Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Returning and Losing

Reflecting lately I've been struck by how many things I've brought back with me from Dakar that are useless to me here. So many experiences and skills are so specific to Senegal that I'm having trouble finding a way to enjoy their expression or use in my new context. What's more is I'm finding some of the habits I developed while in Senegal fit strangely back where I'm "from". That's the problem with traveling so much, you begin to feel homeless and misunderstood wherever you go.

Even if you can't appreciate them fully, there are hundreds of things, so many that I can't count or even name them, that I learned either proactively or naturally through living in Senegal that are slipping away now. It's as simple as knowing how to cross the street or knowing the different coins in my pocket. It's the fun of bargaining for a taxi, growing relationships with local shop owners, and knowing how to cut a mango. It's the new vocabulary each day and reveling privately at my first use of a word or phrase. It's feeling comfortable in the sand, with the 5 am call to prayer, and no longer having to be reminded to find and greet every family member when I get home. It's knowing your host family enough to serve drinks to guests, and joke, sing, and dance together. It's the deepening of an appreciation and comfort in a culture rooted in the history and reality of a place.

I tried and never succeeded to get a good picture of the cityscape of Dakar. The city, which struck me as sandy and full of unfinished, whitewashed structures when I arrived, became so beautiful to me throughout my stay. I was surprised by how comfortable I felt by the time I left.

This picture is from the Dakar Paris blog.

And if you're interested the things that struck me as strange upon my return to America: the greenness, brand name clothing, lack of formalities, and conversation topics and flow (Someone debate something insignificant with me, please, for fun? Is Nutella hazelnut-based with chocolate or chocolate-based with hazelnut? This was the subject of a long, surprisingly enjoyable debate with my family in Dakar).

1 comment:

  1. Your last thought about debating n'importe quoi reminded me of a debate I had with my brother and sister at dinner last week. I don't remember what it was about, but it certainly wasn't an argument, just a silly debate. I was enjoying it and reminiscing about these kind of debates in Senegal until my grandma just couldn't take it any more and tried to break up the conversation by clapping her hands really loudly. :)