I think I’ve been making this trip sound too wonderful and not acknowledging the fact that not everything is like ice cream on a hot summer day.
Not knowing Wolof is such an immense barrier in my opinion. Although the official language of the country is French the first language most Senegalese learn is Wolof (even if they don’t belong to that ethnic group) and as I’ve stated its the language used at home, the market, taxis, etc. This sometimes makes me hesitant of venturing off on my own because of the possible need of communicating with someone who only knows Wolof and not being able to understand. It also makes things difficult at home with my little sister Rama who hasn’t attended school and only speaks Wolof; I try really hard to communicate with her and I love spending time with her but the language barrier is killer to any attempt at a conversation (at least I’m helping her learn a tad bit of French).
When we first arrived we were told it was best not to travel alone, I think the language barrier had a lot to do with this. I’m all about doing things on my ow and being in a group with people I don’t know all that well makes it extremely difficult to plan things, especially when the group is bigger. I wish I felt more comfortable venturing off on my own; it’s one of my favorite things to do especially when traveling and not being able to do that as often here has definitely placed me outside of my comfort zone. I wish I could meet another explorer like myself or could just bring one of the Senegalese friends I’ve made here to explore with me.
The food is also getting to me, as I’ve mentioned I’ve been eating a lot of things in not accustomed to. Two of the biggest things here are fish and spicy food; probably my 2 least favorite things. That’s been quite a stretch from my comfort zone but I’ve handled it a lot better than I expected.
As a lefty, having to use my right hand for everything has been quite an adjustment. It can sometimes be a little frustrating and even today during lunch I forgot and started eating with my left hand until I was about halfway through my meal. I hope no one noticed but I’ve come to realize how observant people are here so I’m sure they did. My little sister Rama greeted me with her left hand yesterday and one of the maids hit her hand with a small stick until she switched hands (while also speaking to her in Wolof). I really wish I had a better understanding of why using your left hand can be seen as so disrespectful here.
All in all I think this experience has been amazing and I speak so highly of it because I came in with an open mind, I can definitely say that is one of the most important things to do on trips like this. It is important to not have expectations good nor bad and to never pass judgements on what you may see or experience. Everyone’s culture is different in so many ways and it’s important to be accepting even if you might not always understand. I can’t believe my time here is winding down but I’m excited for what’s still in store.