expat

My Blog Post on the U.S.A.

One-third of my job, goal-wise at least, is Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.The thing is, I’m not sure I had any grasp on what being an American meant to me. There’s nothing like living outside your country as an adult, I guess, to lend a little perspective. So here’s the perspective I’m starting to harbor.

Holy fucking shit, I love the U.S. I love it like I never thought I would. I love it not in spite of, but all the more for the millions of Americans who I disagree with, whose views I find revolting, whose consuming habits I hate and whose lifestyles I’ll never adapt — honestly! It’s the weirdest thing, and it doesn’t make any sense that things I hate would factor in to make me love something more. Regardless, there it is –the fight, the passion, the struggle — the American spirit, to me. And most of all the true diversity – not just diversity of race, religion, sexuality, or a million other identity traits – but the diversity of ideas! The way you can strike up a conversation with anyone on the street, a coffee shop, a bar, a waiting room, and chances are you could find something you two see eye-to-sternum on.

At site, I’m just isolated enough to not know about things when they happen, but connected enough to obsess over them online once I find out. When I was states-side, I’d follow the news pretty regularly but pretty passively, to gather information. Now, I’m invested. When I was still in training, I watched polls and stressed and missed sleep for the election. But since I’ve permanently installed, we’ve had many national tragedies. My more well-connected Senegalese friends started mentioning things they had seen on the news. My vocabulary doesn’t include violent terms (Senegal is unbelievably safe), but I could recognize Connecticut or Boston and that look on their faces. So then I’d rush to find a computer with mounting panic.

For whatever reason (I’ve got some theories), I’ve become very emotional about the news. I mean, with these horrible events, who couldn’t, right? The answer to that would be me, pre-September 2012. Not so much now; now slowly crying with 5 different news tabs open seems pretty normal. My inner worrywart threatens and pleads with the Union in turn, “Don’t you dare go to shit without me!” And in reminder, “I come back fall of 2014, please hold on ‘til then.”

This morning I finished Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs. In it, Jacobs talks about outsourcing worry. He agrees with a girl to a worry swap, in essence: her worrying for him about his book deadline and he for her college application process, and all worrying by extension of the subjects. Brilliant, right? So, I thought through the list of wackiest and most trustworthy people I know to swap with me, but who could handle worrying about the whole future of the U.S.? There’s just too much to think about. So instead, I’m going to attempt to diffuse my worry into your hands, my dear blog readership (assuming you’re still out there). So go on, take your pick of topic. Give Oklahoma some special attention, please. And I’ll try to get some sleep tonight.

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Holidays Recap from Senegal

Well, the holidays came and went full of bittersweet celebrations with new friends. Starting the celebrations my sister had a wedding party in a neighboring village. We all got dressed up, loaded up in the back of this truck, and took off.

Maybe 12 women total? On the way back, everyone took off their shoes and put them in a bucket. I couldn't get a straight answer for why.

Maybe 12 women total in the back of the truck? On the way back, everyone took off their shoes and put them in a bucket. I couldn’t get a straight answer for why.

The Beautiful Bride and her under-dressed friend at a very Senegalese-angle (think Myspace era aesthetics)

The Beautiful Bride and her under-dressed friend at a very Senegalese-angle (think Myspace era aesthetics)

Christmas was a great time including killing and cooking a chicken, eating a LOT of cookies, pumpkin bread, salads, mac n cheese, mulled wine, tapalapa — basically my dream weekend. It wasn’t easy being away from home, but thanks to Skype, letters, presents and Christmas decorations from home and the company of my wonderful fellow volunteers, we all made it through.

Our Christmas card featuring chicken feet (Christmas dinner) and canned snow (courtesy of my lovely mother)

I rang in the “New Years” like this at 8 pm and then peacefully slept through the turn of 2013 with a belly full of sparkling grape juice. Wild night, eh?

This was the most flattering of all the self-portraits I took, though it may give a skewed perception of my enthusiasm of spending New Years Eve alone in my room...

Believe it or not, this was the most flattering of all the self-portraits I took, though it may give a skewed perception of my enthusiasm of spending New Years Eve alone in my room

Then the next morning it was off to the Maggal Touba– a huge annual pilgrimage one of the Islamic brotherhoods takes– at 5am, which means 730 am SenegalTime. They celebrate the exile of their leader with a ton of eating and drinking (soft drinks) and, for the women, at least, gossiping while lounging in rooms covered wall to wall with mattresses to accommodate all the guests descending on the city.

Note: Her Crayola Dress. The prayer scarf on my shoulders -you have to cover your head as a woman in Touba

My mom in her Crayola Dress. And me with a prayer scarf on my shoulders -you have to cover your head as a woman in Touba when you go outside

Note

Street corner of Touba. Note the megaphones on the corner. The covered the city chanting/singing nonstop along with these posters everywhere of the brotherhood leader

Then, just a few near-death incidents later….involving donkey carts, speed bumps on highways, a fenderbender, clouds of dust requiring medical-grade masks, stand still traffic, unmarked lanes, engine trouble (maybe battery related?), subsequent pushing of the car down the street, and getting lost once……..We made it back to the house alive! And, kids, that’s how I started 2013.