As I prepare to leave Senegal, I think it's appropriate to write a basic list of things I'm doing to get ready, in parallel to the list I created on my way here. Looking back on those old entries is really interesting, because my mindset was quite different then. I didn't know what Senegal would be like, really. In spite of my multiple blog readings and Wikipedia research, I truly didn't know what I was in for, and it took the semester to figure it out.
That's one of the things I will have to prepare myself for. As I said to one of my fellow students yesterday, Facebook pictures and anecdotes won't really be able to put my friends and family in my shoes. They'd have to actually visit Senegal in order to understand what I mean, take in Dakar with all of their senses, along with their brain and emotions. Showing them my pictures and telling them my stories will give them some idea of what I've been doing the past four months, but... it's mostly going to be on a superficial level. So I'd say one of the biggest things I have to prepare myself for is a lack of understanding (don't take this personally, everyone-- it's just how it is. And I'm sure you've experienced things where showing me pictures of it won't make me understand, either).
Another thing is that the United States are extremely different from Senegal in many ways. I've gotten used to buying fresh fruit on the street here on a daily basis, for about 40 or 50 cents per fruit. I've gotten used to buying a cup of Café Touba (with milk) for 30 cents. I've also enjoyed bargaining for everything-- clothing, jewelry, and taxi rides, to name a few-- and felt that, in general, I've gotten good prices. When I go back to the US, I'll have to accept whatever prices the shops set-- there won't be an opportunity to say "waañi ko" [lower it] and convince the shopkeeper that I should only pay $5 for this t-shirt, instead of $8. I like to think I've gotten pretty decent at bargaining, and going back to a country where you have to accept prices as they are will definitely be hard.
My packing and other semantics like selling my phone almost seem peripheral in comparison to the impending reverse culture shock. Still, they have to be done, whether I like it or not-- my 50-pound bags (hopefully not more than that, with all the things I've bought here) will have to be carefully loaded and carted out the door. I will have to sell my credit, or give it away. And, eventually, I will have to double-check my room and lock it for the last time. These things are important, too.
Juggling practical and altruistic needs will definitely be a challenge. In my last few days in Dakar, I'm hoping that I can get everything done and still have time to enjoy these moments with my friends (and family, if they're willing-- though in a way it's easier to leave since they usually aren't). I've really enjoyed making memories in Senegal, and now it's time to go home.
[P.S. I think I appear a little less overwhelmed than I actually am, particularly if you're reading other people's blogs, and seeing their intense reflections on their time here, and how hard it will be to leave. You can definitely ask me in person about my experience, and I'll tell you that these days are getting more and more difficult. But this is just who I am. I really hate goodbyes.]