Nothing to bring you back to reality like being attacked by a swarm of bees. You’re probably wondering what I mean by that, and that’s a good question! I’ll try to explain. The past month or so has been relatively difficult for me. I am extremely lucky that my family was able to visit me, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t mess up the flow of my life here. I was so happy to see them, but the week that I spent away from my host family and with my real family took me out of my reality here in Khombole. Upon returning to my host family after New Year’s, I felt dazed and out of place. This sentiment persisted for the next month as I went through the motions of going to my apprenticeships, learning my language and trying to be a part of my community even though I didn’t feel like I belonged.
At the end of January, I attended our second training seminar, hosted in the region of Kedougou. I felt great by the end of the seminar, but Kedougou is radically different from my home region. I felt like I was in a completely different country (mainly because I was basically in Guinea.) This is where the bees come in. On the way back, we stopped on the side of the road for fellows to relieve themselves and stretch their legs out. I decided to walk into the brush to find a tree to stop by. Having headphones in, I thought the wind was just causing the branches of the tree to slap against my head. Looking up, and consequentially taking my headphones out, it dawned on me pretty quickly that I was actually peeing on a hive… full of angry bees. Never before have I experienced a test of my decision-making skills as difficult as the choice between pulling my pants up and running like hell, or just running like hell with my pants undone. I decided to go with the first option, calmly making sure everything was in order before making a beeline (haha, get it?) to the bus. Great idea, right? Wrong. As it turns out, African honey bees are about 10 times as aggressive as European honeybees. In addition, when a hive of European honey bees is disturbed, they tend to stick near the hive in order to defend it. If a hive of African honeybees is disturbed, the drones will fly out in a swarm and try to make sure whatever (or whomever) came near their sanctuary, whether it be a person or a honey badger, pays for its sins. This means that my decision to run to the bus resulted in the bees swarming out and attacking everyone else who was outside. As we all rushed into the bus, I decided to keep quiet about the fact that I may or may not have caused the swarm by peeing on the living area of the bees. While this story may prove to be funny in the future, especially since it’s already funny to me now, it also helped me snap back into reality in a profound way. While being stung by bees is not a favorable way to do that, I guess it worked in the end. Up until that point I was missing home and just going through the motions with nothing new really popping up or changing my day. Being attacked by ahive of bees is not something I run into – or run from – every day. It snapped me back into the present –Senegal, speaking Wolof, experiencing this gap year moment … that I know I will think back for the rest of my life.