Finding Reality

Janet Sebastian-Coleman - Senegal


August 31, 2015

 Well, I’ve made it. I safely arrived

in Senegal on Friday, although it seems I’ve been here much longer

than that. Perhaps its the sun, or the importance of greeting each

person you pass, or the streets made of sand, tiles, cement, and

paving stones, but its easy to fall into the rhythm of Senegal. We

spent two nights at a nice hotel, living a bit of a tourist life:

seeing Dakar by day and swimming in the pool at night.

 

While at the hotel I was pumped for

the real journey, meeting my

host family and digging into daily life. I moved into my homestay in

the Maramoz neighborhood on Sunday morning. And it is real: the bed

is real, the walls are solid, my host family walks and talks – the

complete package.

 

Reality, when one is imaging it, is not very akin to reality when one lives

it. While I was getting ready for my vague, but enticing, “real

journey” I was not expecting to be overwhelmed by the sounds,

languages, and people around me. I was not expecting to be a little

underwhelmed by myself. The first morning I felt my eight years of

French had taken a leap out the window and my confidence with it. I

found myself exhausted by the total newness.

 

But a new day and a little rest can make a big difference, or better yet a

series of small differences. I came home for my lunch break after my

first day of class to a Maman who wanted to be absolutely sure I ate

before I left again. (The lunch was amazing, I’ll eat whatever she

gives me, she’s such a good cook.) And after a full belly, a little

review of French, and a happy morning spent with friends my

confidence and eight years of French were crawling back in through

the window.

 

It is difficult to be present in what appears to be mundane moments. For

example, today I was resting and my little sister told me to go to

Mama. I thought my host mother wanted to talk about something but she

was just watching television and wanted me to be with her. I pushed

away thoughts about awkwardness or how boring t.v is and tried to be

in the moment. At home my best friends are those with whom I do next

to nothing with. Its only when I’m establishing a new friendship that

I feel the need to go to the movies or get coffee together. What an

amazing thing that my host mom brought me directly into the

comfortable do-nothingness of great friendships.

 

Janet Sebastian-Coleman