Pictures from Senegal

Wednesday, April 6

Anger Management

My New Year’s Resolution was to write more; both in my blogs and in my own personal journal. I’ve been doing an excellent job of chronicling my seemingly random thoughts and emotions in my off line endeavors.  I’ve been looking for a way to describe my troubles to family and friends and possibly ask them for advice, but I never seemed to find a way about it. And yet as I went back over the last month, where it seemed like I dealt with a lot of anger management, I decided to just bite the bullet and share. I've since mounted this mole hill and I no longer feel so angry, but maybe sharing it will provide some insight about the day to day life of a volunteer.

February 25

The Senegalese seem to be extra ordinarily good at pissing me off royally. I find myself cursing and screaming quite a lot these days. And no, it’s not like I need a break from them because I no longer think that helps. It may make things worse (revisit my non-confrontational issues and tendency to run away later). However, after a particularly annoying day I stop myself to wonder whether I’m being too harsh. No one is perfect; everyone screws up and hurts their friends or lets down their family members at some point. I know I’ve done my fair share. So what’s the difference?

Well, it’s that when I apologize to someone I mean it. Lying is beyond 2nd nature here- maybe 1st- and their apologies seem to roll off the tongue just as fluently as any other word, making me weary to trust them. It doesn’t help that no matter how big or small a scene I make, the odds that the same offense will occur again the next day are way too high for my comfort. It always happens again. So either the Senegalese never learn, they don’t respect me enough to bother, or their culture is such that they just do not value the emotions of the people close to or important to them. I can’t decide which of those I’m rooting for.

I’ve considered that there’s always something good to be learned from other cultures- but I just can’t apply that here. That would mean the Senegalese are practicing the art of never respecting their friends wishes in the name of (nay, favor of) not changing who they are for others. An admirable trait except that they take it too far. They hurt people. And a part of me doubts they do it on purpose, or consciously. So this whole theory is caput. Maybe they are this way not by choice but because they know no other way. That’s a rough one. A girl can only try so hard before I’m back to thinking they never learn. Or they don’t want to. My head may be spinning. In the near future I need to find a new coping mechanism or get out of this brand of culture. Maybe both.

March 1

I’m slowly getting back into yoga, not because I’m enjoying it (though I am) but because I’m using it as a stress reliever. I’ve been angry. More irritable, flying off the handle, acting like a total ass. I need a new coping mechanism for the things I’m not adequately handling and I’m hoping yoga will do it. Really hoping.

This morning the kids were screaming. They woke me up even though I had earplugs in. I got up to yell at Saliou. That’s not even rational. Kids don’t respond to that. I went back to bed until they all left and it wasn’t so chilly. When I got back up there was no bread left for my breakfast. Neither of these facts is more than annoying but I flew off the handle. I stormed to the boutique to buy bread but they were closed. I’m glad no one was around for me to be a jerk to. I slammed doors and swore. I sucked. I sent my mom my 2nd draft text asking if she’d left me bread (implying that she hadn’t) and it’s the worst I let out. This is an improvement from my days as a teen probably only because no one else was around.

I need to be quicker in catching myself, reeling it all back in. At least I’m catching myself at all… but it’s not enough. When things start to pile up I lose it quickly. I need to count to ten or something else for the immediate effects of me hulking into an ass. Long term my residual anger is helped by the yoga. I realize now as I write that it is helping. Probably the breathing. Breathing out and letting go of my air, steam, anger. And that’s good, but not enough.

Let’s go back a bit. I don’t mean to say reel it all in. Just my emotions. Just me losing my composure. I want to let go of my anger. I mean that’s probably why I scream and swear- to let it out- but that’s not working. So how do I let go, let it out in a quick and healthy way? A way that doesn’t turn me into a crappy angry (and ugly) person. Let go but control the emotions. Does this somehow connect to taking the high road? Am I back to this?

March 8

Yesterday I lost my anger/ temper for the millionth time. My family didn’t call me to lunch (because they thought I was sleeping) and didn’t leave a plate for me. Realizing I was getting overly upset without cause I thought calling Christine would make it better. But I just ended up yelling at her. She knew I was just blowing steam but I still felt the need to apologize. And the worst part is she wasn’t making me feel better. I kept exaggerating the problem to make my freak out seem less idiotic, which made me sick about not being honest with her about the situation. It was a lose- lose conversation. Awesome. I’m just on an anger slope rolling down hill and gaining speed and casualty victims. Go me.

It was until later that the Mefloquine paranoia crept into my thoughts. I used to do a better job of remembering that the drugs are affecting me… and act accordingly. But since some time before my trip home I’d let go of that. I don’t know if it’s a valid excuse or a scapegoat but I do know that I wasn’t so angry back then. Or maybe I was better at managing the same level of outrage by coping through remembrance of Mefloquine side effects? Who can say? But I will try this theory out for a while and see how it goes. I should also skip calling Christine until I calm down.

March 18

Leaving Dakar and the comforts of our home stay wasn’t easy… but was necessary. The trip back was bumpy and hot making me car sick all through the traffic of Rufisque. I tried to sleep and I took it easy once back in Mboro. Power was out so I went to the club for a St. Patty’s day beer. It seemed like the luck of the Irish wasn’t with me until today.

I was warned that the power and water might go out again, but I was able to get all my laundry done. Christine’s uncle called and came out to install my internet. It’s not completely up and running but Les has been all over Sonatel to get it done. For lunch I got to make egg salad (without bread) with veggies and mustard. In the afternoon I went to see Demba to give him money- and I used the motivation tactic of saying that I already had money for orders not yet completed and he stepped up and gave me a finish date. I told him I’d come back tomorrow with English lessons. Then back home I got help from the internet techs. I had good conversations with Samba about fixing my toilet, meeting with Talla next week, and maybe him paying the difference to upgrade to WiFi for the house. Somewhere in all this I was able to get info on avocado trees for Amar from a man who happened to stop by with a tree for Anna. In as best a way as Senegal could give me- luck was on my side.

Now Anna premade me beef and veggies for dinner and gave it to me before starting the family dinner… so I’ll enjoy my clean room, sheets, early dinner, pending internet, and season 4 of 24. I’m very relaxed. And I only hope my luck will continue. Although I’m fairly certain my period will start any day. And someone will undoubtedly annoy me shortly. But… until then I’m staying positive.

March 19

It seems to be continuing (this good luck) despite the start of my period and subsequent cramp pain. I had a great morning relaxing, visiting friends in town, and then at Demba’s shop. We went over a 1st English lesson, had some bissap, and then I got some great action shots of the guys working. For lunch mom cooked me veggies and I made a salad. The internet still isn’t up yet, but Les has called to assure me that the help hotline will be able to help (Hah!).

Ok, at that last point I got up to double check that the internet wasn’t up- except it was! So I grabbed some orange credit (and beignets) and set myself up. I checked mail, chatted online, and found some downloads… basically spending 2.5 hours in utter bliss.

While I was in Dakar I’d grabbed a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul which I figured would help with my anger. Maybe a short story here or there would be able to calm me down during bouts of extreme frustration. Inshallah! But as of now, it’s like my luck has changed. Fingers crossed this is a long streak of good fortune vibes. Wouldn’t it be delightful if I didn’t have to crack open that book the rest of my time here? Yeah, but that’s not likely.

Maybe it’s pessimistic or just realistic (for Senegal?) but this will come to an end. Therefore it’s probably a good idea to continue exploring anger management options. But we’ll save that for tomorrow. Today, I’m just relaxing; enjoying the happiness.

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