The thing I remember most about my first day in Senegal was that I had to sneeze the entire time.
Alright. So. Rewind to me walking up to my new home, leaving a trail of sweat, friends, and three Senegalese men who are dragging my bags behind me. They open the front door to my new home without knocking and lead me straight upstairs to my room. My bags are through the door and I’m surprised at how big my bed is! I turn around and they are gone.
Now in my room, I see my door isn’t a door at all but a sheet, and so I am not surprised when the maid doesn’t knock but stumbles in and yells at me. Just kidding I almost peed, at first because she is loud and tall and doesn’t seem to be speaking a language at all, but then I realize that she is deaf. She is frustrated that I do not understand and then leaves and what? I have finally made contact, and she does not understand any of the three languages I now speak.
I sit in my room for a while longer until I hear a pound on the wall. I look outside the sheet/door and see a bowl of yogurt and rice sitting on the floor. I can’t even sit next to someone who is eating yogurt. When I think about yogurt I think about morbid things like the end of the world and human nature because why would people ever create yogurt? Ask me what other foods I don’t like. Oh wait don’t because yogurt is the only one.
I stare at it for a bit, and I swear I can see eyes emerging from the curdly surface staring back at me and once I realize that I could eat my fingers I am so hungry, I lean down and pick it up. I hold my nose and by the second gulp I know that I am going to throw up, except no one has shown me to the bathroom. Now I’m out the back door and in an alley where I throw up. Twice.
Here I begin to let myself feel and when the tears don’t come, I conclude that it is because I am dehydrated and actually just can’t.
At night when the power goes out I think that I really could potentially be dead. I also remember waking up somewhere around 2 in the morning wanting water like I hadn’t had it for days, but remember that I still don’t know where the bathroom is. I know what drinking water would most likely cause me to do, and so I decide not to drink because I figure puking in the alley was enough, and that I didn’t necessarily have to pee in it as well.
Now I am late to class the next morning at ACI and my hair is plastered to my head and my clothes feel like they are now part of my skin because I didn’t have time to shower because my alarm didn’t go off and there was nobody to walk me to school and so I had to run here and I dropped my baguette on the way so I am really hungry and I tripped because this goat was staring at me and I know if anyone was going to be attacked by a goat it most definitely would be me. And I think about this as I see for the first time everyone laughing and smiling and I am now like what the hell just even happened?
One of the things which was most important to me at home was trying to convince other students to take a gap year, and then my second blog is this ridiculous story. Except, the thing is, I am ridiculously happy here and the last thing I want is for anyone to be discouraged by this because it showed my right away how much effort it was going to take to truly integrate myself into this family, and it was one of the best lessons I could have learned that first day.
The story was already hilarious to me in that moment and when I opened my mouth to exclaim that I’d never been more excited about this whole gap year thing, I sneezed.