Friday, July 15, 2011

And They Continue, The Goodbyes

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

The goal was to get everything done this morning and hang out all afternoon. I was far too ambitious. After talking to Matt, I left the house and went to Orange to close my internet account since I don’t know when Stacy is going to move in and she’s not here to switch the bill into her name. Shockingly, working with Orange was an incredibly frustrating experience where I had to write a handwritten request to the President of Orange requesting that he be so nice as to let me close my account. I threw a semi-controlled fit about there being no customer service and that I’ve been paying for the internet for the last month, but I’m only allowed to use Gmail. Orange was not impressed, but I left with a closed account and some satisfaction that I wrote a very mean note to the President, which I’m sure he’ll never read. Then I was off to Les Delices so I could use all of the internet before heading over to Kerry’s house to say goodbye and to pick up some pictures he took of me while we taught Junior Achievement.

I planned to say two goodbyes this morning; the guys at the post office and Dioss, but Dioss was busy so I headed to the post office. For the past couple of months I’ve been really annoyed with the post office guys and I didn’t really want to do goodbyes even though I knew I should. The reasons why I don’t enjoy sitting there like I did became instantly apparent. The first thing they tell me is that I’m cheating them out of money because another PCV is going to use my box. And we’re off to a good start! We had an infuriatingly circular conversation about post office box etiquette with them telling me that they would give me the slip for the other PCV’s package, but they wouldn’t be so nice the second time. At this point I wanted to scream and run away, but it got better.

Ever since it became painfully evident that Pathe, one of the guys actually wants me to be his wife and is apparently head over heels in love with me , things have been awkward. Everyone else eggs him on and it makes things uncomfortable. On top of this we had to get into a discussion about how I should stay longer because who really would want to ever leave Senegal. This was accompanied with one of the men telling me that he doesn’t even want to visit the United States and would never want to live there and doesn’t understand why anyone else would ever want to live there. I know that this shouldn’t get under my skin, but I spend so much time being culturally sensitive and singing Senegal’s praises that it’s really annoying. Especially when everyone knows I’m going home and I’m excited about it. The guys claim we’re friends and that’s not how they would treat one of their Senegalese friends.

Going to say a final goodbye at the post office was not satisfying. I wish it had been because for the first year of my service we really did have good conversations and I really enjoyed going there. The whole interaction left a bad taste in my mouth. As I was leaving they told me about another PCV, Rebecca, who they claimed was a friend to them just like me. Apparently, she never called them when she got back Stateside. Everyone made it abundantly clear that they wouldn’t call me or email me, but I’m a bad person if I don’t contact them. A lot of interactions in Senegal are obvious white lies. You say you’ll do something that you obviously won’t do and no one expects you to do it. You say anything to save face and not embarrass the second party. I’m sad that those relationships ended as they did because now I have no interest in making any effort to contact the guys at the post office.

This afternoon I went to see Dioss. Fortunately the episode at the post office had hardened me a little bit after the emotional chaos that was saying goodbye to Mme. Ly. Dioss and his business partner Issa as well as several members of the boy posse were at the atelier. We spent a lovely afternoon talking while Dioss made tea. It was far less emotional than yesterday. Dioss wanted to talk about the immediate future while Mme. Ly dwelled on super emotional topics like our past work together, how she thinks of me as a daughter and the distant future when I’ll bring my husband and children (obviously the girl is named after her) back to Senegal for a visit. Mme. Ly indulged my nostalgia and my sadness, Dioss did not.

Dioss is still obsessed with his catalog and is very excited about some of the ideas Nancy had when I took her to meet him. I hope that Nancy can lay down the law with Dioss and he can make real progress with his business. When it came to say goodbye Dioss kept it short and sweet. I was sad and had to fight back tears, but I held it in and when he said that he’d email me I actually believed him. I was able to choke out a few sentences thanking him for working with me, being my friend, and letting me hang out with the incredible people he’s friends with (Dioss, the Ly family, and Dioss’ friends are the only people in Senegal I’ve ever seen read a book that is not a textbook)I really hope we can keep up a correspondence; I’m interested to see what he does.

We shook with our left hands, hugged, and I walked away.

The other goodbye today was to my home for the past two years. I start disassembling my room today. Damn, it’s really freaking dirty. Moving furniture here creates a repulsive dust storm. My goal today was to get everything packed up, which I pretty much did, and tomorrow I’ll do the heavy duty cleaning. I was surprised how unemotional packing up is. None of my clothes are coming home with me. I have a bunch of souvenirs, my electronics, and all of the letters that everyone has written me over the past two years. Taking down all of the pictures I’ve hung up, the Michigan flag and the banner reminding me “Those Who Stay Will Be Champions,” brought a huge sense of accomplishment. I’m moving on up in the world. My first solo, big girl “apartment” is soon to be a thing of the past and I’m looking forward to a big upgrade.


  1. Alyssa,

    It will only be an upgrade if someone does some heavy cleaning like you. Can't wait to see you.


  2. Your cousin Adam would love have a second
    cousin named Adama!

  3. alyssa, Thanks for letting me come along on your great w. african adventure. Reading your blog was almost as good as being there, except no smells! It has been a great life experience for you. California here you come! See you Monday! Love Ma