Bizarre Celebrations with My Fatick Family

Nearly five years ago, I created this dance video while I was living in Senegal.  Today, I am traveling to Tennessee to visit a whole bunch of people who lent their groove thangs to the making of this work of art.

There’s so much I love about this video.  There are, of course, my hilarious and beautiful friends awkwardly dancing in restaurants, grocery stores, and on rooftops.  There are the “oh no, how do I fill this space?” moments where I single-handedly address the camera.  But mostly, I love how so much of my Senegal experience is captured in these tiny moments.

That’s the school room where Liz and I taught English and practiced the Kochibama skit with high school students.  That’s the rooftop where we sang hymns until the sun set and I couldn’t see anyone’s faces.  Those are the birthday decorations for Liz and Kim’s combined birthday party, hosted in the guest house in Dakar where I once had horrifying food sickness.  That’s my tiny bed with the mosquito netting I used regularly after hearing about a lizard snuggling into someone’s pillow.  Those are the pictures of friends I brought, assuming I would be paralyzed by home-sickness, only to find a new family in Fatick.

My Fatick family.  I shared life with them for five months, and that could have been the end.  But I love them, and five years later, I never want to stop hanging out with them.


“Romance” in Senegal

At a grocery store in Dakar, the Senegalese man bagging my boxes of cereal asked, “Your name?”

“Tricia,” I answered.  He stared at me.  “Uh, you can pronounce it Tree-see-a.”

“Tree-see-a!” he exclaimed.  “My name is Kuba.”

“Kuba?  Nice to meet you.”

“I enjoy you,” he said.

“Thanks.”  That was weird, I thought, but kind of nice.

“I love you,” Kuba said.

My brain short-circuited, so I fell back on the French phrase I’d been told was good for any situation.  “…Ce va?”

Kuba wouldn’t be distracted.  “Do you love me?”

“I just met you!” I said.  I grabbed my bags and walked as quickly as possible out of the store.  Continue reading

Tricia Flips Out Over an Unfortunate Haircut

January 2010 – Dakar, Senegal

When I decided to move to Senegal for five months and work with missionaries, I immediately focused on what really mattered:  my bangs.  I am extremely sensitive about my hair, a body image issue that formed during the hell that was middle school.  Despite the daily visual experience of seeing my wavy short hair fly away from my forehead in horrific cloud patterns, I kept cutting bangs for two years out of some misguided hope that tomorrow they would be different.  Later I vowed to never again be so naively optimistic.  If I was not going to have guaranteed access to a straightener, then I had to grow out my bangs to a normal hair length.

My roommate in Fatick had short bangs.  I watched her hair every day, looking so stinking cute.  It took less than one month for my resolve to crumble.  After all, the electricity was never off for more than a couple hours, and I could just not leave the house if I hadn’t had the chance to straighten my bangs.  In a fit of vanity and joy, I chopped off my newly elongated bangs and danced around the house.

“You look so great,” Liz said.

“We are bang twins!” I said, running back to the bathroom mirror to gaze at my beautiful hair.

I was especially excited because we had planned a trip the next weekend to Dakar, the capital of Senegal.  In the smaller town of Fatick, I wore ponjas (floor-length wrap-skirts) and no makeup.  In Dakar?  Oh man, in Dakar I could wear blue jeans.  I could coat my eyelids in color and feel American.  What better place to show off my newly amazing haircut?

Here is my blog post from that weekend:


My straightener imploded.  I plugged it in, and it clicked.  Then it would not turn on, no matter how many outlets I tried and how hard Liz laughed.

It has betrayed me to my doom.  It worked fine on at least four occasions in Senegal.  But now it is no more.

And of course it would be just after I cut SHORT BANGS that don’t really clip back because they are SHORT.  Spontaneity is evil!  Messing with hair is evil!  My whole world is upside down.

The whole time I was falling around moaning and whining and yelling, Liz was laughing her butt off.  What a nice kindred spirit I have, to mock me in my pain!  Mocking me with “helpful” advice to wet them and comb them straight, only my hair is evil and refuses to bow to the rules of gravity.  They are not straight!  They CURL!  And the rest of my hair!  Is it wavy?  Is it straight?  Is it STUPID?

It was a stressful time.  And those people who teased me about focusing on my hair in preparation for working with missionaries instead of, oh, praying or doing something spiritual, well, screw them.  Clearly I was right to overthink my hair choices, and rest assured that I will never not plan a trip around my hair length ever again.