Woke up, made eggs, streamed Kenny Loggins from the internet, sat on my couch, enjoyed real fresh coffee, spoke English the whole time. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, it’s because you haven’t been living with a host family in Senegal for the past 19 months. I have moved to a 3rd floor, 3 bedroom, and balcony apartment in my regional capital Thies. I’m living with two friends and we are still learning what this entails. I’ve never lived in an apartment before. And I’ve never had to cook and clean for myself to this extent. So in many ways this really is COS round one. I said a preliminary goodbye to my host family, moved my things, and passed off my work projects. Now begins my task of preliminary reintegration. We are cooking for ourselves, doing chores, budgeting, shopping, crafting, and schmoozing regularly. We have already hosted parties and been injected into the Thies ex-pat social scene. This is a totally different experience than the one I signed up for but I’m learning to welcome and embrace it. I am thankful to be going through the awkwardness of oven-excitement now. This will make me a more approachable human being after COS round two.
I will admit though that the few weeks leading up to this big-city move had me unnerved. Showing Josh around Mboro and introducing work partners to their new volunteer was making it all much too real. But I feel as though all have found themselves in good positions. I am still around for my friends in Mboro when they have complications but I am able to start some new projects here in Thies. This move has also brought some things to an end. I am seeing now that I will be using Wolof less and less. And that means my fluency will likely decline, probably for the rest of my life. This realization came at an unwelcome time. Just as I was really starting to break through with Wolof and speak proactively instead of reactively, my journey with it was over. I make peace with this by appreciating its role in this country and what I loved about that. It was the language of small and large informal markets in a complicated West African hub. All garages are Wolof speaking; almost all boutiques are as well. Basically people and things move around this country only if it is decreed in Wolof. But now it’s time for me to move onto the language of formal markets, French. This is a language I’ve been infatuated with but not able to speak well since 7th grade. I’m hoping my 10th will be the breakthrough year!
Now to address the continually complicated question: what are you actually doing over there? For what’s left of May I will be working on the base work of the tours I want to do in July/August. I am creating record keeping systems to be taught to small-scale farmers. These are made with the hopes that farmers can know more about their financial and agricultural production capacities. Empowering them with that knowledge is the first step to safely accessing markets and formalizing their businesses. Ill also be working on a marketing plan for a third-year volunteer named Gordon Day. He is trying to coordinate moringa production and drying across the country to develop a national and eventual international market. I also hope to conduct some market tests and gain concrete information about adoptability in Senegalese cuisine.
After this I’ll be going to Italy to meet with my parents who I haven’t seen since I left. They are taking a trip to Belgium to see Mudae, an exchange student they hosted in America before my time. They’ll continue on to Rome where I’ll meet them. I admit to a little fear of that reunion because of all that has changed since I left. I am a different person now and I’m sure they’re different as well. But I think we’re all constantly changing in some ways and it’s much easier to see the jump when we’ve been far apart for so long. Mostly though, I’m excited. Pizza, wine, coffee, old buildings, and shameless tourism are the expected highlights. After our trip together I’m continuing alone to Wales. Many have asked why, and to be honest I’m not too sure myself. Mostly though I hope to clear my head in an English-speaking country and enjoy some more familiar weather/scenery. My time here in Senegal has been complicated so far. I’ve lost a lot but gained a lot too. I need some time in another foreign place to flesh that out and what it has done to me.
If anyone wants to talk, I can do that now. Let me know when you’re around and I can call you on the internet, from my couch!
*Conclusion Of Service