Tricia Marries a Seven-Year-Old

Fatick, Senegal – April 2010

“I’ll be the queen,” Melody said.  She pointed at me, “You can be the princess, and Ethan will be the bodyguard.”

I leaned back, enjoying the shaded hut in the Forsythe’s front yard.  “I want to be the queen,” I said, lazily stealing a 9-year-old’s dream.  “I don’t want to have to move.”

1917526_530178347992_7414675_nMelody is nicer than me, so she quickly agreed.  “Okay, I’ll be your servant!”

This selflessness made me uncomfortable.  “No, I mean.  You can be a princess.  You can sit here with me.”

“No, no, no.  I’m your servant.  What do you want to drink?  Can I get you something to eat?”

“…Well.  A Vimto would be nice.”  Melody ran inside to satisfy my whim.

Ethan stood nearby with a stick.  “Do you want to jump on the trampoline, Miss Trish?” he asked.

It was so hot.  “I don’t think queens jump on trampolines,” I said sadly.

Melody returned, carrying a can of Vimto with a straw.  “I had the best idea!” she said.  “The kingdom is under attack, and you have to get married!”  Continue reading

Advertisements

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.

11023039_1038326256197550_548437749_n

The Story of a Friendship: the Forsythes and Tricia

Moving to rural West Africa to work for five months with a missionary family that you’ve never met could go catastrophically wrong.  Luckily for me, the family I worked with were the Forsythes.  Made up of six people who could speak four languages in order to connect with Senegalese people by discussing daily problems and spiritual significance, the Forsythes could be an intimidating bunch.  However, they are also delightfully weird, and this makes them infinitely relateable.

935805_661292728722_1727615619_nKimberley and Travis Forsythe are a power couple of emotion (Kim) and logic (Travis).  They get things done, whether its arranging to get a new generator for the local hospital or starting a kids’ Bible study in their front yard.

The fact that I love Travis is astounding, since our first conversation was about how he enjoyed shooting stray cats for his neighbors.  My overlooking this horrific hobby ought to demonstrate just how great he is in every other area of life.  One afternoon when I was napping at their house, I woke to see he had moved two standing fans from the living room (where he was) to the foyer, so I could sleep in a cool breeze.

Kimberley began as a mentor, and while she still very much is one (she helped me decide to go to Greece by reminding me to “never make a decision based on fear”), I am so happy to call her my friend as well.  Her passion overflows whenever she talks about God, her family, the people she loves, or the hurt in the world.  She has a childlike joy that is infectious to be around, just like her wonderful laugh.  Continue reading

Tricia Makes a Japanese Friend in Senegal

Fatick, Senegal – March 2010

One of the most powerful bonds between people is formed when people who feel like outsiders find solace in each other.  This is especially fun when there is nothing connecting these people other than the fact that they are outsiders.

26870_529738404642_2400011_nWhile I lived in Fatick, there were fourteen people in the city who were “toubabs,” and eight of them were on our mission team.  There were three other Americans in Fatick doing work with the PeaceCorps.  There was one Korean girl who worked at the hospital and two Japanese girls who taught at one of the schools.  “Toubabs” are people whose light skin obviously differentiates them from the local Senegalese.  Any further national divisions were often hilariously wrong.  I was usually recognized as being from the United States, but only because I am tall.  My housemate Liz, also from the United States, was usually assumed to be from Japan, because she is short and has dark hair.  But no matter what, whether from Asia or America, we fourteen were all “toubabs.”  Continue reading

Tricia Barely Learns to Speak French

Fatick, Senegal – January 2010

Growing up in central Illinois, there was really no reason to learn any foreign language.  High school required it, however, so I took Spanish.  Naturally the only place I’ve lived overseas predominantly spoke French, the other option I didn’t choose.  When I arrived in Senegal, I found that the other six members of my team spoke French fluently.  Since my self-worth is entirely dependent upon my ranking as compared to others…I was not feeling so confident.  No one had to know that, though, so off to my first French lesson I went!  Continue reading

Tricia Has a Not-So-Near-Death Experience

March 2010
Fatick, Senegal

When my dear friend Lindsay paid good money to travel to Senegal while I lived there, I repaid her kindness by stepping on her glasses.  She simply taped them up and continued to help me hang mosquito netting over the air mattress we had set in the tiled foyer of my house.  My mom was visiting as well, and as the rules of seniority dictated, she got my bed in a private bedroom.

DSC00095After we had fallen asleep, a booming crash jolted me awake.  I was rigid with awareness, and just as I began to relax, the loud noise rang out again.  It felt loud enough to shake the house.

Beside me, Lindsay sat up and screamed, “What was that!?”  I rolled my eyes at her over-reaction, but as my sleep-addled brain caught up to reality, I realized I had a death-grip on her arm.  My mom ran out of my room to crouch outside our protective mosquito netting.

“Is that a normal noise?” she asked.

“No,” I answered, fear creeping into my voice.  “I mean, donkeys or something, yes.  But I have no idea what that was.”

“It sounded like your washing machine fell off a shelf,” Lindsay suggested.

“My washing machine is not on a shelf.”

“What if someone is trying to break through your gate?” Mom suggested.  Now that she mentioned it, the noise had sounded like a battering ram against our metal compound gate.  I stared at the dark windows two feet away, but I couldn’t see the flashlight beams of any thieves or assassins.  My mom hugged us through the netting.

“Liz!” I called.  “LIZ.”

My roommate stumbled out of the back room, rubbing her eyes.  “What is it?” she asked grumpily.

“Did you hear that crash?” I asked.

“No.”

Lindsay, Mom, and I all gasped.  “But it–it was so loud.”

Liz sighed.  “Do you want me to check outside?”

The three of us nodded desperately.  Liz had lived in Fatick a full year before I moved in with her.  She knew things.

Liz reemerged from her room with a flashlight.  She shone the light through the window and waved it across the yard twice.  “There’s nothing out there,” she announced, returning to her bedroom.

My mom still had her arms around Lindsay’s and my shoulders.  “Do you want me to pray for us?” she asked.

“Yes,” Lindsay said.  Mom prayed earnestly for our safety from…loud noises, then reluctantly went back to my room.  I let go of Lindsay’s arm and settled back into the mattress.  We lay there silently for several minutes.  Every normal sound suddenly felt dangerous.  Was that scraping sound someone crawling over the compound wall?  Were they going to tear away the window screen and shoot us from between the bars?

“Lindsay?  Are you still awake?” I whispered.

“Yeah,” she answered immediately.

“Do you want to…maybe move to the living room?” I suggested.

Yes.”

We left the netting hanging from the ceiling and dragged the mattress into the living room at the back of the house.  There was now a wall between us and the dreaded windows, but my feet could still be seen through the doorway.  I curled into the fetal position and prayed that God would save me.

He did, because when we woke up, the sun had lit the house and Liz was standing over Lindsay and me.  “Are you serious?” she asked.

“We were scared!” I insisted.

“Of a noise?” she asked.

“A loud noise.”

Lindsay held her broken glasses to her face and exclaimed, “Oh good.  We’re still alive!”