I feel…numb. Numb to my surroundings as if in a state of shock as if my body is trying to find a way to cope with my looming reality shift. What I have grown to know as my current reality for the past 2 years will soon revert back to my previous reality that I have known for the first 23years of my life, yet I will not be returning as my former self. My current reality of roaming farm animals, talibe children, poverty, malnutrition, trash lined roads, dust storms, diarrhea, darkness after sundown (but who needs electricity when you have those stars!), bucket showers, malaria prophylaxis, internet free peace and quiet, loneliness, isolation, uncomfortable travel, drowning in my own sweat, call to prayer ALLAH AHKBAR, crying babies, Wolof rekk, my PCV community, St. Louis, those stars in village, my village Temey Lewa, ceeb bu jen, my babies, my namesakes, my counterpart Aissetta, my friends Oumy, my girl’s club, women group meetings aka dance parties, my host family, my hut, beautiful fabric, cheap tailors….Senegal. I will be leaving all this behind to return to a life of comfort, a life of immediacy, reliable transportation, family, best friends, money, my future, internet, electricity, running water, natural beauty (landscapes), fertile soil, trees, flowers, gardens, cool weather, ENGLISH, my culture, endless options, endless food options, athiests, religious and cultural diversity, freedom of speech, liberalism, knees?, open minded people, jam seshes, climate control, live music I want to listen to, forks? Personal plates? What? Endless opportunities..not without my fair share of run-ins with ignorance, questions about my plan for what’s next..(*spoiler alert: I have NO idea. Please stop asking)
As excited as I am to return home, to spend time with family, reconnect with friends, and eat tons of tasty foods, I know I will not return the same Lindsay as when I left. At the core of course I am the same, but 2 years living in the harsh environment of Senegal, the abrasive, unforgiving Wolof culture, living in an amazing yet often tough small village without electricity, food choice, or Americans, takes a toll on a human. For as much as my PC service has taken from me, it has given me so much more. It has given me a new found resilience, a fresh, humbling perspective on life, a powerful sense of independence and self-reliance I have never felt before. Anything compared to this will feel like a cake walk. “Oh, you want me to give a presentation in front of a room of important people? But I can do it in English? Sweet. No problem.” I have an empowering sense of confidence and connection with the world. I never want to stop traveling, experiencing, and learning. I have learned so much about international sustainable development work, about myself, but this is just the beginning. I have been pushed to my physical, emotional, and mental limits and then some. I have gotten giardia 4x, amoebas, mango worm, but I am still here. During this emotional roller-coaster of an experience, I have felt absolutely insane. For someone who’s pretty emotionless, I would find myself breaking down crying for NO reason at all. That being said, I feel a lot more comfortable with my emotions and am well more aware of my limits. I have also learned a completely foreign language only spoken in Senegal and I had not known existed until I arrived here and now I have reached an “Advanced-mid” level of Wolof, whatever that means.
My friend once said, “The thing I respect most about PC volunteers is that not only do you guys go out of your comfort zones, you go out of your comfort zones and create a new one.” This is spot on. Thinking back to the day I was dropped off in my village and the PC car pulled away, leaving me there alone in a small village in Northern Senegal where I was to call home for the next 2 years, despite the fact I couldn’t communicate, I was terrified. Now I couldn’t feel more at home. I have been accepted as part of this beautiful community that I call family. They will forever be marked in my heart. In Senegalese culture you are expected to come back and visit. That is not something I can promise, but one promise I can keep is I will NEVER, can NEVER forget them, forget Temey Lewa, or forget my experience here. So to that I say- despite all the hard times, all the extreme ups and downs, Thank you Senegal, for everything, for this experience, and for making me the woman I am today! Here’s to making the world a better place! Much love to my fellow PC volunteers who served with me, to my friends and family back home and around the world, without yall’s support I would not be here today.
So Thank you and Jamm Rekk (Peace Only)