Well, it’s our final day in Dakar so I thought I’d take this moment to reflect back on our two years here. I must say that it’s been quite the roller coaster! Our first month here, I was filled with fear, loss of identity, and isolation that seems to be typical culture shock. I think Matty was experiencing his own 1-year-old cultural shock as evidenced by the fact that I pretty much carried him around the house for the entire first month!
When we arrived, I remember how foreign our new home felt. I mean, new homes always feel weird at first; but typically, one decides to live there after she’s seen it and decided this is the home she wants. So, I think the “typical” way of moving into a new home made moving into this one harder. The first time we saw our home was when we moved in. It looked and smelled different than what we were used to. It had this random tree in a not-so-quite courtyard part of the house, a random window on the inside of the house, kitchen cabinets that were oddly shaped where standard kitchen items didn’t really fit in them, a washer and dryer outside the house, a problematic electrical system, and ants from hell. But I knew that in time, it would eventually feel like home. As I now walk around our empty home filled with the remaining Embassy furniture, I remember how it felt when I first moved in; but, those feelings are surpassed by many happy memories. When we leave here tonight night, I will be sad because not only was it our home for 2 years, but the boys grew up so much here.
Having household help was also a little difficult to get used to. It’s awesome that we were able to afford it here, but it takes a little getting used to having people in your house all the time who aren’t your family (especially if you’re an introvert!). But, now that our time is ending, Fatou, our nanny, definitely feels like part of the family. I feel very fortunate to have had someone whom I could trust to watch Matty and JP when he didn’t have school.
I also feel extremely fortunate to have experienced a wide variety of things in our 2 years here. I learned some French – something I had always wanted to do since I was a teenager. I got to see the ocean whenever I had to go out and run errands. I ate at restaurants right on the ocean with a beautiful view of the surf hitting rocky coast. I got to ride on a pirogue when visiting Ngor Island. I took a ferry to Goree Island (which was beautiful but sad – it was where slaves were shipped out from West Africa). I got to experience some of the Senegalese markets, ate Senegalese food, and visited Paris (another thing I’ve always wanted to do). And while it was super hot and humid from May through October, I loved stepping outside of the house and smelling the ocean (which seemed to only happen during the humid months).
And lastly, I feel like the best part of Senegal that I will always cherish is my ESL class. This past fall I took an online certification to teach English as a second language. Shortly thereafter, John Philip’s school was looking for a volunteer to teach English to their Senegalese staff. I had a wonderful group of students who were eager to learn and tried hard. It was a rewarding experience and I feel fortunate to be able to leave here feeling like in some small way I was able to give back.
So, with that I say, “Thank you, Dakar! It’s truly been an experience I will never forget that has taught me a lot.”