A letter to my parents

Mum and Dad, 
  Where to start. A measly three weeks here has opened eyes more than I could have ever imagined before. The beauty of this country is mind boggling. Every where I turn there's a goat baobab tree proving shade for dozens of people, people who are smiling at me, greeting me, asking if my family is at peace and hoping to god I'm not sick. Every morning I awaken to a gentle breeze, cool air and a burnt orange sunrise that's unlike anything I've ever seen. Every day I learn, and question what I once thought to be the absolute truth. There's a certain stigma around the idea of Africa that we develop in the west that I'm discovering to be less and less true. I know the fact that I had to stock up on malaria pills and water filtration mechanisms played no role in breaking any stereotypes in your minds, but the pictures we receive in the news haven't told the entire story. In truth, I eat my belly full everyday ( I'm literally never hungry), I don't feel threatened by any sort of impending civil unrest and I'm surrounded by joyful people wherever I go. Yes, malnutrition, conflict and unhappiness bears their faces more often than I would like, but above all else there is peace. Mum, my host mother reminds me quite a bit of you. Hard working, an amazing cook and always smiling, and Dad, my host father may even be more ambitious than you, he flies to Italy for seven months out of the year to maintain his home and family in the village, refusing to forget his roots. In truth, Senegal has a way of making me feel at home despite being a foreign land. I think the biggest problem we have in west when we think about Africa in general is that we forget people are simply people. Life isn't always worse, it's just sometimes simpler. Should we fight to give them the same opportunities we have in the west? Of course. However the solution isn't as simple as coming here to be a "voluntourist" and act as if we are doing a great service. We need to try to understand, not try to change if we are to make any progress that is truly beneficial to the people. Mum, Dad, while I'm here, I'm going to change and I'm going to grow, but I truly hope it's for the best. I want nothing more than to make you proud. I love you both very much, I'm happy, I'm safe and I'll see you both soon. 
                                             Your son,