I have now been home for about 3 weeks and have had time to reflect on my experience of Dakar. When thinking about my experience I think there are three things that have stuck with my the most: the friends I made, the host family who adopted me and the excitement of life in Dakar.
At Colby I have the privilege of working and living with some of the brightest people in college right now but we all share the experience of being here at Colby. One of the wonderful things about abroad is that you are with people from universities all over the US. This brought a breadth of experience that was different from what I had experienced at Colby. This engaged me in new ways but this was not the only reason that I meshed well with the other people on my trip. The other reason was the shear challenge that Dakar posed to us. In the beginning days simple things like withdrawing money or sending a text were complicated and this difficulty meant that we relied on each other. This bonded us together in ways that will last well beyond the end of the program.
Saying goodbye to my host family was something that I did not expect to be that difficult. They had been very kind to me and opened up there home to me but due to a variety of factors the relationship had often seemed more transactional than anything else. But as my departure came closer and closer I began to dread it more and more and as I pulled away I felt myself starting to tear up. As I reflected back on my experience I began to realize what a huge role they had played in my experience in Senegal. Often when I came home from school I would talk with my host mother for as long as an hour on subjects as diverse as HIV education in Senegal to Donald Trump and his immigration policies. Often I would stay up late at night playing Fifa with my little host brother and a day in Dakar was not complete with out giving my younger host sister, Awa, a piggy back ride. I had discounted these experiences over the course of the semester and it was not until I came home that I realized how important they had become to me and what an important role they had played on my experience in Senegal. It would have been radically with out them and they remain my strongest link back to this place that I have grown to love so much.
One of the things that was most shocking when I returned was the quietness of my home. In Dakar, I had become accustomed to the call to prayer which graced the city five times a day, the goat bahing in their pen, the children playing in the street and all of the other noises that constantly always surrounded me. Activities that used to be complicated, were now easier than I had even remembered. In Dakar, simple things like buying fruit requires a significant amount of negotiations. You would ask for a kilo and a price would be given. You would counter with a price that was half of the one that had been offered and after much squabbling you would meat at a price in the middle. Even getting from A to B was easier at home. In Dakar I used public transportation to navigate the city, an experience which is frought with challenges. At home I was able to get into my car and go wherever I needed with out hassle. Quickly I founded myself missing the energy and challenges of the city that I had called home for so long. The energy and life of this city was hard to move on from and is something that I miss even to today.
Dakar was an experience that I will not quickly forget and with any luck will be a city that I will return to in the near future. The people and experiences I met there have forever changed my perspective and I am better because of the people and experiences I encountered while there. So for now I have said goodbye to this great city and for now I look forward to the next time Inshallah.