Beginning to Ride the Emotional Rollercoaster


There’s a commonly used model of adjustment for people who go abroad, composed of three stages: honeymoon, crisis, and adjustment. I, in all of my self-righteous confidence, thought that I could sail straight from the “honeymoon” stage right to the “adjustment” stage – that I would be strong enough to avoid the “crisis” stage.

Well. Of course not everything can be wide-eyed sweetness forever.

Moving into the homestay was a struggle for me. I wouldn’t call yesterday a crisis – I’m not homesick at all and I’ve also had a relatively very good homestay experience, but I’m really struggling against the lack of freedom I’m experiencing while living in someone else’s home.

Imagine moving into a house where everyone else has known each other all of their lives and you’re someone new, and they get to set all of the rules, like when and what you eat (which would be FINE if the food were healthy but I’m tired of the white starch, oil, and sugar!), how you use the bathroom, and how you spend your free time. I feel like I had more freedom back home by the time I was 10. Also they don’t speak English; instead, they mix two languages, one of which is a dialect of a language you only studied in high school, and the other which you began learning last week. And they decide that you’re going to learn by absorption the latter language.

It’s not even like I’m craving chocolate or American peanut butter. Again, I’m not homesick at all, and it’s not like I’ve been lying on my bed curled up in a fetal position missing home. I feel comfortable in this city, as if I could live permanently here in Dakar – I just need freedom!

Still, I’m beginning to adjust. Yesterday I forced myself out of my room to study near the television (the communal gathering spot for apparently all families in Dakar) until 21:45, which was when dinner was served. Fatou, the maid who was away when I first arrived, is especially nice to me, and Awa (the cousin) is warming up to me, too. Awa (the maid) is continuing to be nice to me although I feel like she thinks of me derisively since my Wolof is so bad and she’s already picked up on my habit of refusing as much white starch as I can. Mame Khady is talking to me more and asked me to call her tu, though she gave me a lecture yesterday on not washing my clothes every day because water is expensive (she was mistaken.. I wasn’t washing my clothes; I was just putting them in the bathroom for wearing after the shower). Beautiful Marie’tou still just stares at me silently and unsmilingly which makes me uncomfortable, but otherwise I’m beginning to get used to the late mealtimes and the television.

Also, randomly, yesterday I took a promenade with some other Sacré Coeur girls to find a cyber café in our neighborhood. Along the way we met a French guy who worked for the French military who was wearing scandalously short shorts; we could see a tattoo on his thigh peeking out from under his camo shorts. It was just funny. :P

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2 responses to “Beginning to Ride the Emotional Rollercoaster

  1. Other than the maids, what does your host mother (and father) do to earn a living? How expensive is the water there? Does the water come from a faucet or some other means?

    • My host mother is a retired widow, but other host mothers have been seamstresses or small business owners, government officials, or employees at telecommunications companies.

      The indoor plumbing systems that I’ve seen are very similar to Western systems – the only difference is that there is always a faucet in the “WC’s” because this is a “water culture.”

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