Today marks a year since I got back to the States from Senegal. I’ve seen three close friends get married, driven across the country and up and down the West Coast, settled into California, found a job in video editing, and am making plans for the next few years (grad school!).
I think this year has mostly been a reaction against Senegal—reveling in all the good things that I’m rediscovering, breathing a sigh of relief after all the bad things I left behind. The lists I made last October predicting what I’d miss/not miss has proven pretty accurate.
I don’t miss: the fishbowl life; the boredom-guilt cycle; the crappy food; stupid rules from a malicious administrator; screaming children; the realities of the Third World; sept-places.
I do miss: the volunteer community; my village family; my dog; unstructured time, for adventures; biking through the countryside; making children scream (no, not really. but at the same time… yes!); the village sky at night; thunderstorms; donkeys.
I was thrilled to speak Pulaar on two separate occasions this month—once in a Chicago cab, to a guy from St-Louis, and once at the Bissap Baobab restaurant in San Francisco, where several Mali RPCVs and I went to sample the bissap cocktails, lamb dibi, and maffe with tofu(!!) (we skipped the $16 thiebou dien).
I’ve been trying to call the village lately, more and more out of a real need to hear their voices than from the sense of obligation that I originally felt. No luck yet, the phones are still notoriously unreliable. (I now have some idea of how my mom must have felt when they tried to call me and it just rang and rang or went silent.) It’s sad and frustrating to feel my village family slipping away from my present.
I still catch myself thinking “I wanna go home,” which became a reflexive internal refrain towards the end of my service. I don’t know where I expect that “home” to be, or what I’m waiting for to quiet that small, anxious voice.
I have hours of video from Senegal that I haven’t watched yet, care packages for current volunteers that I haven’t sent, letters to the village that I haven’t written—the excuse of America’s hectic pace only goes so far.
I still don’t know “what I’ve kept with me / and what I’ve thrown away,” and I don’t expect to stop worrying about it any time soon. I also listen to sad music for the sake of indulging in sad music, so pay me no mind. At least no one will be waiting outside my front door tomorrow morning to scream “whitey” at me and demand twenty cents—though I wouldn’t mind waking up to a donkey bray or two.