It has been almost a year and a half since I’ve returned from my first trip to Senegal. I recorded all of the wonderful experiences that I had, all of the reflections, the amazing people, and the incredible food! I missed it so much last year, that I went back in December, 2020 during my winter break. I had another opportunity to engage in local culture, and spend time with my host teacher and his family. Again, I kept a journal of my experiences and thoughts during the week-and-a-half stay. (It would have been longer, but there was a travel snaffu in Canada, which definitely taught me about making the best of situations. That’s a post for another day.) It was just as amazing as I thought it would be!
Interestingly, I was straightening my desk area just now between Zoom classes, and found a letter that I wrote to myself at the end of my first stay. I read it and was moved to tears, and I felt compelled to share it here.
April 30, 2019
Hello! How are you? Nanga def? Mangui fi rek! This has been an amazing and incredibly intense field experience, but you did it! With a first year of a doctoral program under your belt, and successfully finishing your Fulbright Fellowship, the world of possibilities seems open.
I have to say, you had a pretty amazing time in Dakar and Thiès, Senegal. You met some warm and wonderful people, shared some adventures, and learned valuable lessons about life and the great big world. Don’t forget the lessons you’ve learned.
–Greeting is important
–Family above all
–Your neighbor is your family
–Taking time to fellowship is important
–Smiling is important and universal
–Show appreciation for the little things
–You don’t need much to be happy
While some of those things you may have known, you, maybe, have been too busy to remember them. Take time to reflect. Write things down. You used to do that – go back to it. It used to make you happy and on this trip, you’ve found that it still does.
Remember, this was not just a glorified field trip. You were chosen for such a time as this – You’ve been given this gift – what will you do with it? How will you share? What stories will you tell? With who? You have a very grand opportunity to dispel the African mystique – the notion that everyone is bad off. When you think of intelligence and brilliance, think of them. When you think of resourcefulness, think of them. When you think of love and peace, think of them. When you think of exercising your voice, remember them.When you think of home, look east to them.
They are ready and willing to welcome you home. One day, you will return and the next time, you will bring your old family to meet the new one, and it will be the most glorious of reunions.
Keep working hard to complete your studies, and make good on your promises. You are never too busy for others.
Until next time, In Sha Allah,
This find, this reminder, could not have come at a better time. Thankfully, I am still carrying with me the many lessons that I learned along the way…and I am happily sharing them with others.