“Sometimes, the most healing thing we can do is remind ourselves over and over and over… other people feel this too. ” –– Andrea Gibson
The hour is 21:30, the muffled voices of my friends are drowned out by the sound of my own beating heart. I float aimlessly in the hotel pool, eyes closed, paying attention to nothing except the way my heart steadies itself. The water mimics the calmness that has washed over me. I am at peace for the first time since getting to Senegal. Real peace. The kind that quietly whispers, ‘You’ll be okay, kid’. I don’t know how long it’s going to last, so I relish in feeling somewhat like myself. Gently breathing, my eyes open, being greeted by a sky full of stars. Without any thought, Olechi marin escapes with ease under my breath. The stars are beautiful. It is one of the only phrases in Laalaa, outside of greeting and my name, that I can speak with confidence. I always had this thought that they sky is the same everywhere you go, that the moon will always be the same size of your thumb, being the identical twin of the more back home–– wherever that may be. The more time I spend looking up at the night sky, I come to the realization that this is untrue. The sky here will never be the same as the one back home. Heck, the sky will never be the same from one night to another here; let alone back in Boston.
Everything about life right now is mi unós, I don’t knows…. and a lot of them. I don't know how to eat with my hand right, I feel bad for whoever ends up having to sit next to me at meals because they will always be covered in rice by the end of it. I don’t know how to speak Laalaa very well, I don’t know how to make my clothes squeak when I’m washing them like my host mom does and apparently, I don’t know how to tuck my mosquito net in right. Point is, I don’t know a lot of things. The insides of the Stephanie who first came to Senegal a month ago, have been scooped out and put somewhere for safekeeping. I don’t know when I’ll get them back. I don’t know if I want them back. Deep down inside, I think I secretly hope that I don’t get them all back and that I unlearn a lot of things, being replaced by the daily lessons of Senegalese life that I am given everyday.
A lot of this experience feels like drowning. Keyword, feels. I’m not actually drowning, I was throw into a pool with floaties and with all the panic, I started flailing. The flailing caused more of a panic, not allowing me to realize that I am okay. While the floaties aren't a life jacket, they support me enough to keep me afloat and long enough for me to realize that my head is still above water. Long enough to realize that other people have been thrown into this pool too and even though they’re flailing, they’re okay. It also makes me come to the realization that Global Citizen Year is designed in such a way that you’ll always be supported. The support systems that they provide makes sure that you’ll never need CPR but there is always a certified life guard on duty anyways. There will always be someone to pull you out of the water, out of your panic zone, when and if you need it.
I know this isn’t convincing anyone that I’m having an unbelievable experience, an experience that makes all of the I don't knows worth it. But I am. I have high highs. I’m starting ti call my host family, my family and their home, home and I’m starting to love Senegal the way that I love Boston. They are little successes but I celebrate them regardless. Progress, no matter how small, is progress and deserves to be exalted. these highs don’t erase my low lows, they just make them more bearable.