Gang of Three

I have lived in Senegal for over six months now. At times I feel like I just stepped off the airplane, eyes wide with wonder at the dingy airport and the locals attempting to rob me. Other times I feel like my service must be ending soon based on the fact that I’ve been here FOREVER. The truth is, both are a little correct. Six months is a substantial time to be in one place, but compared to two years, I still have a lot of time left.

Since arriving, I have lived in three cities: Thies, Mboro, and Sokone. In each of these places, I go by a different name, and each of these names is attached to a personality. I call them the Gang (not actually but it adds stylistic flair to this post).

Before coming here, I knew life as a Peace Corps volunteer wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. I knew I would miss my friends and family in America, as well as America itself. Living as a minority in a developing country is hard. Luckily, I had mentally prepared myself for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t expect to have split personality disorder. I am pulled every which way; I answer to different names, and people expect different things from each part of me.

So, do you guys want to meet the Gang? They all look relatively the same, but believe me when I say they are very different.

Jamie W.: you guys know him! He’s 23 now, which is weird. He’s an American. He loves to listen to music and travel. He has two sisters and a dog back home in Florida. Occasionally he likes to drink, GASP, alcohol and go out and have a good time. He’s a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Senegal. You can find him mostly in Kaolack and occasionally in Thies or Dakar. He has tattoos and he wears shorts because people in big cities don’t care about tattoos. He also likes wearing shorts because Senegal is HOT.

Medoune Diaw: he only comes around occasionally. He exists purely in Mboro or whenever he’s elsewhere and talking on the phone with his family there. He’s super chipper and doesn’t drink. He goes to bed early and likes to sit around and read. Because he first appeared back in August, his Wolof isn’t all that great. By the time October rolled around though, his Wolof had improved drastically because he went to school every day to learn it. He never wears shorts.

Baba Mansaly: he’s ALWAYS AROUND. Of course, Baba lives in Sokone. He’s definitely the smileiest of the group. He wants to make a good impression on the locals in Sokone, including his host family. His Wolof is pretty good, and he learns new words every day. Like Medoune Diaw, he doesn’t drink alcohol. He likes to read and hang out with his family in the evenings. During the day he rides his bike around town and meets with people about potential projects. He has a little garden in his yard, which he waters every day. He doesn’t care about his appearance, and like Medoune Diaw, he wears long pants only.

It is always odd when I have to switch from one to the other. I occasionally run into people from Sokone in Kaolack, which is always bizarre. I chitchat with them and introduce them to whichever friend I’m with. I force myself to merge one part of my life with another, even if they don’t necessarily compute mentally. In addition, every time I get to the garage in Sokone when coming from Kaolack, I have to switch to site-Jamie (aka Baba). I smile a lot, and I greet everybody I see. I come home, and I greet my family joyfully. It’s a mental workout.

In order to get through the loneliness of being at site, I dream of when I can go to Kaolack and speak English and surf the Internet. I try to be constantly surrounded by other volunteers when I’m out of site to make up for the lack of interaction I have with them while home. I read so much in Sokone that I try NOT to read when I travel elsewhere. The two scenarios are polar opposites, which can sometimes make for jarring transitions.

Anyways, these are the kinds of difficulties I have to deal with as a Peace Corps volunteer. Like I said, it was something that appeared unexpectedly, and I had to adjust and compartmentalize in order to successfully adapt. Hopefully, in a year and a half, when my service is done, I’m not completely crazy. Here’s hoping.

    • kristen H aka love of your life
    • February 14th, 2011

    Don’t worry, I’ll still love you even if you end up being a crazy man 🙂 you’re allowed to have multiple personalities, don’t worry 🙂

    Miss you and Happy Valentine’s Day doll ❤

    • Mama
    • February 14th, 2011

    FYI – Jamie W also has wonderful parents back home in Florida. I love and miss all Jamie/Medoune/Baba and agree that 6 months flies by in a flash and can be a l-o-n-g time. That being said, 18 months can be the same – it’s all in which personality dances it!

    • Lindsey
    • February 21st, 2011

    I always forget you have the camera tattoo. Also S and I can hardly get through a day without a Jamie W. reference. Today for instance – while enjoying a $1.50 hot dog and DC at Costco – we chatted about adorable rasians. You’ve made us racist. I think the Gang will FLIP when we can visit you over there. You won’t know who to be!

    • Lindsey
    • February 21st, 2011

    Also, are you just tagging “Lindsey is a Dork” to everything now???

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