I decided to walk around the market and try and get a little more accustomed to what our lives will be like when we are do ne with training and out on our own.
Our first stop was to a tailor Byron interviewed for part of our SED homework. He loved talking to us/ making fun of us for embarrassing Wolof and lack of spouses. We get ridiculed all the time for not being married even though it’s very common for educated people in Senegal not to get married until their mid to late 20s. Then we continued to walk through the market and say hi to people who find us to be a novelty. When I say market, stalls on either side of a mud track that has stagnant pools of mosquito infested water, piles of trash, random animals and of course repugnant smells emanating from the area. Stalls is also a relative word. Here it means shanty type structure made from miscellaneous wood and corrugated tin. Fancy. We didn’t buy anything, but it was good to go out and explore the city we’re living in. I need to start feeling comfortable walking around and doing things for myself.
We also walked by the big mosques on our way to Byron’s house to meet his family. There we found some people who speak Arabic. I thought I was pretty sweet speaking in Arabic at first, but then the men refused to believe I was American/ not Muslim and were very aggressively trying to get me to marry them. Arabic speakers are not common here so I’m just going to keep that skill on the down low to keep the number of marriage proposals and things of that nature down.
It was fun walking around with Byron and Tamar and meeting Byron’s huge family, but it’s still a roller coaster ride of emotions here in Senegal. I’ve been thinking a lot about if it would be easier for my family to go to the US and experience the luxurious life I left behind. Is it just as hard to go from nothing to plenty? It’s difficult for me to even explain the US because my family can’t wrap their heads around many of the material objects, freedoms, social mores, and culture that exists in the US. I feel that I’ve already become pretty used to the conditions here, the culture is definitely more difficult to deal with. My African dad will call out one of the girls from the house to get him water from the bucket that sitting on the mat next to him outside. The gender roles here are completely unequal, but that’s the norm. The girls don’t even really understand that they are second class citizens. And for me, right now, it’s very difficult to justify leaving my life at home to come to Senegal and sit on a mat fanning myself.
I thought I was going to have to eat ceebu jenn (fish and rice again), but I was saved by a neighbor who brought over cous cous. This is not the cous cous you know and love, but millet cous cous that has the consistency of wet sand. Regardless, it was delicious and I’m happy for it. Now, I can look forward to crawling into bed with my iPod to watch an episode of Gossip Girl and escape for an hour in the world of materialism and chauffeurs, not hand to mouth and horses.
They say the Peace Corps is the hardest job you’ll ever love. I’m just waiting to fall in love. I hope it happens soon because I’m hot and I have another giant bug bite on my ass.
Messy, but Warm
11 months ago