I can’t believe a whole year has gone by since that crazy day that I moved into Mbolo Aly Sidy, my language abilities little to none, my Senegalese complet keeping me from walking correctly, my nerves at an all-time high, coming into my compound full of people all greeting me, me knowing I need to greet them all but instead nervously laughing, avoiding their gaze. The feeling of excitement mixed with the fear of the unknown. I remember that day, the cow tied up outside my window would not stop mooing all afternoon. That is a sound I will forever associate with that day. The sound, mixed with my nerves, irritated me more than any sound I can remember. Since that day, I have come so far, become a different person. How can you define whether or not you’ve become a ‘different person?’ I think we are all different people from day to day, it’s not actually a grand-scale things. Every day we learn something new or experience something that shakes up our understanding of that thing, we become a different person due to our shift in knowledge, in perception of even something small. We don’t often realize these things, when they happen. I’ve stopped being shocked by much since I’ve been here, which I feel is a bad thing. I don’t look at things with the same amount of amazement as I first did. Instead I see things the way they are and understand why things are they way they are. But I miss that sense of surprise when seeing the goat strapped to the motorcycle on it’s way to the market, or the baby strapped to the mother’s back being squished into the seat while the mother sits with the other child on her lap in the open-air truck (the baby never once wakes up from it’s peaceful slumber) or the car that takes a detour off the main highway to pick up a refrigerator from the village water tower. There is a sense of peace that comes with this sense of ambivalence, but I nonetheless miss being shocked, having my view of things shaken up, my perception altered.
How do I know I’ve become a different person than I was a year ago? (I think we all change from year to year, regardless) I look at the same things I looked at a yer ago, but see them differently. I do the same things I did when I first got here, but I do them with ease and competence. I am able to approach and talk to people like I always was (even in the states) but it brings me even more pleasure and happiness than ever before. Sometimes you just know when you have changed. Sometimes you need markers of change. Here are a few that I don’t think will for anywhere on a resume
Things I have learned/Can do now
How to cook:
•The National Dish- Rice and Fish
• Hakko – a dish of bean leaves, crushed wild watermelon seeds, beans, peanuts, and fish, served over Senegalese cous cous
• Beignets – street doughnuts
• Nutritional porridge
• Cake/banana bread in a pot
How to carry large plastic benoirs of water/heavy things on my head
How to do laundry in a series of 3-4 buckets and benoirs
Gardening techniques (and then what people actually do)
How to make soap
How to de-leaf bean stalks like a maniac
How to cut any vegetable without a cutting board or sharp knife
How to pull water from a well
How to iron with a cast iron apparatus filled with lot coals
How to make ataaya
How to make and tie plastic bag Popsicles
How to haggle
How to travel anywhere
How to be impervious to thorns through foam flip flops
How to eat copious amounts of rice with no after affects
Even less Seerer
How to drink absurd amounts of water
Knowledge I have gained
How I want to raise my children… And how I don’t.
Awareness and understanding of the Muslim culture and teachings
Things I now realize I am not so good at
Moving into a room with the knowledge that I will leave that room (aka unpacking).
Ignoring children during my workouts.
Overcommitting – but with wholehearted intention to accomplish everything I say I will.
Doing laundry for an extended amount of time.. It’s physically exhausting.
Peace Corps group gatherings
Lying, saying I have a husband (that didn’t last long)