Where I Leave for America

So as you may or may not know, I am leaving for America on Tuesday. No, my service is NOT over yet. I am merely going home for a month to decompress, see my family/friends, and celebrate Christmas. I am excited on so many levels. I’m going to get SO fat from all the food I’m going to eat, and I’m really excited about it.

But apart from the weight gain, I am looking forward to gaining something else: perspective. I’ve been away from home for almost 16 months now, and that’s a long time to go without a burrito or your family. I think America will be tremendously helpful for my mental health. The stress of living in Africa, combined with the Mefloquine, is making me a little crazy. It’ll be good to be at home with my family and my dog.

Speaking of families, I had an interesting discussion with my Senegalese one the other night. We were discussing me going home, and they are really excited for me. They know I miss my real family and that I’m excited to go home for a few weeks. They’re also excited for themselves because they will reap the benefits of my world travels. They know I’m going to bring back presents for them.

Thus, the other night my host father summoned the whole family and shoved a piece of paper and pen in my hand. They proceeded to tell me everything they wanted from America, and they made me write it down. Some highlights include:

For Baba (my host father): a motorcycle jacket.

For Na (my host mother): a computer, two new cell phones.

For Sophia (the oldest sister): a headlamp (for cooking in the dark), kitchen utensils, clothing for the baby, a car, a moped.

Anto (the oldest brother): a jacket (for the cold season), shoes (size 44), an iPhone.

Considering the amount of winter apparel they requested, this upcoming cold season is going to be BRUTAL. I’m not sure I’ll be able to provide EVERYTHING they want, but I will try my hardest to bring them back gifts they will appreciate and use.

Having a Senegalese family has been so amazing. When I got to Senegal and discovered I’d be living with a host family, I was hesitant. I wanted to live alone and do my own thing, but now I can’t imagine not having one. They’ve helped me so much with integration, as well as with language. I love them so much.

Today, when I left my house, I teared up a little. Crazy, I know. I alsonshook everyone’s left hand. In Senegalese culture, you do everything with your right hand (i.e. eat, shake hands) because the left hand is saving for wiping. For some reason though, when you leave for a long time, you shake with your left hand. It was sad to shake everyone’s left hand because it felt like I’m never coming back. Well Mansaly family, you’re not rid of me yet. I’LL BE BACK.

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    • Lindsey
    • December 4th, 2011

    I love that tradition of shaking with your left hand before a long trip — so poignant!

    As for these presents — will they knock the cost off your weekly tab or are you expected to pay for it all? Also, I think you should get Sophia a VW Jetta. The new ones are cute and she would totally rock it.

    • Sca-rah
    • December 5th, 2011

    Dude if you are getting her a car then I can’t wait to see what you are giving me. Mostly I can’t wait to see you! I’m so excited!!

    • White
    • December 5th, 2011

    It’s funny you clarified your service is not over; every single person I tell that you are coming home says “oh, he’s done already?” and I have to explain your vacation.

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