Untitled No. 1

Manuel Quesada Nylen - Senegal


September 30, 2018

Although it’s a cliche, I’ve found myself as of recently saying that
cliches, as washed up as they may seem, exist for a reason. Curiosity
really did kill the cat, one man’s meat really is another man’s poison,
actions DO speak louder than words, you really can’t (and shouldn’t) judge
a book by its cover; the list goes on. The particular cliche that inspired
this spiel of mine, is that you can’t have any ups without a few downs.

The few downs that I’ve encountered so far, albeit minimal in comparison to
the downs that my other fellows may or may not have experienced, are the
only ones that I have an exclusive feeling to, so these are the only ones
I’ll analyze.

In Senegal, the word Tubaab (meaning Westerner or white person) is used in
a jeering manner by kids and younger people. Now I’ve got thick skin, so
when I started going on runs or walking in public and heard little squeals
followed by this word, it made me laugh. Never once did I feel attacked or
singled out by this word. Of course, at some point in time, something of
this nature is bound to get to you, but in these moments I made a subtle
and simple – if you’re honest about the state/history of things in this
world – revelation, regarding every form of harassment that POC go through
across the globe, which are far worse than a simple word, so far that they
can’t/shouldn’t really even be compared. Having made this revelation,
whenever I find myself upset by the word Tubaab, those feelings never
linger for more than a short moment.

Paired up with the word Tubaab, is the expectation of having loads of
money. Since you’re from the United States, the expectation is that you
have money to blow. Every single purchase is a bargain, unless it has a set
price or you have someone fluent in the language to make the vendor treat
you like any other Senegalese. Since I myself am not fluent in the language
(yet) and do not have the luxury of a fluent Wolof speaker at all times,
all I really know how to say is “That is too expensive, lower the price”,
to which the vendor or salesperson always says something in response,
laughs at me not understanding what they just said, and continues to not
lower said price. This experience, however frustrated it might make me
feel, can only be used as motivation to improve my language skills. I
cannot express anything if I do not have the language, and I cannot get
angry at these people for trying to take advantage of me, because they
cannot grasp that I do not come from money until I am able to say so
myself, in their native tongue.

There are a few other negatives I’ve come across in my time here but I feel
it wrong to write about them on this blog post just yet, seeing that these
other negatives have only happened at most, just one or two times. The last
thing I want, is to paint a bad light on this wonderful country or this
amazing program or the beautiful people in both, based on cases that could
very well be rare and out of the ordinary.

I am still very happy in Senegal. Happier than I was when I wrote my last
blog post actually, considering how I’ve adjusted to things, how much I’ve
experienced and the manner of which I break down these experiences. I feel
myself changing every day, beginning anew every time I wake up.

Manuel Quesada Nylen