Drop-Off Day

Ellie Van Gorden - Senegal


September 11, 2018

I’m here. I’m finally here. After 5 months of anticipation,
uncertainty and a touch of fear I am in my new home. I am in my new room. My
things may be somewhat organized in my cabinet and my desk, but the space
remains foreign. I keep reading through notes, going through pictures and even
smelling some of my unused clothes from home (this one’s a little weird, but
you gotta do what you gotta do) to try and ground myself in some way, but a
large majority of myself remains elsewhere.

~

My name is no longer Ellie. In fact, my last name has
changed as well. May I introduce you to my new identity… Fatima Faye, a Sereer
girl new to Dizieme. I have two younger sisters, Constance and Therese, and one
older brother, Gerome. My mom is so very kind, she holds my hand everywhere we
go. We have a two month old puppy named Tero, and his favorite hobby is chewing
on my Chacos. I would like to teach him some tricks before I leave, and maybe
by that time he’ll be old enough to go for a walk as well. (His little black
and brown nose is definitely my favorite thing to look at)

~

As we approached this neighborhood in our bus, my eyes were
wider than ever. They had yet to say who was next, and my heart was up to my
ears.

“Ellie, this is you!”

I gulped and took a deep breath. I felt everything at once.
Was I ready? Would they like me? What the HECK did I get myself into?!

My friend grabbed my hand, and I began to feel my body fill
with adrenaline. Pure nervous energy overtook me. The bus slowed to a screechy
halt. I was home.

~

The afternoon went incredibly well. They. Speak. French. A
wave of relief calmed my jittery hands and I smiled as I spotted the small
puppy in the corner upon entering the big living room. I scooped him up and ran
outside to show everyone. I hope this helped the other fellows awaiting their
drop-offs to calm down as well.

My mom prepared me leftovers for lunch, and I don’t think
that I’ve ever had more to eat at once in my life. I then took a magical nap. I
think the malaria meds are giving me wild dreams…

Upon waking, my mom and sisters took me to the market. Here
they bought me “American food” such as Nutella, ice cream and chips. I insisted
that I really didn’t need these things, but they’re too stubborn and welcoming
to listen. I love them already.

~

To close, I would just like to lay out some intentions, so
that I’m keeping myself accountable.

I would like to attend mass at least every week. I have
never been the religious type, and I feel like this may help me form a new
identity here.

I would like to exercise daily. Of course I would like to
get even more fit, but it’s hard when you’re living in a culture where bigger
is “better and healthier”. This one is purely to maintain a balanced mental state.
Also, during a workout I enter one of my favorite headspaces, and I’m not about
to lose the pure happiness that is created during these times anytime soon.

I want to write as much as possible. Self-reflection is my
new best friend.

I want to master French, and continue to learn Wolof (even
if it’s on a word by word basis).

~

Finally, I would just like to put out there that speaking in
a language that isn’t your first 24/7 is EXHASTING, and I now have so much
respect for those who do this on a daily basis. My brain is fried by bedtime,
and although I enjoy the challenge, I keep finding myself retreating to my room
to write or talk to myself in English (at least I make good conversation).

 

Until next week,

Fatima