My experience in Senegal is already halfway over! Last week we had a second lunchtime check-in session, which made me realize:
1) I had become increasingly convinced that the opportunity cost for this experience was too high. I’m not even talking about how I wish that I were working – often I wish this new program had never opened up and I’d just gone to France! Often I am not happy to be here and instead find myself daydreaming about being in the “safe” and comfortable zones of Europe and East Asia. During one of these daydreams, I realized one reason I am so uncomfortable is because I am in a truly foreign country. I’m really pushing my comfort zone, so I don’t need to be worried that my hedonistic wishes aren’t being fulfilled.
2) I have not made enough effort to integrate into Senegalese society, as evidenced by the fact that I do not have a single Senegalese friend. I have made plenty of acquaintances (the guards on my street stopped an American friend and me the other day to tell us that I was a “nice girl” because I always greeted them; I am friendly with my friends’ younger siblings; I almost made friends with some teenagers on the beach but didn’t have a phone number to give them), but I am ridiculously far from integration. I am going to get out of my American bubble.
At the least, some of the Senegalese culture has transferred itself onto me. For example, I am very aware of which hand I am using to touch people or to give/receive objects, and I can no longer eat food without feeling that it is the property of everyone who is within range. The idea of sharing has finally encroached upon my American habit of definite ownership.
3) I am going to continue having a positive attitude by creating and maintaining a Senegal “bucket list” so that I can make the most of the rest of my limited time here.
Ba beneen yoon.