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.


My Brief Obsession with Soccer

I’ve never been very into televised sports (Olympics obviously exempted), but in the summer of 2014, the stars aligned and I became intensely invested in the World Cup.  That was the summer that Liz and Mallory and I were having a Senegal reunion, and I was annoyed by how often our text planning devolved into the two of them talking about soccer.  In a desperate attempt to fit in, I agreed to watch the USA vs. Portugal match.  I knew a girl I follow on tumblr was fanatical about “her son” Christiano Ronaldo, so I rooted for Portugal.  Although they lost, I was hooked on the game.

It was a perfect setup.  Liz was the soccer aficionado who could explain offside rules and eloquently describe the beauty of the long choreography that led to a goal.  Mallory was the man appreciator who responded “YESSS” to my texts of “take off your shirt!!”  I was particularly in love with Ronaldo (albeit briefly because of Portugal’s loss) and Mesut Ozil, who someone described as a big-eyed orphan boy, and my heart was gone.  Continue reading

“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 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.


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.


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!”

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.