...restrooms all have toilet paper.
...cash registers all have change (I just bought 2 Granny Smith apples in the Washington, Dulles airport with a 20 dollar bill, and the lady called me "sweetie" after I did).
...time is money. (This is something that Dian remarked on, noticing that in Senegal, this urgent mindset of productivity doesn't exist. I was joking with my dad when I said that "in Senegal, nobody has money, so they just spend time"--which I now think is truer than anything I've yet put into words about the Senegalese approach to time and timelessness.)
America, land of...
...coffee machines, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches.
...recycling bins and custodians.
...endless airports with trains and elevators and moving walkways--moving walkways.
In our "re-entry" session, where we learned how to deal with reverse culture shock (I feel like I'm doing pretty well), they warned us not to judge too quickly. I can't help it--I think American English sounds ugly. And American people look pretty ugly, too, compared to the slow-moving elegance of the Senegalese. But I'll try to restrain myself from further criticism. I board my flight to Burlington soon, landing around 2pm in the beautiful Green Mountain State. It is so cold here in Washington, DC that I can hardly imagine 50 degrees and rain in Vermont.
Aysha and me at the Mermoz beach, last Sunday in Senegal, swimming and making ataaya
Saying goodbye. Before I left, I spent the afternoon at home, making tea for all my study abroad friends who came over. We talked and sipped and munched, marveling at the idea of going home. Everyone left slowly--Dian and the Wells girls had already taken off on Friday; Kelli and Carlee leave today/tomorrow; the rest of the gang heads home around the 30th of May, staying on to travel and really soak up Senegal. After tea was dinner, vermicelli and yassa and yapp (viande/beef), which I had requested as my last meal. Then Ousmane helped me move my monstrously heavy bags downstairs and into the car (the new car, which Maman recently bought for Papa).
I said goodbye to Maman, Papa, Tidiane, Djim, Fatou & Fatou (the maids), Tonton (uncle visiting from Paris), Tata (aunt visiting, who had also been sent out earlier by Maman to buy fabric, a table cloth, and binbins for me as last-minutes gifts...it was hard to fit them all). I could hardly speak French. I cried until Fana corrected me: "Why are you crying? We'll still be here...we have Facebook, and Skype! Don't cry." That helped. And even Ousmane was trying to be cheerful for me, saying that I was only leaving for Saint Louis for the weekend, and I would be back in 2 or 3 days. Elisa came over, and we piled into the car: Ousmane driving; Fana in the front; me, Elisa, and Aysha in the back. We played music and danced about a bit. Elisa held my hand. At the airport, I checked my bags; I joked with the security agent that I was bringing all of Dakar back with me, and he laughed and said "il faut nous laisser quelquechose" - "got to leave us something." And then I had to hug everybody. I was fine until I turned back to go into the airport, and I started crying. One of the security guards noticed and asked whether I was leaving my husband in Dakar. Everyone was happy to hear me speak Wolof--last time for a long time, I'm afraid.
I would have been all alone in the airport except Michael was leaving for Paris (he'll come back to Dakar before he goes home to the States), and I was incredibly grateful to see him so I could stop dwelling on how miserable I was after saying goodbye to Aysha, Fana, Elisa, and Ousmane. But then I boarded alone for the 9-hour flight, and just kept thinking.
The morning sky on Goree, day of the Dekkendo Peace Conference
And now I'm here. Although my time in Senegal has come to a close, there will be many more posts to come on this blog, because it's about the whole thing...the whole deal...the whole experience. Re-entry and re-integration. Just please keep reading.