Take Offs and Landings

Emotionally, life in Senegal is much like life in America. It has its’ ups and downs. As humans, this unpredictable bipolarity is normal and expected. Unfortunately, here in Africa, where us Americans are slightly out of our element, this emotional roller coaster has higher peaks and deeper valleys.

Let’s take me, for example (it is MY blog, after all). I had a wonderful day yesterday. I walked around town greeting people with a genuine smile on my face. I finally, after weeks of pleading in broken Wolof with various persons around town, acquired garden space. I have a small garden outside my house, but I needed more space to garden in. Mostly it was for practice, but I also wanted it to become a demonstration garden to show off the agricultural techniques drilled into my head by the Peace Corps.

To sum up, yesterday was good. My Wolof wasn’t too bad. I understood the people; the people understood me. The food my family gave me was edible and considerably tasty. I was in a good place.

Cut to this morning, where the camera (if this were a movie) shows me in my room sobbing.

Let’s rewind a little bit.

I had woken up in the middle of the night with a mild sore throat. I drank some water, put on more Chapstick (you know, mine and Lindsey’s middle-of-the-night-can’t-see-without-our-glasses routine), and went back to sleep. I woke up this morning though, and my throat was on FIRE. This sore throat was not messing around. It had grown in strength during the night, much like a hurricane. To make matters worse, when I clawed my way out of my mosquito net and stood up, I almost fell over. I was lightheaded and dizzy. I drank more water, popped some meds, and took my temperature. After converting the number from Celsius to Fahrenheit on my cell phone (why the PC, an American program, gave us a thermometer in Celsius is beyond me), I discovered I had a mild fever.

Regrettably, this was my third bout in the ring with illness in the last month. Africa, my friends, has finally caught up with me.

Luckily, I still had an appetite (unlike a month ago where I had no appetite and was vomiting on my living room floor at 3 AM). Thus, I stumbled outside wearing God knows what and headed towards the nearest boutique (store) to buy bread and eggs. On my way, I ran into my host mother and sister. They proceeded to yell at me for sleeping so late (it was 10 AM) and also laughed when I told them I was sick. I’m pretty sure they didn’t believe I was actually ill.

I kept walking in a huff. I bought my bread and eggs, and when I walked out of the boutique I almost ran into two teenage girls. They take one look at me and start repeatedly calling me toubab and laughing. This scenario pisses me off when children do it, but I take it with a grain of salt because, come on, they’re children. However, if you’re above the age of 14 and calling me THAT word, it is officially rude. These bitches knew better. I’d had enough, so I yelled at them and called them out for calling me THAT word. They looked at each other and burst out laughing again. They repeated what I said in singsong voices and added another “toubab” to their rapidly growing list of verbal punches to my stomach. I walked off, attempting to ignore them. Unfortunately, I stumbled on a rock and almost dropped the eggs. The girls laughed even harder.

I got back to my room, put my recent purchases on a table, took a deep breath, and burst into tears.

I am not ashamed to be sharing this on a public forum. Life here is hard, and I think I’m lucky to have made it almost six months without crying. I believe this moment of catharsis was bound to happen sooner or later. It was a mix between my sickness, my family being rude to me, and those girls picking on me. I was also very frustrated because I had been looking forward to starting my work on the garden today after weeks of stress looking for the space.

The cry lasted less than a minute. I then washed my face, blasted Florence + the Machine (percussion-heavy band with British female lead singer), and started preparing breakfast. The rest of the day was spent in my room. I watched 127 Hours, which is an Oscar-nominated film about a guy who gets his arm stuck under a rock and must cut it off in order to free himself. Sadly, as I watched, I found myself relating to this man. Of course, looking back, these thoughts were a bit dramatic. I’m sure the fault lies in my slight delirium brought on by lack of sleep and head-to-toe bodily illness.

Now, with my physical and mental health slowly getting back to normal, I have found the perspective I lacked earlier today. Sometimes you just need those days where you don’t leave your room, down a couple pills and bottles of water, and watch American movies and television shows.

It’s days like these where the title of my blog is highly applicable to my life. Yes, it’s the name of a Rilo Kiley album (alternative pop band). Yes, it references an airplane, and this is kind of a travel blog. But also, it’s a metaphor for my life in Senegal, which has its’ take offs (ups) and landings (downs). Tomorrow, if I’m up to it, I am going to start work on my garden, and hopefully that metaphorical airplane will start moving skyward again.

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