"If it’s different, is it wrong?"

Jovana Jovanovska - Senegal


November 28, 2018

I was born in a multi ethnic community. At an early age I was exposed to
different cultures, languages and religions. Amongst that, many times I’ve
also experienced tensions and a lack of tolerance for “the other groups”. I
was born in a region where schools are still divided in terms of different
ethnicities and where many times what is different from your own belief is
regarded as wrong. Hence, even though I was raised to respect differences,
that clashed with the way that they were presented to me.

By coming to Senegal, I was aware of the challenges I might face. I have
heard about the strict gender roles, men being able to have 4 wives, a
conservative dressing code for women and a very strong religious community.
I would say I was very self conscious about how I wanted to approach these
challenges. I didn’t want my views on what is right and wrong to shape my
experience here. I wanted to learn, to experience and then consequently
understand rather than to judge.

The hospitality and openness of people here allowed me to learn a lot
about the culture of Senegal. I have to admit that it is very different
from what I’m used to, but because of all those differences it has become a
place I call home right now.

Now, there are many aspects of the Senegalese culture that I cherish and
hope to use in the future. I appreciate the passion with which people speak
whenever I ask them questions. I enjoy the long greetings I have with
people on the way to work. I love how time is not a strict concept and that
many times when I would ask when should I come, the answer would be “in the
morning” or “in the evening”. I particularly appreciate the culture of
sharing because even if people don’t have much to give, they share it
wholeheartedly. I enjoy the calmness and the peace of my everyday life here.

Senegal has showed me the beauty of a different part of the world. By doing
that, it has also answered my question. For me, differences are
significant. Without them, our lives would be more monotone. They bring a
variety of views and new ideas.

If something is different, it’s not wrong, it’s just another way of doing
things.

Jovana Jovanovska