America · Peace Corps

Oh the Difference a year Makes….or not…


It’s crazy to think I have spend my 2nd Thanksgiving, birthday, Christmas and soon New Years’ in Senegal. That is not a complaint. Do you remember what last Christmas looked like?

Same but different, I think my feet are more clean now though.

I know Minnesota was recordly cold for the last few weeks and I’m glad to be sitting here while the weather here has it’s own mood swings. In a week it went from high of 90’s, then rained the other day, and today it might be 70 degrees.

Strangely talking about the weather is very much part of the culture here as it is in the Midwest. And I am constantly asked if things that exist here also are in the United States. It’s kinda a fun game until they don’t believe you that it exists outside of their world or the world they think they know isn’t reality. I’m not here to burst there bubble. It is much easier to give them a Time magazine and flip through it and ask questions.

Back to the matters at hand….
I have been following up on year of end reports, lists, goals for the year to come for myself and my work here AND thinking about what happens when this next year is over. I know I have control over nothing and these are simply thoughts but “ Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits,  Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” 

If only I could get this across to everyone else here, right? Maybe, some days. Things change here albet slowly. I have seen it. I know that me being the first volunteer, white person, woman, to live in my village has made people think, sometimes mad (I know I can be infuriating and or stubborn) but also change over the last year. It’s quite interesting and hopeful.

Via http://www.kfoleywellness.com

Thoughts over the past year.

  •  The idea I had before coming here of what I wanted to do and why I came here, is still just an idea. An ever changing, learning, edited idea of what can or could be done while trying to simply be here, today, now. 
  •  This so much as been something eluding to this: 
    • “the year of letting go, of understanding loss. grace. of the word ‘no’
      and also being able to say ‘you are not kind’. the year of
      humanity/humility. when the whole world couldn’t get out of bed.
      everyone i’ve met this year, says the same thing ‘you are so easy to be
      around, how do you do that?’. the year i broke open and dug out all the
      rot with own hands. the year i learnt small talk. and how to smile at
      strangers. the year i understood that i am my best when i reach out and
      ask ‘do you want to be my friend?’. the year of sugar, everywhere.
      softness. sweetness. honey honey. the year of being alone, and learning
      how much i like it. the year of hugging people i don’t know, because i
      want to know them. the year i made peace and love, right here.”- Warsan Shire   
  • “Peace Corps is like going through puberty all over again. It sucks but it gets better.” Quote from fellow RPCV. I have a tendency to think that this life is a mini-life, I have flash backs from childhood here or having to explain American life brings up things you might not have thought of. Its a strange re-living of things.
  • Learned to be smaller than I ever have wished I could be. I tried to be silent, passive,invisible, that didn’t work especially when I live with a ethnic group that is anything but. Now I learned to be quiet, simple, polite when I want to be anything but.
  • “Babies were born to friends, friends were lost to illness. It was a big year. But every year is a big year. Every day
    is a big day. That is what we realize when we are older. That we are
    lucky enough—and that is all it is, plain dumb luck—to be here makes it a
    big day, a big year. “
  • Inchallah and slowing to the moment, realizing that here, now is important than later. And then throwing it all out the window. If I want/need/plan I also know that I can “f*ck inchallah” and just get it done rather than waiting on fatalism to have it’s way. I also had a conversation saying inchallah is only a Senegalese thing, Americans have no need for this as we just get things done.
  •  No matter how many books you read, thankfully there are MORE books to read.
  • “The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs.
    The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours
    reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s
    diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave
    under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.” Cheryl Strayed via Sarah Wilson
  • Strangely being in a culture that thinks every woman’s only job is to have children does NOT make you want to have them even more. Or be married. 
  • My diet has changed where most protein I eat is either fish, beans, eggs and rarely chicken or other meat (goat usually). I cherish vegetables like nothing else, especially green peppers, carrots and squash. Coffee and coke where once staples but I am off of coffee and maybe will let go of the coke, but with real sugar it’s entirely different. Only other processed foods I eat are chocolate, coke, mayonnaise, ketchup laughing cow “cheese” and nesquick.
  •  “While there may be exceptions (as there are with
    everything), most people who become vagabonds, nomads, and wanderers do
    so because they want to experience the world, not escape some problem.
    We travel to experience life and live on our own terms.

    Life is short, and we only get to live it once. I want
    to look back and say I did crazy things, not say I spent my life in an
    office, reading travel blogs, and wishing I was exploring the world.” -via thoughtcatalog.com

  • The journey changes you – it should change you. It
    leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and
    on your body. You take something with you… Hopefully, you leave
    something good behind.

    Anthony Bourdain via That Kinda Of Woman

  • Stolen from another volunteer’s blog:
    • 9. The whole village raises the child.

      10. I am that child.

      11. They’re poor, they’re not stupid.

      12. A month in the Peace Corps is equivalent to a year in my
      twenties; the more I’ve accumulated to reflect on, the more I realize I
      hadn’t the slightest idea what I was talking about or doing…

      13. And who I am today is a direct result of continually pretending I do, which is both horrifying and amusing.

  • “Be patient with yourself and others, Do you and not someone else. Take care of you and what’s important to you. Be brave, happy and beloved, loving, remember who you are and where you want to go” -A letter written to myself a year ago after I became a volunteer

Overall am I a better person here than I am in America? Some days, some days worse. Did I come here to do what I wanted to do? I think so, but it has changed or maybe my mindset did. Is this next year going to be better than the first? You better believe it!

I’m blessed to live in a very beautiful, diverse, and “rich” area in Senegal and would like to believe it’s a reason why I am honestly so happy here and with what I do. Along with all the thoughts, prayers, blessings from all my loved ones all over the world.

I hope all of you have a safe, blessed, happy, healthy new year and many more days to come.

May the sun bring you energy by day, 
may the moon softly restore by night, .
may the rain wash away your work, 
may the breeze blow new strength into you being, 
may you walk gently though the world and know the beauty of all the days in your life.
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