Dear Maimouna, Love Madelaine

Madelaine Guss - Senegal

April 23, 2013

October 30th, 2012

Dont Open Till April

Dear Maimouna,

Today doesn’t really mark any important or special day (well at home tomorrow is Halloween but that doesn’t really matter here), but for some reason you were really saddened and wanted to do something memorable or substantial. Today you woke up and felt extremely happy, but just like the past few weeks, you have been swinging uncontrollably between happiness and sadness at an alarming rate.

When you open this letter you will be packing your suitcase preparing to leave Segou for home. This letter is more important than the letter you wrote yourself at fall training because it is written with the knowledge of your new reality: your village and your family. You know that your host family is kind. you know Adama, Bassirou, and Ballah. You know that donkeys are the worst and that goats sound like babies when they cry. There is a lot you don’t know yet, you really don’t know if it will get harder (which seems impossible) or become incredibly easy, and leaving will be what is hard. Leaving probably feels surreal, i know for me right now it feels like a joke.

What I wish for you is to become comfortable. Right now you are extremely uncomfortable, no one knows who you are and it doesn’t seem that they care much. Maimouna could have been anyone dropped off here and you just happened to be the one who showed up. I hope you become comfortable with your family, if you are sad, let them see you cry and if you are angry, confront the issue. You live here and need to be honest. Define and develop yourself as Maimouna.

I really hope you fell in love with something. It doesn’t matter if it was Pulaar, Segou, or rice really, just anything that will stay with you for a long time after you come home. Just don’t think about home too much. Your home in Pennsylvania will always be there, but Segou is only home for six months. Theres so much here just outside your hut!





Madelaine Guss