There is no real way to even come close to describing every facet of my experience in Senegal thus far, so I will just say that I’ve never felt more alive than I have felt in these last couple months.
Since my arrival in Dakar many weeks ago, I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, just like the Global Citizen Year staff said would happen since the beginning of training in California. I don’t think I fully understood or even believed that prophesy until I got here.
The first couple weeks I spent in Senegal were surreal. The sights and sounds of Dakar simultaneously mesmerized and exhilarated me. During my stay in Dakar, I had some of the most memorable times of my life to date — I went out dancing many nights, ate the best mangoes I’ve ever eaten, slept outside under the stars that looked brighter than they ever have before, and spent nights with other fellows sharing secrets of our pasts and dreams for the future that have resulted in solid friendships that have helped me stay positive and sane through my transition from Dakar to Joal.
Highlights of my time in my Joal homestay include taking a sangu (Wolof word for shower) in a rainstorm with some of the women in my compound, carrying babies around on my back the way Senegalese women do here, and riding on the loaded tops of roaring buses in order to travel to nearby villages.
Life in Senegal has excited me, challenged me, saddened me, angered me, and made me feel whole in a way that I can never describe in words. It would be easy to just say that I love every part of my life here, but it wouldn’t be true. Mostly, I’m sad I’m missing the pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks right now. Just kidding, even though that might be a little true. But on a serious note, being a woman and dealing with all the gender roles here is nothing like I ever could’ve imagined, some of the things I see at the health post where I work brings tears to my eyes, I miss my family and friends so much it hurts some days, and since I’m being real here, diarrhea is most definitely an ongoing problem as well. But all of that being said, the daily struggles are what has made this experience so meaningful already.
The loneliness that comes with being so far from home has given me a reflective mindset and in the absence of familiarity, I spend a great deal of time thinking about my life, the future, and my relationships with the people I left behind at home and the people I’ve met here as well.
I came into this journey with the foolish assumption that I would sail through these nine months with only a few bumps in the road, but each day lends itself to a new battle and somehow, I fight through them and come out with a little more wisdom and understanding than I had before.
So across the oceans, deserts, and sky from the people who read my blog (and especially to my mother who has been bugging me about writing this post), I am doing better than okay. Between the moment I wake to the breathtaking west African sunrise to when I fall asleep at night to the sounds of mosquitoes humming, I dance, stumble, sing, cry, and laugh my way through each and every day.
I am alive in every sense of the word.