As my time here comes to an end, I was warned to prepare myself for the questions from family, friends and anyone else that will hear I lived in “Africa.” Trying to find a way to explain my life here has proven much more difficult that I anticipated. Finally, it dawned on me that the main problem I was having was that there was one word standing in my way. Africa. So much weight is put on that word. First thoughts with “Africa” comes apartheid, AIDS, starvation, villages with straw huts, and the Sahara. But that’s not how I see it, well not anymore.
So no, I didn’t work giving out AIDS vaccines, I was never surrounded by malnutritioned children with bloated bellies, I’ve never seen a lion or elephant here, I have never seen any scene reenacted from the Lion King, I didn’t get any weird diseases or eat bugs or any of that, although there are a few straw huts in my community. That’s not what my life looks like here. I’m surrounded by a loving family and friends dressed in crazy bright prints. I sleep every night in a bed. I eat rice, fish and vegetables on a daily basis. I drink tap water and have never had a problem. The Senegalese women, or more specifically the Wolof women, are tough and run a tight household. Most of the guys act like teenagers. They hold tradition in high regard but are open and accepting to new ideas. They love music which ranges from traditional drums to Rhianna and Akon. They love to dance! When they laugh, which is often, they don’t just giggle, it’s like a burst of happiness just erupts. Their laughs are loud and joyous and they can hardly sit still. Some will hit the table or run away because whatever it was that made them laugh was just that funny. Family is held above all and no bond is stronger. They are giving and caring and take the whole community as one big family. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” couldn’t be truer here.
So this stereotype that comes with the word “Africa” is just that, a stereotype. So yes, in parts of Africa there is starvation, AIDS and Lion King worthy settings, but that’s not all. There is so much more to it than that.
So much that one can only truly understand by experiencing it. And Senegal, well at least the parts that I have seen, defiantly don’t fit the “Africa” stereotype. So no, I have not lived in “Africa.” I live in the Quartier Gounass, in the town of Mboro, in the region of Thies, in the country of Senegal.