The Long Road Ahead

Andrea Snyder - Senegal


December 17, 2014

Directed to my fellow Fellows: I’ve been contemplating whether or not I should post this but I finally decided that I would be limiting my readers from a very important part of my experience if I didn’t.

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August 30, 2014

I was waiting until I had felt pens to write in this journal, pretty ironic considering I’m living in rural West Africa. Anyways, homesickness is a real thing and I found that out on my second day here. Always being an independent person and never too attached to my family, I figured homesickness would never be a feeling I’d encounter. But so far, two days in, it’s my very first. A few weeks leading up to my departure, I became so attached to Senegal and the idea of it that I wasn’t living in the present at home because I was so involved in my daydreams or prior perceptions of how my life here would be like. It’s just funny, that I’m sitting here now, doing the exact same thing, only in reverse. I’m locked inside the bedroom of the hotel I am staying at, crying to myself and thinking about all the great things I had at home and remembering how simple my life there was. I force myself to write these feelings down because inside, beside all the thoughts I’m having on how getting sick would be my best option if I want to get out of here, and how Ebola is only a few miles away, and if I really wanted to get it I probably could manage…. Beside all those feelings, lies the certainty in me that everything is going to be all right and with that I’m hoping and praying that I can reflect on this entry in the future and only respond with laughter, at an old self that was so consumed and overcome with her feelings that she even allowed herself to think such dreadful thoughts, and I hope that I look back at this knowingly that the little hope that existed in my internal being is what allowed me to pull through and not let fear cloud my judgment.

August 31, 2014

So, I expected to respond to that last entry months from the time it was written. I expected time to lay still and my agony to grow far greater before it ceased. Only, I’m writing this on day three, after having re-read what I wrote last night. I am sitting again, in the same position, at the end of my night, but only I can’t stop smiling. It’s difficult for me to write this, considering my emotions just completed a 180-degree turn and I went from feeling completely helpless to utterly rejoiced and satisfied. My Dakar host mom is a tall and strong figure, who makes me feel protected and confident on what I should and shouldn’t be doing. She works with my poor communication skills and low proficiency in both French and Wolof, and gives me high fives when she manages to understand our ongoing game of charades. My brother, who I have unfortunately haven’t had the chance to speak much with, has already shown me so much kindness by carrying in my overloaded luggage and setting up the wifi in my room. Anyways, I’m glad to be where I am and I know I’m going to enjoy this year so much, but I also acknowledge, and like I’ve known all the while, that there are going to be some difficult times and when they do occur I only need to remind myself that I was aware struggling was going to be a part of this and I chose to be here anyways;  finding something difficult is only a sign of growth, and missing my family at home only shows that there’s something to miss, which in it’s own way is so so great, and what I’ve also learned is that if you allow yourself to get past moments like these, you’ll have something to miss when you leave, and that in itself is also so so great.

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What I collected from these two entries is that my world turned upside down within a few hours and with very few interactions. If you want an idea of how it is going to be at first, this is the reality of it. As I mentioned, there are going to be a lot of difficult times throughout the year where we are going to feel helpless and overwhelmed and like this year is never-ending, and like counting down the days is a good idea, and we are going to want to return to our simple lives where everything was organized, easy, and made sense. But I am asking all of you to remind yourselves right now of the reason you decided to do this and even if you don’t have a clear idea, throughout the year you’ll find it. So when you’re lying on your bedroom floor or anywhere else and feeling awful and frustrated, remind yourselves of your expectations and allow them to motivate you and allow yourself to reflect and realize you’re going to get past it, and grow because of it, and if you haven’t quite figured out why you’re here yet, have the faith in yourself that you will. Just remember to not get so caught up on your lows because you won’t be as inclined to enjoy your highs.

 

Andrea Snyder