Sunday, July 09, 2006

Then and Now Part 2

Because the first installment was such a hit here are some more changes I've noticed in myself since I moved to Senegal;

Then: Contacts pretty much every day
Now: Glasses pretty much every day because of dryness, sand, etc.

Then: Jewish community was large part of my life, working at Maccabi USA, Camp Shalom and active with the Hillel.
Now: I pretty much AM the Jewish community here. There are a few Jewish volunteers in country but we don’t do much together.

Then: Would relish listening to or watching BBC news whenever I got the chance.
Now: BBC is my main source of news, listening to it every morning and sometimes more often. The only English programming I’ve found on the old short-wave radio are BBC, Voice of America (no thanks!), and a crap-load of Christian programs that are homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and overall, not very pleasant to listen to.

Then: My life and surroundings were quite secular. I felt this way even though it seems like the separation of church and state is often in danger in today’s US.
Now: My life continues to be secular though my surroundings are anything but. Here, though it’s not an Islamic Republic like Mauritania, our neighbor to the north, 95% of the people I know here Muslim. People grow up praying 5 times per day, and just accepting Islam as their default, without question, so that is the way they live their lives.

Then: Washed and dried my clothes by machine
Now: My clothes are washed, by hand, by my family’s maid and I wash my unmentionables myself by hand, everything is dried on a line. I usually buy Marie (the maid) a little gift when she does my laundry. In the beginning washing clothes would leave my hands with sores from the rubbing but my hands are getting tougher now. This washing involves two basins of water and a bar of soap. One basin is used for washing and one for rinsing.

Then: My socks got relatively clean, i.e. the white ones stayed more or less white.
Now: I can’t, for the life of me, get the stains from the dirt, some of it a pretty red color, out of my socks.

Then: Had a boyfriend, for quite a while actually
Now: Single, though I get marriage proposals daily

Then: Didn’t really get mistaken for anything, anyone I wasn’t
Now: Get mistaken for French, Arab, Chinese, sometimes they guess my nationality right.

Then: American pop, heavy metal, much of rap and country music I really preferred not to listen to.
Now: Get excited every time I hear American music, really anything that’s not Senegalese music. OK, most rap still sucks, I mean why don’t they send a more important message than money, sex and how bad-ass they are?

Then: Thought that Philadelphia was dirty
Now: Would eat off the streets of Philly, now Kaolack on the other hand, THAT’S dirty!

Then: Never really yelled at or hit other peoples’ kids. It’s practically a crime punishable by death in the US
Now: Yell at and sometimes hit the neighbor kids. It usually has to do with my bike; the bike that I’ve taken all the way to Dakar, twice, to be fixed. The kids start futzing around with the gears, I say – leave it alone, they don’t listen, I raise my voice and repeat, they still don’t listen, I yell – leave it alone! they still don’t listen, I smack a hand or the back of a head (hard enough to get them to stop it), they finally listen and laugh because I smacked them. No one has cried yet (like they do just about every time they are smacked by a relative) and the relatives and parents couldn’t care less – they probably think I should’ve done it a long time ago.

Then: Didn’t really have an opinion about most farm animals.
Now: Thinks pigs are disgusting, sheep are the stupidest animals on earth and that male goats should be castrated, actually I’d really like to be the one to castrate at least some of them.

Then: Didn’t think about grass very much
Now: ‘Ooh’ and ‘aah’ when I see it, like fireworks

Then: Drank actual milk, that comes from a cow
Now: Drink only powdered milk

Then: Thought the drivers in Philly were terrible
Now: Have a whole new scale to rate bad drivers

Then: Whenever I wanted anything, could pop into town, to the store and get it
Now: Have to wait 2 weeks or more for my parents (the only ones who send me anything L) to send it in a package - ok, sorry for the guilt trip.

For those of you wondering what this changed person looks like, here's a pick of me a few weeks ago, with my friend Sarah.

Please leave me comments to let me know what you think!



  1. Dan Grebler4:40 AM

    As always, I'm fascinated by your account of your life over there. I think what you're doing is just amazing -- a great growth experience beyond anything I ever did!
    Thanks again for sharing this wonderful experience.
    Dan Grebler

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