the Senegalese experience|experiment

18 May, 2010


Now that I've been home for a few days, I'd like to reflect a little bit on what I've been feeling and experiencing, now that I'm back in the U.S. It's definitely weird being here, for obvious reasons-- mangoes are $1.49, wireless at my house is consistent and fast, I have air-conditioning-- but there's other reasons that don't seem as clear. I've been trying to write this entry several different times, but it's hard.

It's hard when, just as my book predicted, most people get bored after a little while, listening to all my stories and random facts about Senegalese culture, comparisons of Senegalese and American culture, all the things I learned about myself and other people. Even the most patient friend or family member gets tired after a while, because I have a lot to say after an entire semester and their ears can only handle so much.

It's hard because I'm so far from the culture I became comfortable with, without even realizing it-- appalled by the prices in the grocery store, unable to do anything about it because we don't bargain here and that's just how it is. I'm not the girl who they say broke down and wept in a restaurant (after all, there's no bargaining in restaurants), but I'm still at the point of exclaiming aloud when I see a horrifyingly high price in the store.

Another problem I foresee is that no one I know will have gone through an even remotely similar experience; no one I know is even interested in going to any part of Africa, ever. So there's no real outlet to share experiences, and languages-- I took 45 hours of Wolof! I thought about writing to the newspaper, since I may be the first person who studied in Africa (rather than doing missions there for various Christian sects) from Hillsdale. Still, it seems a small funnel for big ideas.

In any case, it's not a massive struggle to readjust; there are just small things to re-learn in various parts of my life, and I'm still trying to do that. I'll be continuing to write in my blog about my experience in Senegal.


  1. Claire, I know. No one is interested in going to any part of Africa, ever. Like, why would you want to? they seem to imply. It's hard for all of us. Maybe it helps to know that.

  2. It does, a little bit. People all over the country, struggling in different ways to get people to understand. And people from previous semesters, too, I'm sure...

  3. Claire, go for it write the article! From your stories of Hillsdale it seems like they could use it, a lot.

    As for the part where you said that no one is interested in your stories, I think that this is where we (the rest of the people in the group) will have to come to each other's aid- kind of like a post-Senegal support group. After all, who can know how ridiculous it is that a mango costs more than 50cents at the grocery store? Don't hesitate to keep in contact!

    Hope all is well.

  4. Thanks, Carlee! I'm definitely picturing the support group as softly swaying, playing the djembe and eating mangoes as we tell our horror stories of over-priced fruit and taxi drivers who don't understand "wanni ko"! I'm definitely going to try and write an article (or just compile some things from my blogs) and hopefully my newspaper will pick it up.

    I was also thinking, since there's a frat that's really into slavery (well, not into it, you know...) and it would be cool if they could sponsor me to do a talk about the talibé. What do you think?