Culture ShOctober

Grace Mannix - Senegal


November 13, 2014

I’m at a loss for words.

Even with all of these internal and external changes happening, I’ve been struggling with what to write a blog about. My goal is to write at least one blog per month. I started off strong in September, but October has proven to be more of a challenge, both for blog writing and adjusting to a new way of life.

Part of the problem could be that I am asking more questions than I am drawing conclusions. I’m trying to figure things out and consequently, don’t have many concrete things to share, aside from the state of the weather: it’s hot. I often wonder when the climate will finally cool off (hopefully sometime next month), and when my staph infections will go away (two so far). More importantly, I can’t tell if I’m spending enough time with my host family or not, if I’m making a good impression, or how I make others feel in my presence.

I wonder if I’m expressing my gratitude for my host family’s tremendous help and patience adequately enough. Does buying a piece of candy for my sister when she escorts me to the boutique suffice? Is offering to help my aunt with washing laundry, even though I know and she knows I slow down the process, thanks enough? Is the message received through simple inquiries like asking my mom how work went? Due to my limited French/Wolof vocabulary and differing cultural values that judge what is polite or respectful, it’s difficult to gage where I stand.

Sometimes I worry if I should be making more connections. I worry that there are mind-blowing, world-changing reasons for why things are the way they are lingering at the tips of my fingers, but I just can’t quite reach them. Then I wonder why I might be missing things. Is it because I’m but a guest in a country where it’s people bleed hospitality? I can’t help but feel awkward when the special treatment I’m given is clearly visible. Often times, a family member will get up from their seat to accommodate me. It’s one thing if it’s my little brother or sister moving from a lawn chair to the sand, but it makes me uncomfortable when my grandma sits beside them, and rejects my attempts to accommodate her.

As you can see, there is lots that I have yet to learn. I will do my best to share my findings and insights with you along the way, hopefully at least once a month.

Grace Mannix