7 Days of Gratitude: Day #3

DAY #3: First Host Family

My first host family was a gift from the universe of coincidences. Born in Cape Vert (and therefore a Portuguese speaker), my host mom was an angel who called me daughter from the first time we met. My host dad and I had very similar interests and opinions about politics, society and people, and despite the language barriers, we managed to have some of the most interesting conversations I had in Senegal. The 12 children in the house I called my siblings were the joy of my days and before meeting them I had never known I liked kids so much, nor that they could like me too. We played games I knew from back home and so many times we listened to songs in Portuguese (which they could understand a little) while playing. There were evenings I got so entertained in the house’s living room that I forgot to go to bed early. There were days when new people would come and the close family would make sure I was properly presented to and comfortable with them. There were days my host dad invited me to go out with my little siblings so we could go to the beach or have some ice cream. There were always many bottles of juice in the house, all of which my aunt Abu (the person I got closest to, together with my little brother Iba) made while I sat outside with her, talking and watching the so comforting night sky. The house reminded me of my house as a kid, and the way the family treated each other reminded me of the Christmas parties with my extended family in Brazil. I felt I had so much freedom and somehow intimacy with that family I didn’t need much effort to show my true self to them. I wasn’t as afraid of opening up with them as I thought I would be, and that allowed our connection to be genuine. When my time in Dakar was over and I had to leave, I felt prepared. The first step is usually the hardest, and if mine had been that simple and enjoyable, I knew the others couldn’t be much different.
I regret nothing from that homestay, except not visiting them later in the year. I feel as if I didn’t show as much gratitude to them as I wanted to, and I sincerely wish I could see them again to say one last “thank you, you changed my life.”