Saturday, November 14, 2015

29 on the 29th & bittersweet farewells.

My, how time flies!  I always seem to have the intention to post something but then something comes up -- and two weeks pass, and there isn't a new blog entry in sight.  Must change that!

First things first, my Golden Birthday -- turning 29 on the 29th (of October)!  If you know me, I'm not one to get too crazy for my birthday (though my Dirty 30 may be a different story...), so I wanted to keep it chill and simply celebrate it with my host family and a couple of friends.

After work, we grabbed some pizzas from Caesar's, a restaurant not too far from my house.  Arame and I also went to get a cake from Brioche Dorée, a pâtisserie (bakery/pastry shop), that can be found all over Dakar.  With my host family, Michelle, and my Gabonese neighbor/friend Ance, it was such a good time to laugh, eat some good food, and just be present on a nice Dakar night.  Last year, I made "gratitude" a priority in my life, and this year I've decided to focus on "opportunity" -- taking advantage of many of the opportunities given to me, and also trying to expose others to opportunities available to them.

Couldn't have asked for a better 29th birthday here in Senegal!  Looking forward to what my last year in my 20's will bring.  

Arame and I walking back home with the cake.  She insisted we buy a plastic bag because our neighbors would inevitably want some of the cake, too, haha! 

On Facebook a few days prior to my 29th birthday, one of my former high school classmates posted this really unique video -- his life, comprised of one-second video clips for each day within the past year.  I really liked the idea and decided that, for my last year in my 20's, I'd make a concerted effort to try this out.  So far, it's been good and I highly encourage anyone else to try this out: 1 Second Everyday.  That said, be on the lookout for a video in a year!  (Quick tip: It's best if you film everything in "landscape" mode.  My first several video clips are in "portrait" mode, which is fine, but would look better in "landscape" mode.)

Halloween was a couple of days later, and Jen (fellow RPCV from Burkina Faso who has been living in Dakar for a few years) invited us to an expat party.  It was awesome creating last-minute costumes with what we had in our suitcases, and of course, I dressed like a nerd!  Met some great people doing some interesting work, from journalists to fashion designers to consultants name it.  Always interested in hearing what different people are doing here in Dakar, as this is truly a regional African hub!

Happy Halloween from Dakar!  

Only a mere few days after, my host sisters, Mary and Martha (two study abroad students that are going on this awesome, around-the-world trip this semester) left for their last leg in Vietnam (with a short in-country vacation in Senegal first).  That's perhaps why I will always keep traveling, but more importantly, living and immersing myself in different countries/cultures -- because of the people you meet and the experiences you end up sharing with each other.  The two of them are mature beyond their years, are extremely aware of social issues, and just great people!  They've had many assignments where they've had to analyze a certain cultural situation, or ask about specific aspects of Dakar/Senegalese life.  There were many dinners where I found myself translating for them (which I was happy to do!), and in the process, learned so much about life here in Senegal -- more than I would have if they weren't here to ask such questions.

The morning they were supposed to leave, it truly was a bittersweet farewell.  Happy for them to continue on their journey, but sad to see them leave the family.  We took typical "family pictures" in our Senegalese outfits, but what got me was when they said goodbye to Mama Soda.  At that point in my time here, it had been about 2.5-3 weeks living here in Senegal, yet tears were streaming down my face as the girls hugged Mama Soda so tight.  To see them so close to a woman that served as their mom for the past month, and wonder when they'd see her again.  And it got me thinking that the relationships we cultivate with others are what truly sustain us.  We're interconnected more than we think, and when we make the time to get to know others, it affirms this interconnectedness.

Morning family pictures!  The top is with our "parents" and the bottom are all the kids of the family.  Very grateful and blessed that we all meet at this very time, in this very place.  Wow. 

A month in and I feel like I've learned so much.  Yet there is so much that still awaits, and I can't wait to share the rest of it with you!  Will have to do another blog post on recent discoveries here in Dakar (food, sights, etc.) and recent developments in my work as a Fulbrighter!  Stay tuned!