One Word

Mary Modisette - Senegal

April 23, 2013

It’s funny how we look at things over the passing of time, the way our minds once saw something a certain way but one day see it again, as something else completely different. How what was once a judgment becomes an understanding, how insecurities turn into pride, and so on. I came to find this adaptation in perspective a necessary trait when living in Senegal, even from the very beginning of my stay. How your point of view must always have room for improvement and shifts. But now, after being here for six months, I can see how my own reaction to some of those things hasn’t changed. How who we are, regardless of environmental surroundings and new experiences, always remains within ourselves. Our personalities come out to define each one of us, throughout the highs and lows, regardless of where we find ourselves in life. So looking back at this blog, I am pleasantly surprised how the meaning of what I wrote still reigns true, even after all this time, and where I am as this experience is starting to come to its end.

“Describe how you’re feeling with one word,” is something Nicole once said that has been echoing in my mind lately. At the time I hadn’t paid much mind to its purpose, just sort of rolled my eyes and muttered some adjective that satisfied the topic of discussion, quickly forgetting about it. However being here in my home stay for the past two weeks, the words trickle their way back into my conscience and take on a foreground position in my day-to-day activities.

At times the word is abrupt and clear. The moments when I’m walking underneath the penetrating sun and teetering clumsily in the sand, feeling it scorching its way into my sandals on my path to the nursery. Lying under my obnoxiously loud fan in bed because I’m so exhausted I can hardly move, my head swimming from loud Wolof conversation I tried desperately to pick up on. When I’m sitting outside in the shade on rusted desks for language class being devoured by invisible mosquitoes that bite mercilessly each time I venture to scratch a newfound itch. And even making my solemn trek to the bathroom outside, knowing I will soon be greeted by a family of various flying insects and a hole-in-the-floor target practice for a toilet. These words ring clear as a bell: hot, confused, exhausted, itchy, annoyed, and a personal favorite: you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me. There has yet to be a day where one of these lovely adjectives does not come to mind, and it seems that in the amount of time I’ve been in Senegal I’ve had to developed a taking-things-as-they-come mannerism, especially when it comes to those times I wonder what on earth I was thinking coming out here.

But then there are the other times, so unexpected and wonderful, that domineer over any pessimism and make those rambling internal complaints come to a halt. It’s like pushing a universal remote on ‘pause’ and taking on an out-of-body perspective. These moments are what have me in awe, struggling to find the one word that can encompass it all. Moments when my host mom bought a flowing tie-dye dress for me off a street vendor just because, or dancing and sing poorly to American songs with my siblings on the patio while they laugh hysterically. Looking at the scattered constellations in the night sky or sitting in the living room making colorful string bracelets on a rainy day with my sisters. Having my hair braided by Saly on the front steps to our house or playing tickle-monster with Taala and Adja. Watching bats flying around in the setting sun or even just having Yassine finally open up to me and listening to her ridiculous laugh that makes you join in involuntarily. Sunday afternoons learning to cook with Bebe and Awa, or even just sitting around the bowl at dinner having broken Wolof conversation and laughing at my humble mistakes. As strange as it may be, these seemingly average moments are the most moving. The most personal. And the most unnerving. Up until now I’ve found a description baffling and impossible to embody in a single word. Until it hit me dead-on. The one word capable of explaining each different moment that has happened to me here in Kebemer perfectly.


The feeling when you learn something new each day, tackle the obstacles as they present themselves, smile when something touches your heart, go with the ups and the downs, and cherish those times when you know that this is where you were meant to be.

Mary Modisette