“How is Africa?”
That’s a loaded question, and definitely a hard one to answer. I’ve only been here for three weeks, but I’ll say that it’s everything you can think of in the most extreme form, but nothing you would expect. There are no subtleties. Whether you like it or not, the atmosphere is loud and makes sure that you are present in the moment to experience it for what it is.
When it rains, it pours down on the rooftops and wakes you up in the middle of the night. It’s more inconvenient than comforting, like it was for me at home. It means more leakages to take care of, more mosquitos hovering around puddles of water in the streets, and more power outages. Electricity surely is resilient here considering the power always comes back on after going out daily. There is just so much to adjust to, ranging from something as simple as clocks reading 19:30h instead of 7:30pm, to more significant differences like being asked for medicine or my hair.
That being said, every small win is a big victory. The simplest of things motivate me to pick my head up and keep moving forward. Things like the reaction I got from my host family when I said “you’re welcome” in Wolof for the first time, or when I’m able to make somebody laugh even with my limited language skills. When my little brothers invite me to play soccer with them in the evening, and when I bought my first Senegalese dress (green, white, and orange colored fabric for the Irish, of course). Especially when I look up at the night sky and can see every star, because I know I want to make it through another day so I can stargaze again tomorrow night.
There really is not one word to sum up the experience I’ve had so far. I can’t even encompass one day here in a word, let alone three weeks. I am emotionally, physically, and mentally challenged consistently. I’ve felt overwhelmed and sad and nervous and scared, sometimes all at once, but I also remember to count my blessings. I have a roof over my head and know where my next meal is coming from. I have my own room with a fan, along with access to water and somewhat functional internet. Not to mention my fantastic support system back home, between my loving family and the Global Citizen Year Staff. I also have incredible team leaders with me here, in addition to the other fellows that I’ve grown to love and care for. Despite the demanding conditions, I know I’m in a good place.
I hope this answers your question.