Pictures from Senegal

Sunday, June 27

Losing Control

One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with is losing control of everything around me. And some days it really feels like I’ve lost every battle. I can’t always say what I want to in French. I have to think of the words I know that will basically get the point across, but I have little room for personal speaking style. I can’t stop myself from getting sick all the time. I can’t control the climate of any of my surroundings because there’s no thermostat to change or sweater to put on or take off. I can’t change my shoes because anything other than flip flops gets filled with sand so quickly I can barely walk. I can’t choose which tailor I prefer to utilize for my clothing needs, because it’d be a big faux pas not to use my Mom’s. I can’t control what I’m eating, because I don’t cook any of my meals… even when I don’t eat fish I’m given an alternative meal prepared by the maid. I also have no control of when I eat. Lunch is anywhere from noon (weekends only) to 3p; Dinner is between 10 and 11p. I can’t control when the power goes out and comes back, and the same with the internet… apparently the Senegalese government can’t do that either.

I can’t seem to control my work schedule. I set appointments with people for specific times, though they never show up on time. Granted, they will generally appear within an hour- if they’re coming. I’ll schedule small computer classes, but none of the students show. Then they’ll pester me for months after about when the next class is. And they conveniently don’t understand my language when I tell them I have too many things to do and can’t always be waiting for them. “Ok then, just give me private lessons.” …As though I could trust them to a) show up on time then either and b) stick to the subject. No, I don’t want to show you how to use Skype and then talk to your friends. I can’t control the tendency of people with my phone number to call at all hours demanding I come over immediately to show them how to print something.

I can’t control how people treat me either. The little kids call me whitey or red ears, but I can’t seem to make them understand that it’s offensive. I’m constantly told to get over it; they just don’t know better. Well, TEACH THEM BETTER! I can’t control all the stupid things my host Mom gets mad at me for. No, I don’t want to listen to your friends talk about me in Wolof… so yeah, I’m leaving. I don’t want to teach English to kids because I have a degree in business… so yeah, I’m definitely not teaching your 4 year olds for 30 minutes each week. This will only make you feel better; they won’t learn a damn thing. And please don’t bother me with complaints about how other people are benefitting from my speaking English with them… when you will most likely get pissed the next time I speak English in a conversation you’re a part of. I can’t seem to entice people to learn why I do things differently.

I figured the lack of control would dissipate after PST. Back in those days I had a rigid schedule of language classes with a few bouts of health, culture, or security. My time wasn't my own, but that would come to an end... and I would have control again. Apparently not, because here I am every day, waking up when the kids decide to start screaming, eating what’s put in front of me, just dealing with the name calling on my way to meetings that probably won’t happen, sweating uncontrollably until after dinner when I then get to pass out at the moment I choose to give in. Hmm.

Actually, I have more choices than that. I can choose how many times I take a shower each day to rinse of the sand and sweat. I can choose which drink flavor I put in my water. I choose the music in my MP3 player, and what movie to watch at night while I wait for dinner. I can choose how much or how little to eat. I can choose to eat from my secret stash of protein at any time. I can choose how to react to the little kids that call me names, same with the grown adults. Do I laugh and say hello back? Do I say something offensive in return? Do I stop and explain that they shouldn’t call me that? Or do I just ignore them entirely? I can choose whom I agree to meet with, what day I’m available, and at what time. I can choose to be out of the sun in the heat of the day. I can choose to fill my evening hours with yoga or running instead of more classes. I can choose which direction my fan is pointed. I can choose to take a million vitamins every day, and to not spend time with my brothers when they are sick. I can choose…

In case you’re wondering the point of this ramble, let me put you at ease: there isn’t one. This is an exercise in talking out my frustrations and reminding myself that I’m in control of the little things. And that I’ll be able to live- or at least get by- without controlling the rest. Inshallah (here’s hoping). And truthfully, if the worst things I have to complain about are people calling me names, not working too hard, and a restricted diet... what the hell is wrong with me?

No comments:

Post a Comment