Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Adult Questions

Skyping with my Aunt's second grade class is always a pleasure. They are third graders so their questions allow me step back and actually attempt to explain this crazy experience to people who haven't been here, haven't been reading my wildly entertaining blog, and who have no idea what Africa is really like. It's pretty much preparing me for my reality in when I come home for Christmas! Yay! There are always questions about food, the bathroom, my family, the weather, poisonous animals, but every time I speak with them there is at least one questions which is either hilariously funny or incredibly thought provoking, sometimes it's even both. Today it was a profound question and hit on an issue that I think a lot of PCVs struggle with. I know that I definitely struggle with it and the fact that I'm currently embroiled in my mid-service crisis isn't easing the subject.

The Question: Are you considered an adult in Senegal.

By American standards I am an adult. Or at least in that weird "young adult" category of no man's land. I went to college where I survived more or less on my own, or at least away from my parents, and graduated on time with a degree that isn't totally an completely worthless. That's generally a sign of success. Now, most of my friends live in fabulous American urban centers where they support themselves and live on their own. I like to fantasize that I would be living a very similar and self-sufficient life if I wasn't living in a concrete bungalow in Senegal. They are adults. They pay their bills, they go to work, the drink alcohol, and they no longer live under their parents' roofs. It's all good.

In a weird way, although I've definitely grown and become amazingly self-sufficient and self-reliant, I've regressed. I live with a family, my new family, who maintains my security and feeds me my meals (they also potentially do my laundry, but hand washing is really hard!). They also think I'm beyond completely incompetent. Not only can I not cook Senegalese food or clean anything to their satisfaction, I'm also a single woman. No husband. No children. By their standards I'm really not an adult. Even though I pay my family for rent and food and have a "job" I'm still a child. I'm sure that my toubab-ness and deplorable language skills have something to do with this, but lack of freedom is difficult.

I'm 23. I'm supposed to be living the life. Exploring and pushing the boundaries. I'm in the Peace Corps that is obviously accomplished, but at the same time I feel obligations toward being at home to eat with my family, to explain what I'm up to and where I'm going, and just the confines of communal living that I would most definitely not be feeling at home. It's a strange and difficult to balance. I don't think I explained it well to the girl who asked the question and you're probably confused by my ramblings as well...

Other than talking to my aunt's class I've been battling a terrible and evil head cold which apparently attacks PCVs whenever the temperature dips below (gasp) 80 degrees. I did force myself to go see Dioss this morning which caused me a whole other headache that I'm not going to get into now, but since then I've been trying to ignore Ahmed. Although I look terrible and everyone concurs that I have a cold, all he can see is that I didn't leave this afternoon and therefore should be playing with him.

NewsFlash: KHADY HAS STARTED WORKING OUT!!! I don't know much about it other than an entire post will undoubtedly dedicated to this subject in the near, near future.


  1. get better soon alyssa - i hhhate being sick when its hot out...or sick period.

    getting all excited about your return!


  2. Alyssa, you are one of the most "adult" people I know. You are doing your job....and beautifully!
    Bundle up against the chill!

  3. I need to be writing my blog not catching up on yours ;) I promised your mom I would update last night.
    Hope you feel better! my flatmates and I have started passing around a cold... but that's because this is Scotland and it's dipping toward 35 and wet, all the time.

    And by most definitions I've heard being an adult is overrated anyway. You are working hard and making a difference, that's all that matters.