It's quite funny that we as humans crave for something novel when at home, yet we cling to any sense homeliness and familiarity once miles away. It started on a cold-never in my life did I think I'd be saying this-Sunday morning in Senegal. I had a couple other fellows (Kevin and Nick) visiting my homestay and we all agreed that with the holiday season in full swing and morale at a low, a slice of home would be more than welcomed. One thing lead to another and before you know it we're making pancakes. Seemed like a fantastic idea. I hadn't prepared an American meal for my family yet and I figured this was a great way to start. We had everything we needed; flour, eggs, milk, baking soda (this ones important), salt, sugar and peanut butter to top. When we were done cooking we began feasting. They tasted a bit funny but we figured it was just our inability to cook.
The day passed, Nick and Kevin returned to their sites and was spending time with my family. I began to feel very tired, and the cold that had been bothering me for weeks had gotten worse, so I decided to skip dinner and go to bed. I then spent the next 36 hours with intense vomiting and diarrhea. I had no clue what was causing it. I then looked to my host my mom who finally told me that the four table spoons of baking soda I added was way too much and the peanut butter wasn't going to help either. I was miserable, especially since I knew no amount of medicine would be able to remedy my illness, but rather I needed to force myself to eat, so that my body could dispose of the remaining sodium bicarbonate. I'm still not quite there yet. Nausea persists and my headaches have gotten a bit worse, but with some intense medication (I have to stick suppositories up my ass) and some prayers from my grand father, I should be better soon, inshallah.
My aim here was not to be pessimistic. I was initially going to write about how amazing the experience of sharing some of my culture with my family was, because that day, and the days before have been truly amazing, although at times challenging. There's lessons to be had during those times of challenge though, and what I learnt from this challenge is that we can't forget what's right in front of us. I met a man the other day who spoke enough English to tell me that my program is quite a one sided exchange, and in my broken French, I told him he was probably right. There's not much I can give back for all that I'm receiving, but I can give back my presence. Maybe instead of attempting to burry my homesickness in pancakes, I could have noticed what was right in front of me, my host family, and sought support from them. Now as a consequence, I have to stick suppositories inside my rear end to relieve the nausea caused by my attempt at creating and international house of pancakes.