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By mhaimbodi

In my original post I stressed the importance of identity, and that for me, identity was something that I would be grappling with for the rest of my life. While my time abroad has not necessarily changed this sentiment, I think that it has given me a new confidence and maturity that can only come from time away from one’s support network and everyday familiarity. I am less reliant on the opinion of others, and I have learned that in defining identity, while your audience will always change, your definition won’t. I have introduced myself many times over the past few months, and in doing so I have gained a sort of self assurance that I didn’t know possible. I have become more confident in the impact that my words can have on others, and I am less afraid or self conscious to speak up. This does not mean that I have something to say about everything, because something that is very frustrating to me is people who don’t know when to stop talking. However, I think that the past few months have taught me about expression, and that if you have something productive to say then you should say it without extensive self doubt. Accordingly, my time has also reinforced the importance of thinking before speaking, especially when speaking about another country or culture that you are still learning about.

Upon reflection, I still am a black woman (obviously that did not change), but I think that my time in Dakar has given me a new appreciation of my mixed background. I have seen many mixed families here that have made me reminiscent of traveling with my parents and brother while growing up, and I have thought a lot about the privileges and experiences I was awarded because I have parents from two different places. I am prouder than ever to represent the histories of both sides of my family, and everyone who made it possible for me to be living, as my time in Senegal has given me a deeper reverence for family and those who came before me.

I think that the hardest part about leaving Dakar will be saying goodbye to the pace of life that I have grown accustomed to, and how welcoming the overarching community has been. I am notoriously impatient, and that has been tested greatly since my arrival in January just because of how time works here. It is very normal for things to start much later than they are supposed to, and to do a lot of waiting. This gave me a lot of anxiety (it still does sometimes), but it was also a wake up call/reminder that not everything functions according to my clock, and that sometimes it is necessary to step outside of yourself and simply appreciate that given moment. As for the welcoming nature of this community, I don’t think there has been a single day in Dakar where I’ve walked outside and haven’t greeted/been greeted by everyone I pass. It will be hard to adjust back to the impersonal society that makes up so much of the U.S, but I am grateful to know that humanity exists like this, and to have lived in a city as unique and special as Dakar.

By mhaimbodi

The concept of community becomes more important than ever when you are traveling/living  abroad. While total integration is not really possible within the first few months (or ever), there are certain people and places that can definitely make you feel more at ease amidst new surroundings. I have attached a couple of mine:

One of the first things that I wanted to do upon my arrival in Dakar was find a running route. At home I run everyday, and before coming I was a little anxious as to whether or not I would be able to do the same here. It turns out that the neighborhood I live in, Ouakam, is right next to one of the longest roads in Dakar (Route de la Corniche) that literally borders the Atlantic Ocean.  I have made it a habit to run around 6:30/7 most evenings after getting home from school, as the sun is setting then and it is much cooler. For the first couple of weeks I had to adjust to the unfamiliarity of where I was, and all of the car exhaust as I am not used to running right next to main roads, but now the ease of finding my way and knowing where I am going is really comforting. Every day I feel more and more acclimated to my surroundings, and the euphoria that accompanies running is something that makes me feel even more at home.

...continue reading "Defining Community"