When I explained to people in my hometown of Verona, New Jersey that I was taking a bridge year they usually fell into one of two camps. Either they would agree with my friend Rebecca who wrote on my facebook wall “I’m so freaking excited for you!! And by that I mean I’m so incredibly jealous!!” or they were more wary of the whole process and instead said, “Have fun, but be careful.” The people in the first group were generally more interested in cultural cuisine, the latter group personal hygiene. My uncle wondered aloud if I would have to bicycle to power my computer (his musings complete with a pantomimed caricature of my frantic self pedaling madly) and my aunt jokingly informed me of toilet paper substitutes. I laughed.
A lot of people, myself included, were hung up on how many times a week I would be able to shower, or what my sleeping arrangements would be like. But since I arrived here in California for training I have begun to question my own buried assumption that personal happiness rests upon physical comfort. I am often happiest when I care the least about my physical appearance or comfort. As a kid I had some amazing times exploring a local brook and becoming a human mud sculpture seemed an added bonus.
So as I prepare to embark on a year in Africa I am not only excited to find out what my contribution can be to this vast world or to learn about a culture completely foreign from my own. I hope to glean a lot from the people of Senegal about happiness and what it takes to achieve fulfillment.