I’ve been seriously slacking on keeping up with my blog, which I blame on staying in a house full of entertaining and affectionately demanding children. I now understand all moms who have ever bemoaned their lack of productivity, and I am beginning plans on a future “Mommy’s Blogging; This is Your Jail” room.
As of Monday, I have crossed into the past! I’m in Tennessee, my college years home, and the number of people to see per city has increased greatly. I will save the Hughes and Smith families for a later post, because today is about the Fatick friends I’ve had the pleasure of seeing!
On Monday, I drove up to Nashville and met Melanie at 5:00. Melanie and I were in Senegal at different times, but we heard a lot about each other and hung out at a reunion a couple years ago. We explored some Nashville hot spots, only the first wasn’t so hot. Construction was all over the place, so we walked for several blocks in confused circles looking for anything that looked remotely fun. In the end we drove somewhere else, and wound up eating at 12 South Taproom. It was delicious, and I had a lot of fun catching up with Melanie. It’s always nice to find a wandering soul kindred spirit. Continue reading
The other day, I told a stranger about my plans to move to Greece to work at a safe house. “You be careful,” he said. I get this a lot, so I hummed in appreciation/agreement without getting into why it’s dangerous to live anywhere. But then he continued, “You’re brave to live in a Muslim country.”
“Oh. Well. Greece is a Christian country. Greek Orthodox? Christian,” I explained. I was totally thrown by his assumption that Greece was an Islamic country. He was equally thrown that it wasn’t. “Well….good luck,” and he was gone.
What I didn’t
say, partly because my brain was shutting down in confusion, and partly because it wasn’t 100% relevant, is that I’ve already lived in a Muslim country, and I don’t think I was particularly brave for doing so. Never once did I fear for my life while I spent five months in Senegal, except maybe when I took a moto taxi with a twelve-year-old driver. But what do I know? Continue reading
Without thinking for more than two seconds, I assume that there are three kinds of nature people: 1) beach people, 2) mountain people, and 3) forest people. On further thought, perhaps there are also desert people? Leave a comment if you are one of them, because I would like to know why.
Growing up in the Midwest, the beach was idealized. We were so far from any kind of ocean that those lucky few who vacationed by the Atlantic or the Gulf returned as mystical creatures, tanned and boasting about seashells and tides. I never fully understood this obsession, because I am 100% a 3) forest person. Who wants sand in their swimsuit when they could breathe in deeply, inhaling the scent of dirt and photosynthesis, looking up through sun-dappled leaves to a blue sky?
I am a forest person, but I’ve never quite been able to shake the thought that, perhaps, there is something to beaches that I’ve been missing. So I keep visiting them, hoping someday this missing piece will click within me, and I’ll fully appreciate the wonders of hot sand and salty water. These are some of the beaches I have visited so far, each with a very different experience and enjoyment level. Continue reading
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.”
Melody 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
Mallory and I both lived in Senegal at the same time, working for the same organization though in different cities. She knew the girls I was working with, so occasionally we would all meet and hang out in the capital city of Dakar. I got food poisoning from a sushi restaurant one weekend, and when I suggested she sleep in a different room because I would be vomiting all night, she said, “Nah, it’s fine,” and fell asleep. Her chill reaction immediately made me want to be her friend. Continue reading
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.
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.
Kimberley 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
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.
While 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
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
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