Global Citizen Year made it very clear to the Fellows crazy enough to sign up that this experience and the places we were going to would defy all of our expectations.
Before I left for this experience, my mother drove me all the way to downtown Washington, DC, waltzed into the air-conditioned souvenir shop, and kept on buying T-shirts, playing cards, and mints all with our first African-American president’s face on them. “They’re going to love these, Obama is a big hit in Africa!” she assured me.
My face twisted as the embryo of my Global Citizen Behavior kicked in, how could my mother know what these people living thousands of miles away liked? Not to mention that being in a tourists’ store purchasing Obama merchandise is about as humiliating as it gets for a DC native.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my brief 17 years of life, it’s that my mother is (almost) always right.
As I stepped into my Dakar host family’s dimly lit narrow hallway for the first time, I was immediately greeted not by a warm Senegalese mother or father but a poster of none other than Barack Obama waving to a crowd after learning that he would become the leader of the greatest empire in the world. I immediately smiled. Later that day, upon telling my host brother Ibrahima that I live in DC, his face lit up and he asked with great excitement “Do you know Barack Obama?” This wasn’t the first time that I or anyone else from our nation’s capital had heard that question, but it was by far the happiest I’ve been to respond “Yes, of course, I say hi to him every morning!”
When I presented les cadeaux (the presents) to my mother and brother, Ibrahima instantly donned the t-shirt and proceeded to wear it for the next two days. Thanks, mom!