Pictures from Senegal

Wednesday, September 29

A Case of the Rains

Every few hours I take a pause in what I’m doing to realize that it’s raining yet again. I ponder how the weather happenings of rain affect my life these days when compared to once upon an American time.

When it rains, I am happy. I think the sky is amazingly beautiful. In Michigan, I love sitting on the couch in the living room watching the rain drops drizzle down the window. If I had somewhere to be, it was an excuse to break out fashionable trench coats, rain boots, and patterned umbrellas. I’d sport these items as I dashed through the rain to the office building or lunch dates. I’d laugh and shake off the residual drops when I got there. “It’s really coming down out there.” If it rained on the weekends, I’d have to turn up the volume of whatever trashy movie I watched in order to hear over the sounds of the storm. I’d do laundry so the smell from the dryer would float through the house like potpourri. The radiating heat from just removed dryer cloths warms my hands against the cold. It was an excuse to make soup and drink it from an enlarged coffee mug, or to make hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows, or my all-time favorite… hot apple cider.

But alas, things are (par normal) dramatically different here in Africa. The sky is still beautiful… maybe more so thanks to the 9 months of clear blue cloudless span my eyes have been brainwashed with before the rainy season hit. A welcome change to see dark- almost tormented looking- motion filed billows. The crack of thunder still excites me, but after that the rest of the sentiment is lost.

When it rains, everything comes to a halt starting with the electricity in other areas of town. There is no work to be done; no meeting that isn’t automatically cancelled (potentially rescheduled for later?). The people are traditionally scared of the water because with it brings a buffet of illness doled out like as if you’ve ignored the “enter at your own risk” sign. One caught out and about when the rain starts is expected to wait (bored out of one’s mind) until the weather changes before making an exit. I’ve started carrying a scarf around for light rains because I’d prefer to trudge it through these back to the house. But for the heavier stuff, I carry book of Sudoku puzzles in my purse so I’ll at least be entertained during my detainment.

If it rains too hard the metal slats used for my bedroom’s roofing will leak in various places, thus causing me to do a funny little shuffle around my room to avoid the collection buckets. If it’s really blowing hard I’ll have to close my windows to save my bed from a good soaking with stray flying water bullets. The rest of the house is also littered with collection buckets and if there’s too much thunder and lightning for comfort, the power gets shut off to our “always on” neighborhood so as to avoid accidental electrocutions. I would now argue this to be better than the brown out that has recently fried our house computer leaving us all without internet.

Laundry is obviously out of the question as things will never dry if I can’t even keep my own room from raining on top of me. This point is mute though as there’s so much humidity during the rainy season that nothing really has a chance to dry between storms. And I’ve never seen a dryer in this country. Therefore, I’ll wear the same articles of clothing a few days in a row before throwing it into the ever growing pile of laundry, thus marking this one and only time I’ve been glad I brought so many damn cloths here.

This past week I was in Thies for a few days. While out and about a thunderstorm opened up upon us, and we took refuge at one of our favorite water holes sipping on cold beers. A few hours past and the torrential pouring turned into a mere sprinkle before we decided to venture back. Out in the street we discovered just how serious the drainage problem was in the city. We found ourselves wading through the thigh high floods to get to an area of town where the water was low enough to find a taxi with the bravado to take us on. With all the horrid things we saw floating past during our brief swim; it was all I could do to not actually run to the shower upon return to home base.

That being my lowest rainy point, I do have to admit that there are positives to a good showering. Excessive heat does seem to be avoided, if only temporarily. My eyes and skin receive a welcome rest from the glaring sun. And my brain gets an hour or so off from its bilingual lifestyle while I get a chance to catch up on my reserve stock of trashy movies. Yes, I still have to the turn the volume way up to be able to hear it. I also take the opportunity to make some of the tea I’ve purchased in western world fruit flavors. There may not be any fashionable accessories, mini marshmallows, or progress in work activities, but it’s not entirely unpleasant either.

Sunday, September 26

Demystification

Half way through language training, about a month after arriving, a new volunteer will learn where his or her permanent site will be. Shortly thereafter nearly a week is dedicated to aiding the new trainee in a demystification process about what it’s really like to be a volunteer. This is accomplished, preferably, by visit the proceeding volunteer. As this isn’t always the case, the trainee will then visit the next closest volunteer in the same program. This past week, I was that volunteer. For 4 days I hosted the volunteers-to-be headed to St. Louis and Louga, the next two largest cities to the north of me. They are two lovely ladies who were very enthusiastic about the work to come even without the lengthy discussions covering all the possibilities available.

The ladies arrived on Sunday morning after an expedition was made by my father and me to Tivaouane, where Peace Corps had dropped them off. As it was still early, my family went back to sleep and the three of us got some breakfast and sat in my room playing 20 questions. Really, it was more like 200 questions, but I was happy to oblige. Hours passed and we discussed my living situation, my family, meals, expenditures… leaving no stone unturned. After lunch and nearly frozen yogurt dessert we were off to catch a party at the local church. Unfortunately, we had missed the memo that this party was to take place directly following mass- in the morning- and by the time we got there it had already shifted to a house outside of town. We settled for a beer in the nearby boutique. As the town was enjoying a lazy Sunday, we spent the rest of the afternoon in my room talking and watching movies. After dinner it was an early night to bed.

Monday was spent discovering Mboro. Actually, most businesses were still closed after the long holiday weekend so I spent a lot of time talking about people we couldn’t actually find. I did manage to give exciting encounters of my projects, such as the girls’ camp, business classes, and marketing campaigns, whilst passing empty buildings. After we’d worked up a sufficient sweat, it was back to the house to make a power point presentation on all the things we’d discussed; an item to be delivered at later training sessions. As my family was eating fish for lunch, we headed to the local club for a “sandwich on the plate,” which goes to say meat and veggies with a basket of bread on the side. Our afternoon plans of heading to the beach were derailed by the rain. This seemed to confuse my family who thought we were going to bathe, so why should it matter where the water comes from??? Instead, we watched some more movies. After dinner we headed to my favorite boutique once more to meet Charles (you remember Charles, right?) for a drink. This proved to be entertaining as they got to see me in action hammering out a few work items with Charles in French. Charles shared his ideas on volunteerism and all the things he figured they could do in their respective sites.

Tuesday was Thies day. Before heading out, we stopped in a hole-in-the-wall I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing before to grab some breakfast. Sautéed meat, onions, and potato wedges served over an optional portion of spaghetti reminded me of steak and eggs back home. Successfully navigating the Mboro garage and unloading at our destination in Thies, we met up with friends at a favorite restaurant for a before-lunch drink. The purpose of the day was a welcome to the new comers of our region of Senegal volunteers. Current volunteers, exiting volunteers, and their replacements had a good time of getting to know each other. After drinks, we changed locations and got lunch. After lunch we went to a third venue for more drinks. As afternoon became evening, my pair and I headed back to the garage and Mboro (after a quick stop at the western grocery store for movie snacks). Dinner and a movie became a formal traditional at this point.

Wednesday had originally been ear-marked for a trip to St. Louis. As I’d never been there I’d called friendly volunteers to meet us there and show us the ropes. Unfortunately, I was informed that no space could be had in the Peace Corps lodgings and we’d have to rent a hotel room. In addition, no one would be available to show us around as other Peace Corps trainings were taking place that same day. As trainees generally have little money (so as not to get them in too much trouble?), we had to forgo the trip all together. It was later learned that a regional party for volunteers from the northern area of Senegal was being conducted on that same day… and we were essentially not invited. Hmm, not the impression I would have given to the volunteer headed to that town.

So, with St. Louis out of the question we had another great day in Mboro. We kicked it off with coffee in a new shop I hadn’t tried. Chatting with the charming and enthusiastic owner, I found myself excited for a new friend and possible work partner in town. The place has the potential to be the closest Senegal would come to a café or Starbucks and with a little effort could be turned into the perfect place for a visiting tourist. Next we visited the local school where Devon’s grand contribution to service lies. For lunch we headed back to the club for another pass at the “sandwich on the plate” with Charles. Whilst there, it was discovered that my friends from Texas, who had been around last year, had return that very morning for another 5 month pass at life in Mboro. I exchanged numbers with them before we headed out to don swimsuits and sun block in preparation for the beach. We stopped briefly at my women’s group’s place of business to catch a glimpse of cereal production in action and taste the local juices. The beach itself was warm, as was the ocean, and we were left alone- save a few friendly waves- to relax. Upon our return, you guessed it, was dinner and a movie. We were invited to a local tam tam dancing experience, but as that party didn’t get started until 3 hours after its designated timing (about midnight) my threesome decided to skip it, much to my mother’s disappointment.

Thursday, we packed up early and my father drove us to the garage. He was kind enough to negotiate the price of the ladies’ baggage and they were off once more to Thies. I hope I speak for all three of us when I say a great time discovering Mboro and my life here was had by all.

Wednesday, September 22

Korite

The end of Ramada, and all its weight-loss inducing fasting, is marked by a day of feasting called Korite. Every gets a new formal outfit, but they’re worn at different times of the day depending on gender. Men get up early, put on their new cloths, and go to the mosque for a final “breaking the fast” prier. It’s not the 530a stuff we’re used to, but somewhere between 8 and 10a and one might go so far as to say it’s a special service.

Women are back at the compound still in pajamas or normal cloths preparing a special breakfast of lahk or chalkery- which is millet with spiced yogurt porridge over it. The yogurt substance is either hot or cold with bits of fruit depending on which your family prefers. After the men return they generally change out of their new outfits and everyone is served their own individual bowl of breakfast. This is a big deal because we generally eat all meals out of one communal bowl.

After breakfast, I had to pester my brothers to keep their new cloths on for just a few minutes more, while begging my mom to put her’s on (if only temporarily as she hadn’t showered). After making a big enough commotion about it, they all did as I asked and I was able to successfully capture a picture of my family in their best dresses just inside the front gate to our house. I too had a new Senegalese outfit made, of very light fabric and semi western style… but alas there are no pictures of me with the family as everyone ran away from the camera to change as quickly as possible. But I swear I was there!

Next is the preparation for lunch, also known as the most important meal of the typical African day. This factor is compounded on holidays. My family bought many many chickens (and had the foresight to kill, clean, and precook them the night before) to go with Moroccan couscous and onion sauce. My mom handled the preparation of couscous while I was in charge of cutting up all the onions. One very large bowl’s worth. As it became time to eat, children appeared in our living room. Friends of my brothers, I assume but I didn’t recognize them from everyday normal activities. In addition, about a half a dozen extra servicing platters were brought out. Couscous, a chicken, and onion sauce was placed into each one, followed by a cover and a small napkin or towel. Then one of my brother was called forth to take the serving to a designated Catholic neighbor or close family friend.

Then we sat down to eat: the older kids and guest kids at one bowl, my parents, youngest siblings, and myself at another. I ate so much I had to ask for extra onion sauce at one point. It was damn good, and I’m fairly certain that if someone had handed me a beer after that I would have quit Peace Corps under the guise that things couldn’t possibly get better. But alas, no beer and I remain.

After cleaning up, it was my Mom’s turn to get dressed up. Sporting her new garb, she and her friends walked around town together asking forgiveness from family members, friends, and neighbors. Forgiveness for sins committed in the past year is asked with a series of phrases exchanged upon entry into one’s home; phrases only used on this particular holiday. My Dad had been doing much of the same all morning, but continued his rounds in the afternoon with accompanying friends as well.

In the evening we ate left over chicken spread over onion sauce, French fries, and lettuce. Afterwards we had sweet yogurt with fruit pieces chilled almost until frozen. I like to joke with my family that my youngest brother has a knack for wearing his favorite dishes on his face in a sort of toddler testament to the chef, but in truth it’s just his inability to successfully utilize a spoon- no matter how small.

Sunday, September 19

Internet

The internet is a tricky devil. When I first got here, I figured Mboro was a great site because I would have wireless internet service in my room. My host family had already commissioned internet service from the local provider because they have a pc of their own. So the way things had been set up was to connect the router directly to my family’s pc, which would then turn around and send out a signal for wireless connection. As my family was already paying for this service, my contribution factored into my rent and I didn’t have to worry about pesky things like bill paying.

This worked out just peachy until it was concluded that as the first family in the neighborhood to get internet- let alone wireless- we had been targeted for bandwidth boosting. Our neighbors brought in lap tops and started picking up our signal for their personal use. In an attempt to regulate this problem my predecessor, Devon, used his net savvy to put a password on the signal. This didn’t last long as neighbors would just come to the house and demand the password. Unfortunately for my family, in African culture one cannot say no. If you have something shareable you are obligated to do so. And there is no easy explanation for why my family couldn’t share the internet. Just how do you translate “all the movies and programs you’re downloading leave me waiting 10 minutes to load my email and I’m sick and tired of it?”

So Devon and his aforementioned savvy were commissioned again. This time he locked the signal to a single random IP address. And only those people who knew the address were able to connect to the internet. This slowed our boosting problem almost completely… and only one stubborn neighbor (determined downloader as I’m told) was able to figure out what had been done. So the very last measure taken was to enter our system of internet confusion, determine the receiving IP address of my neighbor and block it permanently from our signal. I’m told for a while he continued to pass by the house demanding help to figure out what was wrong with his computer… but that eventually he got the message.

Enter me. When I got to Mboro no one explained all this to me. I spent a week not able to connect to the house internet because I had no idea about the locked IP situation. I don’t have even half the internet tech skills as the former wonder volunteer and I quickly became a huge disappointment to my host family in this regard. I tried my best to learn what I could from Devon, who was amazingly closed lipped, and how-to websites but it didn’t take very well and I still find myself quite confused.

In the months that have followed, a whole variety of problems have derailed my dreams of reliable and continuous internet service. For a while neighbor kids would come to use the house computer… which included tinkering with all sorts of computer settings. Not only did they interrupt our connection settings, the desktop picture changed at least 2 times a day. A password was put on the house computer that only members of the family were supposed to know. The problem then became my host brother who insisted on downloading like a mad person and was impatient with waiting. So he would purposely turn off the broadcasting wireless signal to further his downloading progress. I’d have to log into the house computer to turn it back on. This on/off cycle had a rotation every couple of hours.

After a week or so my brother started changing the password to the house computer, thus locking everyone out and enabling his uninterrupted downloading. The entire situation erupted, quite explosively, when I confronted my brother about this. I was too direct for their culture and I was very pissed. My host Dad got involved with language skills I still don’t have to this day, and told him he was not allowed to turn off the internet nor change the computer password anymore. He has not done either since.

Our next hurdle was an incredibly old and slow computer. And because of the aforementioned downloading extravaganza, I’m sure there were numerous viruses and zero available space on the hard drive. The computer was now prone to getting it-self so worked up it would freeze when a neighbor kid would open up too many programs. We’d have to restart every few hours. After much insisting, I got the family to completely refurbish the computer- wiping everything clean. It ran faster and didn’t freeze up… but the modem software had to be reinstalled and our CD drive was broken. A week went by before a new one was bought, and maybe another two before someone was called out to install the software and once again restore our connection. This whole process bought us only a few days before the family downloaded again all the programs they wanted and clogged up the computer once more. The hard drive was just too small on this ancient computer to sustain our needs.

So we switched out and borrowed one from my mom’s school. As it is the summer, this didn’t seem to bother anyone. I have no idea what the plan was once the new school year started, and I may never know as other problems popped up long before we had to think about it. First off was the increased heat. The hot season is upon us and one does all they can to escape it. This means an increased usage of fans, air conditioners (for those who have them) and refrigerators. Well this creates quite a problem as there are not enough infrastructures to power all of Senegal’s electrical needs. Thus the power is frequently cut. And even though I live in an area where the power is always on, the internet service provider of Senegal does not. So every so often our connection went out through no fault of our own.

Or latest problem has arisen with the arrival of the latest weather season. The rainy season has brought with it power surges which dim the lights, blur the TV, and cause our fans to sputter. Devon was kind enough to mount a voltage regulator to my desk so that every last one of my appliances powered through this escapes surge related problems. I was under the impression that with the two surge protectors sitting in the living room that my family was also educated in their usefulness. But alas, I was wrong as the family- prone to fix it yourself measures- and changed around our system of extension cords leaving the computer exposed (obviously without my knowledge). And low and behold, it didn’t take long for a brown out to zap our household computer.

The moral of this story is that internet service is never guaranteed in Africa, you get what you pay for (next to nothing) and that shit happens. More importantly “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” As of this blog post, I am again in a house without internet service. This is the reason I’ve been lacking on blog postings, personal email replies, and chat sessions. As you can imagine, I’m never lacking on content for these postings and my writings have been keeping up with the weeks. Therefore, I’ll be scheduling a series of blogs to automatically post in my internet absence.

Wednesday, September 15

Tiles

When I first moved into my house in Mboro, a year ago, I arrived at a cement floor room in a house full of tile. The thing is, my family is the type to save their money and make home improvements every few months. So what was the same playing field 4 years ago (when the first volunteer moved in) is now many kilometers away from the same- as my room did not keep up with the quarterly home improvement schedule. It was clear that mine was the shabbiest of rooms in our abode; it was an embarrassment.

My predecessor once told me of his intentions to tile the space, but that they’d been derailed by an incident involving his wallet and the ocean. At the end of rainy season last year, I found myself dealing with an infestation of mice that’d ingeniously burrowed their way through the cement floor and into my safe haven. Vowing to never again run screaming from my room, I started saving for the grand expense of tile flooring.

I officially started the adventure to tile my room on Aug 30th. While out in the market, my mom and I stopped at the hardware boutique to pick out a style and negotiate prices. Mom started by asking me what I thought of the ugliest tile in the options display. Oh boy. “Well,” I said, “in the end, it’s your house and when I leave you’ll be stuck with the tiles so if you like it then its fine.” “No,” she said,” it’s your room. You live there; you will close the door and have to sleep with the tile.” That was a strange thing to say. But since she was still waiting for my opinion, I found the courage to tell her I didn’t like the tile. We went through this with a few more styles before I finally said, “What’s wrong with plain?” She looked a little crest fallen which doesn’t make too much sense since most of the rest of the house is plain tile as well. I mean, if they’d had some solid colors like blue I might have considered it… but with shades of brown one can only go one way. No patterns.

We negotiated pricing on tiles, cement, and border tiles for the wall. Then we figured out a quantity based on my parent’s bedroom that’d been completed a few months earlier. Lastly, labor pricing was negotiated… and a good deal will be had (here’s hoping) thanks to my Mom. If all goes as discussed, I’ll have saved 30% of the total I’d initially saved for the project; the bill now estimated at about $140 USD.

As I clearly don’t walk around with that much money on me we left for the day. Two days later I convinced my Dad to drive me back with the car so that I could purchase the raw materials and bring them to the house. I left for a meeting and walked all the way across town before my Dad showed up in the car, laughed, and congratulated me on getting my exercise for the day. When my meeting was done, Dad met me at the hardware boutique but the owner was “out to lunch” as you’d say in the states and would be back anywhere from “soon” to “a few hours” depending on who I asked. We went home empty handed. This is not something new.

The next morning, I was in my room when Dad called me. “Where are you?” “At the house,” where you left me not 30 minutes ago. Remember, I was making breakfast for the kids? “Did you buy the tiles?” How could I have done that from the house? Seriously? “No. I’m at the house.” “I’m here at the market.” “Ok, I’ll take a taxi there now.” “I’ll wait for you.”

I get to the hardware store and the owner starts trying to sell me more items then were previously discussed as necessary. I don’t think it’s on purpose, but as we get confused as to whether 16 or 15 packets of tile are needed, it’s decided that we need to call my mother. Same story happens when we talk about bags of cement. I only need 2 in the end. Dad and I load the trunk of the car with half the items purchased. Apparently, we must do this in two trips as using the back seat for remaining materials is out of the question. Whilst loading, people tell me not to help because I’m a girl. But I insist because I “need the exercise” and secretly want to demonstrate gender equality. They then tell me I’m too weak and need to carry more packets at one time. Seriously?

Back at the house we unload and Dad goes to take off. He says he’s going to wash the car first and will pick up the remainder of the items later. I am not need on this trip. Bizarre. He comes back 30 minutes later with the remaining raw materials. He mentions going to speak with the man who installs the tile (different from the seller) but I have no idea when that will be.
I did manage to have a conversation with both of my parents (albeit individually and at completely different times) about the derailment of my possessions during the process. Everything will need to be removed from my room for 2-3 days and put in the living room, which will then be completely unusable to the rest of the household. I tried to make a joke about how it was too hot to sit in there anyway, but no one laughed. Mom told me it’s best if I leave town for a few days. It was then discussed that the laborers should be informed of my next scheduled departure from Mboro. Who is in charge of this is beyond my “need to know” status.

As of Sunday, I had advised my family of a trip to Thies on Tuesday. Dad went away and came back saying the tile worker would pass by on Tuesday to see my room but not actually do the work until Wednesday. But I’m coming back Wednesday. So I talked to Mom. “You can’t let your Dad organize things. He’ll do it on his own time. If I want something done, I have to do it myself.” I’ve been there before. “So, what happens now?” I’ll call someone, she says. The next day, Monday, she walks in first thing in the morning and says “He’s coming today.” At this point I remember that in Senegal things will never happen on the day I want them to. So in my mind Monday is now better than Wednesday.

I start the process of packing the loose items around my room. Mom makes more phone calls to get sand brought in. Apparently it’s been decided that because my room is currently lower than the rest of the house, the floor should be raised to meet the hallway’s level. This way sweeping will no longer require a dust pan. Good point, bring on the sand.

The men show up just as the sand does… and my bed is the only remaining item to be removed from the room. The rest of my possessions are actually lining the hallway and the common area walls. My most valuables are moved into my parent’s bedroom. The whole process takes under 3 hours and I spend it sitting in the living room attempting to work distractedly on my laptop.

I can’t spend the night in my room, so I make a number of phone calls and get myself a spare bed at the Peace Corps training center in Thies. I take off shortly after the workers have finished leaving my possessions scattered about the house and my empty room attempting to dry in the middle of rainy season. Upon my return three days later my things have moved back into the room and the bed reassembled. It takes less than an hour to rearrange my meager allotment of possessions including the installment of a brand new “welcome” mat.

Over the last day or so, I can’t help but stare at my new floor. It’s easier to sweep and clean; the room stays cooler in the heat of the day; the feeling of musty has left; and the whole room is brightened because of the lighter tiles I’d chosen. Best investment I’ve made in a long time. Of course, my mother has already made a “now it’s time for paint” comment. To which I happily discussed paint colors (blue!) and debated matte versus glossy… but that will just have to wait until the next quarterly installment!

Wednesday, September 1

Dissecting Agressive

The other day I was at the garage with some friends and the “head guy” pinched my friend’s chin like one would for an adorable baby or toddler. Except my friend is an adult, and he was clearly being condescending in the way he did it. Add to that he used his left hand to do it, which is horribly offensive around here. The situation escalated from there. We all got involved. I drew my fist back like I was going to throw a punch while saying “If you touch my friend one more time…” and he flinched. But when the other men started laughing, head honcho got uber upset and drew his fist back too. I took a few steps forward. He took some back. But then realized it, and took one forward. I’ve become Wolof as of late and no, I didn’t flinch.

This got me thinking about the typical aggressive Wolof characteristic. The Wolof people are aggressive all the time. When two people are talking, and you don’t speak the language, it’s hard NOT to assume they’re fighting about something in the “life or death” category of subjects. When I first got here, the most impressionable experience I had in this concept was the 30 minutes of crying and screaming I sat through at the Mayor’s office only to discover the woman doing these things was ticketed for not paying the tax on her space in the market. Huh.
They are not aggressive by nature, but by culture. They act that way to fit in, like the guy in the garage who wasn’t supposed to back down. Is this a survival tactic; a means of conquering land or acquiring food? I speculate that this goes all the way back to a time of “he who carries the biggest stick”… So is everyone carrying a stick these days?

Another form of stick measuring is in the way one drives. There are no traffic signs or formal rules of the road. What is discernable is that the most aggressive driver has the right of way. If two people pull up to an intersection, the one who guns it first and fastest wins, often narrowly missing the other vehicle’s bumper. If a driver wishes to change lanes he does so without notice to fellow drivers and whenever he so chooses. If you’re the other driver occupying that space you have two options: 1) You slam on your breaks and let the car in or 2) You speed up, honk the horn, and make hand gestures to make the competition aware of your presence in the coveted space. If you choose the later, you’ve just engaged in a game of chicken with the other driver… and best of luck with that.

But the longer I’m here the more I think that for most of them it’s a mere front. I’ve discovered this in a few Senegalese people I’ve observed or gotten to know. When they are tasked with continuing their line of aggression they don’t prevail. They relax and smile; they back down (macho head garage guy excluded). They are the type NOT go on blinding believing them self to be utterly correct in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary. This- this idea of being not always right, not shoving opinions down throats, of having an open mind- is a seemingly rare trait in my current life.

But, they do exist! These are the people I naturally gravitate towards working with. The ones that don’t bother me about whether or not I’m fasting and try to turn my response into a religious debate. The ones that don’t bug me to wear Senegalese cloths all the time only to harass me more when I actually do it. The people that take the time to ask me why I do the things I do, about my culture, and how I would change Senegal. People that treat me like an adult with valid opinions; these are my friends and colleagues. Is that really too much to ask for? It’s not like I didn’t have this problem in the States, which gets me thinking: does everyone have a little Wolof in them?