Sunday, October 11, 2009

52 States

October 9, 2009

This afternoon I overheard my brother telling the rest of my siblings a common Senegalese myth: the US has 52 states. Walking into the room to explain that, no, Guam and Puerto Rico aren’t states opened up a huge discussion on the United States and how incredibly wealthy my Senegalese siblings perceive me to be back in the States.

A common question here is which do you like better: America or Senegal? Aside from one’s obvious allegiance to their place of birth the divide between the US and Senegal is indescribable to both you back at home and my family here in Senegal. My siblings often complain there is no money and no jobs in Senegal. Many people at home are saying the same thing, but my siblings point out that we still have washing machines, fully stocked kitchens, and most importantly iPods on which we can listen to Akon. I tried to convey to my siblings that people in the US do work hard. I worked hard in school to get into a good university and I worked hard to get into the Peace Corps.

While I really want to illustrate that life isn’t all rainbows, sports cars, celebrities, and McDonalds to my family, it’s equally as difficult to rationalize this to myself. Because, as my sister put it: “you have a washing machine.” Too true. I do tell my family that I like Senegal and the US and Senegal are just different, but really there is no comparison. This is a developing nation after all.

This conversation was only driven home by my walk to my afternoon class as children and adults alike approached me to ask for money, my sunglasses, my water bottle, and my bag. As I politely keep moving and give the culturally appropriate response that these items are gifts, I want to scream.

But, this brings me back to the events of yesterday and why people here dream of going to the States in search of a better life. Yesterday, we had no water. After I took my morning bucket bath I returned to the faucet to fill my water filter and no water came out. At lunch there was still no water and at dinner we all had to share a very small amount of leftovers because we didn’t have any water to cook. Now, most family’s keep huge plastic bins of water in their compounds for just such an occasion, but mine obviously doesn’t. Luckily, the water came back on right before I went to bed so I could bathe/ not absolutely reek. Now, the water is back on, but on a daily basis we almost never have power between 11am and 4pm. That’s just the way things are here and it’s ridiculous and frustrating for people who are trying to better themselves.

I will now get off my blogosphere soap box and regale you with what you really want to hear: the ridiculousness of my life in Africa.

Clothing Update: It appears as though I will not be wearing rhinestones to my swearing in ceremony. I know you are all disappointed. We may have had an epic miscommunication and now think we will have awesome outfits.

Mouse Update: I heard the mouse last night, but didn’t see it and there are no droppings or other signs of the rodent around my room. My family finds my hatred for the mouse absolutely hilarious and my dad loves to ask me how my mouse is at every opportunity.

Bugs Update: There are small, infuriating, beigish bugs EVERYWHERE and I want to be under my mosquito net all the time. Grr.

1 comment:

  1. Alyssa, based on the photo you provided I cannot believe that there is a simple mouse in your room, even an African mouse. I think there must be a prarie dog creating that pile of dirt! It is enormous!