An Uneven Balance

Tasha Torres - Senegal

May 14, 2013

I have little over a month left here in Kedougou and it seems like so much time and yet not even close to enough time for me to experience all that there is to experience. Recently I noticed that I either have really horrible days where I can’t stand it here and other days I have extremely awesome days where I can’t believe how amazing an opportunity I’ve been given. No matter what kind of day I have I know that every moment is fleeting and no feeling is permanent so why not endure it, embrace it, enjoy it?!

Yesterday was a particularly good day for me, despite the blazing heat! I went to work at 8:30am and finished at about 2 in the afternoon. I work in the garage (not like the garage of a house. It’s a place full of different boutiques and cars or buses that take you to other villages or to the city of Dakar.) in my dad’s shop. He sells car, bike and motorcycle pieces and I help keep track of the books and occasionally sell some parts to customers. When I got home from work I ate lunch then helped my mom crack peanuts. After we finished cracking a bowl full (not a small bowl) of peanuts we went outside to separate the peanuts from their shells. It’s a pretty cool process that I am completely incapable of doing! She put the peanuts and their shells on a plate (not quite a plate but I don’t know how to describe it) and kept throwing them in the air and the wind would blow the shells away and leave the peanuts. She tried to teach me a few times but each time I tried I dropped both shell and peanuts on the floor. We both doubled over in laughter and decided I should stop because if I continued trying there would be no peanuts left. Then we took out all of the bad peanuts and had a conversation about why I pet so many animals. I then went to the machine to have the peanuts turned into flour. I took a small break in my room away from the heat and relaxed a bit. When I left my room me, my 2 moms, a lady staying in my house and my sister started preparing dinner. It was an extremely fun process! For dinner that night we were preparing salad with French fries and fish for about 20+ people. My job was to take apart the salad heads and clean them. Afterwards I pounded the garlic and pepper. That day goes on the list of one of my really good days because I bonded so much with my family and although I didn’t contribute much to the conversations going on I understood everything and just felt like this is where I should be.

On the other hand I also have extremely bad days where I question why I’m here. Here are a few experiences I’ve had that make my time here mentally straining. More often than not I have people question my language ability. I know that it’s far from perfect but I know enough to communicate with people around me and although I can’t really speak the language I understand a lot of what everyone says. People though, the minute I don’t understand something or if I didn’t hear what was said would immediately say that I know nothing which occasionally is extremely discouraging. As each day goes by though, I feel more comfortable standing up for myself and calling people out when they make comments that they think I don’t understand. Another thing that equals me having a bad day is being called a toubab (white person) by both people I know and random people on the street. I’d rather people call me by my name, but because people prefer labeling me either a toubab or a Matisse and I don’t agree with either I’ve come up with a solution. When people call me a toubab I tell them that I’m not and when they ask what I am I tell them that I’m blue. They usually laugh and the problem has been avoided but there are those stubborn people that walk away calling out toubab. No negative situation is completely avoidable but I try to let the negativity affect me as little as possible but there are days where it just feels like too much. Then as quickly as it came the day is over and the previous days negativity or positivity is forgotten.

Each day that comes brings with it something unpredictable. So whether I have a good day or bad day I know that every moment is fleeting and no feeling is permanent. So yes I will endure it! Embrace it! And most of all enjoy it!

Tasha Torres