Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I just finished reading a book about “story”. It talked all about how stories are important and humans love stories more than anything else and we must place ourselves in a good story to have a good life. This was rather depressing for me since I’ve realized that I cannot tell good stories in French. My host family likes me well enough, but 90% of what they know about me comes from what I do, not what I say.

On top of that, all of my stories are rooted in my own culture. We all know that in stories, setting the context is the most important thing. Well, it’s practically impossible to do. And without knowing the context, and what my culture values, and how my cultures sees people, my family can’t grasp the real meaning of my stories. And I don’t get most of their stories either, to be honest.

The best form of stories is comedy. However, my sense of humor has been reduced almost exclusively to making fun of myself, which gets old after about a day. I only get to belly-laugh when I’m talking with my real family or my American friends here.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve given up, and my family here won’t really know me, and I will live as a semi-human here because I can’t communicate and participate in life fully. It feels like after 3 months that my family should know me and everything should be peachy-keen. But adjusting to living in another cultures takes a lifetime and is really never complete. So I have to stay humble, because my French is still bad, I still don’t wash my laundry very well, and I still am lost when it comes to Senegalese culture sometimes. And even if I did understand, parts of my stories and myself that are American could never be fulfilled here because they require the American context.

Stories are the way we connect to one another. Heck, all forms of communication and language were created because we live in this world with other people who we want to know and love and hug. So I am missing out, in a way, by not being able to story with my family here. But having a shared life together and shared experiences does make up for my muteness in some cases. My family knows that I like to eat, which is a good start. My personality comes out through my actions, as does theirs.

So we are building our own new story together. It’s a strange story that is usually awkward and sometimes has to be repeated many times to be understood, but it is still meaningful. It just doesn’t flow as naturally and the plot turns aren’t as obvious as they would be in a quality American film. But I’m trying to believe that my Senegalese story is still worth living in and participating in, even if I’m tongue-tied half the time and don’t feel like my American self.

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