Culture Shock. Culture Shock everywhere. I can’t even begin to describe the little discrepancies that I pick out daily between my life here and my life in the states. Or maybe I can begin to describe it, as I will aptly attempt now (please excuse my bizarre narration, I’ve been reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I’ve been feeling inspired.) Anyways, back to the interesting bits. Every family has some sort of domestic animal and/ or garden going for them. My family in particular has five goats, four sheep and three or four chickens (I always seem to see a different set after the few times we eat chicken per month, go figure.) The best part is that they named a goat after me! However nice the sentiment is, I have also come to realize that Senegalese people have a difficult time pronouncing my name due to the lack of words that sound anything like “Kyle” in Wolof or associated ethnic languages (Sereer and Pulaar are the other two most common.) To make things simpler, I am named “Mbaye” here, after my host father’s late father.
Back to differences and similarities. One thing to note is that differences are not inherently bad for either culture, they are just things that I have seen over the months spent here. One is that you are never alone here in Senegal. It’s almost impossible, (save for the times when all of my brothers are out playing soccer, as well as my father, and my mom is at the market,) to be completely alone. Exceptions obviously exist, like the aforementioned as well as when sleeping (debatable) or when showering (also debatable, there’s a huge spider in the shower that I like to consider a family member, as it kills a lot of mosquitoes.) However, families and friends stick together, and there is an immensely strong sense of community here in Khombole. I absolutely love this, as my worst times are when I feel truly alone. Being physically alone and socially alone are two separate matters, however. When in the company of others here in Senegal, it is totally acceptable to be off doing your own thing, whether it be reading, talking on the phone, looking at nothing at all important on your phone, or sleeping. Most of my time is spent either in the living room, chatting with those who stroll into the house, or out on the front porch, also chatting with those that happen to be walking by. That’s another thing, people just go to each other’s houses unannounced. While I was originally bothered by this when I arrived, I have grown to be accustomed to it.