Family Comes to Senegal!

Many Peace Corps Volunteers go home to the States at some point during their service.   Two years is a long time to be away, and often PCVs have family obligations, weddings, or just the desire to see friends and family that draw them home.  I made a decision long ago that, inshallah, I wouldn’t go home during my service.  I had heard from other volunteers that sometimes going home makes it hard to come back.  Also, I wanted to use my vacation time to see new places instead.

I made this decision also because I knew that my family was going to come here to see me.  This past December I saw my parents and younger brother Jackson for the first time in over a year and a half.  As I waited for them to emerge from the Dakar airport the day they arrived, I was nervous.  Was I ready to be a tour guide/translator/fixer?  Would they get sick?  Would they like Senegal? 

But as soon as I saw their faces, my concerns melted away.  Whether or not things went as planned with the trip, I was happy that I’d have the opportunity to hang out with my family for two weeks in my new home.  I didn’t realize how quite much I’d missed them until that moment.

And a whirlwind trip ensued, full of exploring, eating, drinking tea, sitting with (Senegalese) family and friends, and lots of shopping (read, me getting into fights about prices at every turn).  I brought my family all the way to my site which is a 12-hour car ride from Dakar on questionable roads.  A long and taxing journey, but I was selfishly glad that they now understand the exhaustion involved every time I have to make the trek up to Dakar and back.

The meeting of my American and Senegalese families was the highlight of the trip for me.  Even though they don’t share a common language, they were all excited to meet each other.  One thing I’ve learned here is that language is not as important as we might think it is.  You can glean so much from body language and watching people interact with each other even if you have no idea what they are saying.  My parents were so happy to see how my host family has taken me in as one of their own, and my host family was honored to have such important guests.  Every person I saw on the street would just comment on how happy I must be to have both my families together.  They weren’t wrong.

Besides spending time in my site and Dakar, we stopped in Kolda for a night and had some beers and good conversation with some other volunteers.  We continued on to a touristy spot on the water called Toubacouta, which is known for its mangroves.  We took a memorable boat tour with a local guy named Ibu who also sold us some homemade jam the next day (my mom bought about 10 jars, to go in the full-sized suitcase that had been filling up with souvenirs — mostly fabric — throughout the trip).

Then it was back to Dakar for more fabric shopping, some beach time, and a failed attempt to see some music (nightclubs around here don’t usually get their live music started until midnight, a bit late for our crowd).  C’est la vie.

I am so grateful that I have a family that was willing and able to do this trip.  It was so wonderful to share my life here with them, and it will be so great that they’ll be able to understand more of what I’m talking about when I get home in just a few short months.  It was hard to say goodbye, but easier than last time, knowing that we will all be seeing each other again soon.

Also, it was nice to have two professional photographers documenting my life in Senegal.  Enjoy some pictures below:

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Fabric browsing in Dakar with my host aunt

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Mom trying her hand at pulling water from our well in my site

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Mom and Dad on the boat tour through the mangroves

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Another boat tour pic, with our guide Ibu

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Enjoying a West African sunset on the coast in Dakar

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One last family photo in Dakar before their departure.  Love you guys!

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