Pictures from Senegal

Sunday, August 8


Let me start by saying: I’m happy. I have adequately adjusted to my surroundings. I wake up and look forward to my work projects for the week. I enjoy spending time with the family. My mom knows what my favorite dishes are and lets me know ahead of time. I enjoy quiet evenings at home with a movie or book. I enjoy getting the occasional beer with friends around town. I tolerate the sun and the heat. I tolerate the pestering cultural differences and I manage my language limitations. I’m happy to be here, enjoying my Senegalese life.

Yet, just as it happens at home, my mind will occasionally wonder to what could be. For many an instance, the best way to describe how I feel is: “I don’t know what I want, but I know that it’s none of the options I see in front of me.” I find there is something missing, or something that I miss, but have not yet realized what it is. I feel this void, and I’m made uncomfortable by it. One trick I’ve used is to stop everything I’m doing and try to in vision myself happy. What am I doing that makes me happy? Where am I and who is there?

Some of my favorite State-side activities come to mind, and I have to realize that they are what I miss. I lack the ability to do what I truly love and from time to time, without realizing that it gets me down. At the top of my list of items missed is a long dinner with friends where it takes hours to eat courses, drink wine, and laugh ourselves into stomach cramps. Dinners are eaten fast here, on the way to something else and hardly enjoyed in a relaxing atmosphere. Also, almost no where in country do we have large over sized comfy couches (or any place truly comfortable to sit)… so I also miss the ability to feel like I’m falling into one, wrapped up in a blanket, watching movies for hours at a time. Shopping is a constant price battle and it’s enough to make even the shopaholic want to get in, get out, and get on with the day. So from time to time, I miss the ability to wonder aimlessly around the mall and window browse. I want to try something on, see how I feel about it and not be expected to spend the next 30 minutes negotiation a price. I want to show interest without the intent to purchase.

Sometimes I have more elaborate mental pictures. I’m back in Northern Michigan with my family, dog, and perhaps a best friend or two. We spend our days roaming the lakes with boats, passing hours on sand bars with our favorite play lists and local snacks like dried cherries. We spend our evenings grilling out, drinking wine from local vineyards or cocktails invented by my Dad, and sitting around bonfires under the stars.

Occasionally I’m exiting airport security after a flight to someplace new. I’ve just stepped off a plane, I’m headed to my rental car, and I’ve got an address in mind. I’m headed on an adventure in a new place. Perhaps I’ll try a restaurant and meal I’ve never had before. Perhaps I’ll see a famous site or work of art. I’ll stay in a new city and I’ll see something beautiful I’ve never seen before.

So considering what I’ve described, I think to myself that I’ve made a happy little grove in my new African life, so much so that I’m too used to it and need to get out. I need to do something different, and this includes my usual stress relieving activities. Even when I get out of Mboro, and change my surroundings, it seems that I’ve been doing the same-old-same-old and now that has become habit too.

I need to once again think about how to change up my life: another method of relaxation; another path to seek new experiences. This isn’t the first time I’ve come to this conclusion, and I doubt it will be the last. Though it should be noted that the last time this itch came about I ended up in Africa. Granted it was an itch that was allowed to fester (wasn’t adequately treated if you will) and therefore extreme measures had to be taken. For now though, I’m in only a minor state of unrest.

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