Saturday, May 21, 2011

Over It

The past couple of days have not been good day. I have been busy which is good since a large part of my frustrations in Senegal have come when I have nothing to do. Jazz Fest is starting to become insane and I'm really looking forward to the Artisan Reseau meeting on Tuesday so I can hopefully transfer some of the responsibility and planning over the artisans. Junior Achievement is going well since we actually had class this week and I've already procured the materials for next week's class and read over the instructions for the class so I feel prepared. I'm also occupying (maybe stressing a little bit!) myself with finding a job, getting my pictures in order, and preparing myself for the final stretch of my service and all of the tough goodbyes which I know are just around the corner.

Before Peace Corps Senegal I was fairly tightly wound (some might say I still am) and frustration used to send me over the edge. Frustration in not being able to understand a school subject, or frustration with traffic (oh my, I hope this has eased since my next permanent residence is known for traffic), or just general frustration that was putting me a bad mood. Peace Corps has been so good for me. I've learned to let go and to sit and not do anything and know that's OK. My ability to be patient has increased a million fold. Creative problem solving is something I'm actually good at now. Small children don't send me running. I'm much less quick to anger. I've learned to adapt. All of this has been part of the transformation I've experienced from dealing with and struggling with the every day realities of Senegal.

At the 2 month mark (during PST) everything bothered me and I could barely deal with it and I wanted to go home. At the 6 month mark I was begining to understand that things are truly different here and that I had to accept and adapt. At the year mark I came to understand why Peace Corps is a two year commitment and I hit my stride. (My friends and I had a blast at the amazingly successful girls' camp and the Artisan Expo almost tripled 2009 sales). At the 18 month mark I started to realize the end was near, created a laundry list of things I still wanted to do and accomplished, and became a "senior" in the Peace Corps as a member of the next stage who is scheduled to leave; I realized I had made it. At 21 (almost 22) months I'm freaking over it.

The little things that I've spent the past almost two years learning how to ignore and let run over my shoulders are back...with a vengeance. I've moved well past anger. It's not anger. It's frustration and a sense of "why?" Or, SERIOUSLY!?!?!?!

Yesterday my family made a lunch that I'm not a big fan of. I will definitely eat it, just not a lot. It's obvious that I'm not the amazing shrinking woman and my family knows that I have my own snacks which I eat in my room, just like they do. Well, around lunch Jeenaba came into my room with eggs, a little salad, and bread. I thanked her and thought that our interaction was over. She sheepishly looks at me and says that my mom would like me to pay her for the lunch. I was dumbfounded. I didn't know how to react and I knew if I did react it would involve tears, profanity, and general inappropriateness (another thing I've learned: to keep my mouth shut). After eating the meal (even though I wasn't happy about it), I went into the house to explain for the millionth time that if I don't like something I will make my own meal. All of the women started chiming in that I'm a terrible cook and that the food isn't good. It's good to me. I don't like all of their food just like they don't like my food. Well, that argument fell on deaf ears as usual. I can't even really think about this situation without becoming enraged so I've decided it's best not to delve into the psychology behind this episode...especially since I pay my family an exorbitant amount each month for my rent, food, and water and electricity (which I never have).

When trying to woo me, do not point out the fact that the increase in the temperature has brought back my acne. Seriously, how terrible at flirting can you be? This prompted me to leave the post office without responding to the question and without saying goodbye. Also, how many times do I have to tell everyone that there's no way I will ever be a second wife.

With my frustrations mounting and my inability to eat ceeb for lunch, I left my house this morning and headed to the center for some quiet time. I didn't need anyone to tell me that I am sleeping when I'm sitting up-right with my eyes open reading a book. I didn't need to be told that the cleaning job I did wasn't good enough. And I didn't need to be told that I can't cook/ can't do anything in general. I can ignore the racial slurs, proclamations of love, and honking cars. What I can not ignore is a large man standing right in front of me. There's a part of the sidewalk on my way to the center where the sidewalk narrows so it's just one person wide. A man stood up from a chair and stood on this part of the sidewalk with his hands on his hips so I couldn't pass and had to walk in the street. When he confronted me about walking around him I lost it. Let's just say my tirade ended when he called me racist and I walked away.

I'm so over all of these little annoyances and instances of disrespect, or thinking that they can get away with it/ are entitled to it because I'm white. After two years a lot of people around Thies have at least seen me and know I'm not a tourist, I wish this brought me a little respect. I'm over the homesicknesses of America, I'm past missing my family and friends (it's way beyond that), I can survive another two months of ceeb. All I want is a little respect.


  1. Alyssa,

    Keep up the good work, the people issues just show how difficult it is to get people to change and understand differences.


  2. Man, you are hard on yourself. I don't think anyone who loves you would describe you as being tightly wound. Stay sassy! Carry on! You now fully understand the incidious effects of racism.