I originally began writing this post about expectations, because let’s be real, who packs up their life for a year and moves to Africa without some sort of expectation as to what they are getting themselves into? Fall Training made everything seem so fun and happy all the time. Having spent the 10 days at Stanford living in the dorms with the 90 other people that quickly became my friends, I realized how easy it would have been to go to college this year. But this year isn’t about easy. It’s about immersion and no one ever said that was easy. When I got off the plane, things got real. I was no longer in that tourist state of mind, no longer in the honeymoon stage of culture shock. I was here. Upon arrival in Dakar, I think I cried my self to sleep for a week. I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into or how to handle it.
Everything is so different here. In our “right” society, in this utopia we have built up around us in the U.S. we have learned many things. From a very young age, we are taught not to litter, that people shouldn’t eat with their hands, people shouldn’t wipe themselves with their hands, that everyone needs some alone time. But we aren’t “right” anymore. This isn’t our “perfect” little world anymore. This isn’t our culture. This isn’t what I expected. I realized quickly that I really hadn’t prepared myself for this year at all.
Towards the end of that month in Dakar, I found myself in a daily routine. I balanced family time with my host family and escaping with my friends to the ice cream shop or just to wander aimlessly through the streets. I found myself accepting where I was and what I was doing. Although I can’t say I was happy per say, I was content. And, quite frankly, for this being the first time I was really leaving the nest, in a place so completely different from anything I have ever known, in a place where I don’t know the customs, the language, or what I was eating half the time, content was ok.
Now I realize it was not productive at all to my transition to sit and reflect on my expectations. So here is me, accepting where I am and adjusting to my new life.