A Note to the People Whom I Love

Thea Holcomb - Senegal


April 10, 2017

On the afternoon of April 15th, 2017, I will be deposited at the Salt Lake International Airport in my hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah, marking my passage through yet another door in the Global Citizen Year Fellow experience. There have been times when this journey brought me to places of truly ineffable joy, and times when it brought me, in desperation, to my knees.

It’s going to take me a moment to reflect on this gnarly and beautiful road I’ve been hanging out on, so I beseech you to…

Be patient with me– 
  • If I marvel incessantly at the weird ease of potable running water. I swear I’m not trying to be insufferable.
  • If my readjustment to the use of cutlery while eating is rather clumsy
  • If I exceed your capacity for being interested in how to form conditional statements in Laalaa

Be understanding of me
  • When I tell you I’ve learned very little French, even though I just spent eight months in a country where the official language is French. If you’re curious, perhaps even ask me why this is the case.
  • When I speak of my Senegalese family as if they are my “real family.” My Senegalese family are just as much a real family to me as the one with whom I grew up- this does not detract from, but only enhances the beauty of the relationships I have with both families.
  • When I bristle at the notion that I came to Senegal as some act of selflessness, with the intention of “helping people.” Witnessing assumptions that I spent the last eight months fixing people’s problems will hurt me because it condescends the entire existence of a complex community, culture, and family to which I feel a powerful sense of affinity.

Be willing to listen to me
  • In the moments that I ask you not to make assumptions about what it felt like to live without the use of my native language, electricity, running water, access to the Internet, and other such luxuries. Rather than making an assumption, feel free to ask me, because I must say I think I’ll have some thoughts worth exploring.
  • In the moments that I tell you about how there were times when I felt more isolated and afraid than I ever had before, and how there were times when I felt a stronger sense of belonging and love than I ever thought possible. The truth of one narrative does not negate the truth of its opposite.
  • In the moments that I seek someone who will say not, “I understand,” but rather, “I hear you.”

Thank you, loved one.

Thea Holcomb