Friday, February 11, 2011

We Are Family

I've decided that the threshold has been met. When do you actually become family with people? When you could absolutely care less what they have to say and you can laugh about it together. During my delirious, congestion filled, cold days, I was feeling guilty about not spending enough time with my Senegalese family, but then I realized they are my family and therefore, I have spent enough time with these people and while I was sick what I really did need was to live in my bed reading about politics and watching Grey's Anatomy. I came to this conclusion over lunch today.

Returning to Senegal last month I felt refreshed and ready for the rest of my service in every respect except one: the food. I'm totally over pretending that I enjoy eating white rice covered in fish gravy. Force feeding myself to make my family feel good is no longer a concern of mine and my family has taken notice. Today at lunch Khady accused me of not liking ceeb (rice) and I look her square in the face and told her that no, I do not eat ceeb for lunch every single day. This brought up one of the most frustrating and recurring conversations of my service. Everyone in Senegal eats ceeb every day for lunch therefore, everyone in the United States eats pizza every day for lunch. You might remember that a few months ago I was ready to cut off my right hand for a Pizza Hut pizza (yes, I know it's gross), but there is nothing on this Earth that I could eat every day and not hate it after a year and a half.

I've attempted to explain that in the US I have a very varied diet and that I barely ever eat hamburgers and pizza no matter how valiantly my family attempts to convince me otherwise. My mom then accused me of wanting to eat pasta covered in fresh vegetables to which I responded that she was completely correct and that sounded delicious. This sent them all into a fit of how disgusting that sounded and sent my head spinning because I cannot wrap my head around the idea that they don't understand or at the very least acknowledge that we have different tastes. Therefore, it is possible for them to like ceeb every day while I don't and for me to like fresh vegetables which haven't been boiled in oil for hours when they do not.

While no mutual understanding was reached, I do feel we've moved into a new food era and time of honesty. I'm obviously not wasting away and they see that. They also eat snacks all the time so why can't I? They know I do. When I got up from the bowl to everyone telling me that I hadn't eaten enough I told everyone that I was going to make something in my room and left it at that. I didn't hurt their feelings and I no longer care when they try to get me to eat more and we can honestly tell each other how terrible we think each other's tastes are. If that's not family I don't know what is.

Speaking of forging deep, personal bonds with my family. Jeenaba and I became a little bit closer today. The power was out and I had been laying in my bed with my iPod and then decided I should go spend more time with my family. The main house was dead. I didn't hear any voices. I didn't see any flashlights/ the solar lanterns that have both become my family's instead of the one I gave them. I opened the door to the living room to lay on the couch and read a magazine with my cell phone flashlight and heard a scream. It was Jeenaba who was telling me that she was in the room. Jeenaba could obviously see me because I'm a glow in the dark toubab. I raised my flashlight to see her (I'll you put this one together for yourselves) and found naked Jeenaba. That was probably why she was screaming at me...


  1. Whew! That's heavy therapy! I think you are right on! NO more double standard on food i.e. bullying.

  2. Alyssa, After all that, do you really like my mac and cheese? We are family and I won't feel bad if you don't. Love Ma