Across the Atlantic and Back Again

Monday, January 24, 2011

“All they now wanted was to stay where they were with the Lotus-eaters, to browse on the lotus, and to forget all thoughts of return”
Homer, The Odyssey

When I left Senegal, I tried hard to leave behind my frustrations and annoyances, in order to truly enjoy my time at home. However, it seems that such feelings, after being built up for the previous nine months, were an awful lot to leave behind, and inevitably, some came along. I did all of the things in America that I wanted to do. I ate huge portions of food of every variety and all the fresh fruit and veggies you could imagine. I drank vintage wine and micro-brewed beer. I went to the grocery store, and shopping mall, all in the same day by way of car. I spent the holidays surrounded by close friends and all my family, drinking cocoa in a rustic log cabin. Like Homer in The Odyssey, I was eating the sweet lotus, and rarely thought about return. Yet, I did return. No matter how much I justified my anger with my community, frustrations, and otherwise bad experiences...there is a family here for me too. A group of mostly 20-somethings feeling exactly the way I do most of the time, but pressing onward; a family of Senegalese relying on me to make small changes in their way of life today, so they might lead better lives in the future.
While in America, I knew all along I had made the right decision coming to the Peace Corps, and while it is never what anyone expects it will be, it is a time to grow as a person if nothing else. I often fooled myself into believing that I did not subscribe to the American brand of complacency; I bought local, rode my bike, used Eco-friendly products, and bought alternative fiber clothes. But, I still took for granted how incredibly easy my life was...and how floating along, eating the lotus blossoms, gave little thought for anything else. Half of me did not want to get back on the plane, but the other half knew if I didn't, it might mean never leaving; falling back into sweet complacency.
Now that I have been home, I can see my mission here with fresher eyes, washed of the expectations I had in the beginning. I will continue to do whatever it is I am willing and able, but also take steps to be remain happy and sane...getting out of my village if things are bothering me, working more on regional projects, spending more down time with my host family, and not pressuring people into work....follow the West African time-line, not my American one.

Thankfully, Spring is an incredibly busy time for PCV's, and I am really happy that I have things to do right away. My personal projects in village are still slow, but coming along. I have taken on the role of the annoying white person at any meeting, NGO, or health facility I can get in too...I want to make myself more visible in the community at large, and also as someone who will push to make changes. So far, just simply putting myself out there, and caring less about what some Senegalese may think about me showing up everywhere, has paid off. There are a couple major projects in motion, and I will blog about them as they happen. I am also focusing my energy more into training other volunteers by way of Peace Corps connections. The end of the week, I am working with an organization, TOSTAN, to do a basic training on personal health and living in Senegal for their short-term (6 month volunteers).
Also, as a project with Books for Africa, I am creating a school library in my village. The books have to come in a standard shipping container size, and we need money to get them here! Bring 500 books to my village and thousands more to others in Senegal: see Link below!


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