Learning to Sweat

Becky McClements - Senegal


September 13, 2012

I’m no stranger to sweat; I practically grew up dosed in it. From doing triathlons in the scorching summer sun to muck stalls and lifting bails of hay in the horribly humid air, I’m used to having every part of me drenched with beads of salty water. That being said, I think I have sweat more in the past week and a half then I have ever sweat in my lifetime.

In case you didn’t know, West Africa is about as hot as it gets. Add a broken fan to that equation and a poorly ventilated room and you get enough sweat to fill a bath tub. Gross imagery aside, its going to take some time to adjust to the heat.  However, the astronomical temperature is not the only reason I’ve been sweating so much. It’s a different kind of sweat, one I’ve experienced very few times in my life. It not that dripping-wet-worked so hard your about to pass out-slimey sweat. It’s that clammy moisture that occurs only when you are so nervous and so far outside your comfort zone that your physical being feels the need to react.

I’ve been sweating like this since I stepped out of the air-conditioned airport and into humid Dakar. Since a Senegalese man tried to carry my bag for me and all I could do was look down and keep walking because I didn’t know what he was saying. Ever since I saw the dirty, trash ridden streets of Dakar and the beggar children who inhabit them. Since I met my host family and discovered none of them speak English. I have never been so far out of my comfort zone for so long. I’m so used to being able to run into my air conditioned home and take refuge with my family from the things that make me nervous. It’s challenging, but a huge part of this experience is about learning how to sweat that nervous clammy sweat. Its about learning how to be okay with being outside of your comfort zone and challenging yourself to step farther beyond your limit. It gets easier and easier each day and I hope that I find as the rainy season ends and it cools off in Dakar, I begin to sweat a lot less.

Becky McClements