FROM JUDGMENT TO WONDER
Life update: I safely arrived at my site placement three days ago! Fatick, which is about 3 hours south east of the capital, Dakar, will be my home for the next ten months. Having spent the past three weeks in Dakar doing an in-country orientation, I felt like I had just started getting used to the pace of life here in Senegal. I was feeling comfortable and at home in the apartments above the SLDS offices (Senegalese Lutheran Development Services). My cohort and I had just found our rhythm consisting of: a bread run in the morning, centering devotion at our country coordinator’s house, lunch at the Baobab Center, two hours of language class, followed by a run to the Buutik (corner store), and a stop at the vegetable stand for dinner that night. Now if you’re thinking that this all sounds pretty easy, you’d be right. Besides the constant language barrier, the three weeks of orientation went pretty smoothly. With access to internet every night, a western toilet, and a shower, I became quite spoiled in my introduction to Senegal.
Flash forward to the first day I arrived in Fatick. All the comfort I became so accustomed to in Dakar flew out the window, along with the little confidence I had started to gain around living in a new country for a year. My host family is absolutely phenomenal and the hospitality I have received is beyond compare. However, none of that makes the sting of realizing I’d be using an outhouse for both showers and the bathroom any easier. After a few hours of internal panicking, I remembered that this is exactly what I signed up for. I came into this year wanting my boundaries pushed and my notions of privilege and “necessity” stretched and redefined. Trying to assimilate into a culture and a family that is not mine has proven, unsurprisingly, difficult. But the unwavering kindness shown to me by Elisabeth, my host mom, has given me more comfort than any western toilet or A/C could. The abundance of playfulness that my four host siblings: Miriam, Lea, Lazar, and Prosper exude, entertain me more than any amount of internet connection could. And the gentle guidance of my host father, Ngor, has given me more confidence for this year than any amount of preparation could. I’m learning that I cannot do this alone. In fact, I can barely do anything alone right now. Seriously, the amount of direction I need to do simple tasks such as figuring out the shower, or the proper etiquette of eating around the bowl (this will need its own blog post entirely), is slightly embarrassing. But rather than seeing me as a burden, my amazing host family has taken me under their wing and guided me along this crazy thing that we call life.
Now because of who I am, I can’t finish this blog post without answering the inevitable question of “how the heck does this pertain to me?” On the surface, maybe it doesn’t. No one else reading this blog is living in Fatick or trying to stumble their way through the dirt roads without getting run over by a “moto” or a horse cart. But if you stay with me, maybe the take away can be this: by claiming dependency on all of life’s “simple pleasures”, what are we missing out on? By thinking we can do it all on our own, what sort of amazing relationships are we denying? I’m slowly learning that it doesn’t have to be a sign of weakness to ask for help, it can actually be the perfect opportunity to form a relationship that would otherwise have been passed over. By relying on technology and materialistic possessions, are we missing out on the beauty of a simple life spent in relationship with others? I don’t presume to have all the answers, or that I’m even asking all the right questions, I’m just sharing the wonderings that my experiences have brought about. I encourage you all to wonder with me!
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