As hinted by my title, it is finally 2014 and I started this whole experience in 2012 so that means… yes… you guessed it, my time in Senegal is slowly winding down! As some of you may know, the new volunteers coming to Senegal to replace my original group are coming in earlier than we expected; they will be arriving in March. This means that my group has the option of leaving 2 months earlier than planned which is this upcoming May. That is 4 months away, 4 FREAKING MONTHS. Some of my fellow training group mates are choosing to stay longer but I am in a dear friend’s wedding the end of May so this all works out perfectly for my situation. Also, truth be told, I am getting very ready to be done with my service; although, I find myself in an interesting conundrum. I’m not really sure that I want to be anywhere. Don’t freak out, it’s not quite as dramatic as it might sound, or maybe it is. After experiencing what I have in Senegal, settling back down into life in the states isn’t going to be as easy and seamless as I originally predicted.
I recently was able to go home for the holidays and, before that trip, I was totally under the impression that America was going to be the absolute answer for my next step. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, I had a wonderful trip and was made very comfortable and happy. I loved seeing my family and friends but I underestimated the effect the holiday season was going to have on me. I used to LOVE Christmas and all that it entailed; the lights, the gifts, the shopping, the snow, the music, and anything else that you could possibly name. Although, this year was different, I found myself resentful of the way people were acting and wanting to lash out at those who I felt already had more than enough. I wanted to speak about, not only Senegal, but the fact that there are people who have NOTHING all over the world (the United States included). Every time I started, though, I felt that people would shut down. They seemed to think I was getting all high and mighty and almost preaching to them. I had a very hard time trying to express where I am coming from and the things that I have seen that have truly changed me.
The thing is that I know I grew up incredibly privileged. I am the first person to admit that. Therefore, I get where people are coming from. Although, there are a lot of things that people don’t know or they wrongly assume but no need to get into that right now. Not to toot my own horn but even before I joined the Peace Corps, for the past few years, I have been aware of what I was given and have desired to reach out to others. I was involved with Big Brother Big Sisters for over 5 years, spending time with the same little girl. I have also been closely involved with Habitat for Humanity and done a few small things with the Road Home. Again, I’m not saying this to boast but to acknowledge that regardless of your upbringing, we can all do our part to make the world a better place.
I do want to mention, though, that there were several friends and family members who I noticed doing amazing things for those less fortunate and it truly warmed my heart. I guess all I'm trying to say is that if you aren’t ready to give up all of your Christmas gifts yet or take in an abused dog or something then start somewhere small. Even simply realizing and being grateful for all that you have and trying to be the most positive person that you can is a step in the right direction. I know that I still have a long way to go and I am always working to better myself and my relationship with others.
Aside from my own misgivings about the general state of mind in America, I am also real panicked about my professional next steps. Peace Corps has helped me realize that I don’t want to work in international development but I do still want to be involved in the non-profit realm. I have truly enjoyed my work with at-risk youth, gender equality/empowerment, and English teaching. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am also very interested in working in the realm of human rights. There are almost too many areas in which I care deeply that it’s difficult to try to focus on just one career path. Of course, I also want to pursue an area that I am going to be able to provide for myself and hopefully a family someday. People always say, “Do what makes you happy.” What if I don’t know what that is yet? Yeah, you have time; it’s what you’re all thinking, right? That may be somewhat true but as I’m fast approaching my quarter-century birthday, the questions of the impending future are never far from my mind. Needless to say, I’m not sure if I’m ready for America and all that comes with it quite yet.
Phew, enough on that subject! I’m writing this in the JFK airport, waiting for my flight to Dakar. Sitting here, though, I am also not feeling ready for returning to Senegal. I am hearing people speaking Wolof all around me and there are men dressed in the traditional clothing. I do not remember feeling this much distress about going back to Senegal when I was able to visit home in June. The thought of leaving that airport in Dakar and having to say, “Asalaam Malekuum” (standard greeting meaning, “May peace be with you”), makes me slightly anxious. I’m not ready to go back to kids being afraid of me and to feeling like an outsider everywhere I go. I realize that I have been given two generous breaks that most volunteers don’t get within my service but I am still feeling incredibly apprehensive.
At the same time though, as you may have realized by now, I only have 4 months left. Even if my work load is winding down, these four months are going to give me the time I need to come to terms with the future. I am going to be grateful that I have the time to job search and to better myself by reading, working out, and just living a simplified existence.
Until the next time,