Tuesday, October 2, 2012

in which I move to Africa.

Good news, everyone. I made it to Senegal.

This was only briefly in question, so no worries. And by "briefly in question" I do mean "for the duration of my four hour JFK layover, I kind of had a full fledged panic attack and had to call my best friend kyle for words of encouragement in order to get on the plane" and by "words of encouragement" I mean he said a lot of "No, I will not come get you from the airport to live in Albany, you can't even say it right, it's pronounced 'all-bany', now stop crying and get on the plane,"  which is why kyle is the absolute best person to call in that sort of situation.
To be clear, I have not suddenly developed a deep fear of flying, or over bearing desire to move to Albany, I just did not want to go to Senegal.

Honestly, I never did.

However, there comes a time in a woman's life when she realizes that maybe she's run out of goals and her chosen career isn't working out so well and her friends are getting jobs and grown-up haircuts and she's still asking for "Zooey Deschanel, but slutty" at the hairdresser and none of her marriage prospects really panned out and  her only life plan  dictated that  by now she should have a husband and babies but the only thing her uterus does is piss her off on a monthly basis and she's running out of money and at that point it feels like there's just one thing left to do, and that is move.

Which makes me curious if this is a third culture/ military brat thing- Oh, things are getting a little more difficult than you can handle? The best solution is to uproot your life and move thousands and thousands of miles away! But in all fairness, this may just be my screwed up way of dealing with things.

Before you're encompassed by fury at my complete ingratitude at this once-in-a-lifetime-oppertunity, let me explain myself a little further:
The last time I was in Africa, so, my freshman and sophomore years of high school, were the absolute worst two years of my life. Suffice it to say that there were several unfortunate circumstances that led to some unfortunate events that led to a lot of therapy and a strong desire to never set foot on this continent again- and I'm afraid I'm going to leave it at that. It's a story reserved for my more tragically doomed relationships and as an object lesson for friends about to make really poor life choices. That being said, if I ever choose to tell you what happened, have fun figuring out which category you belong in!

So that's basically why I've spent the last couple of weeks crying, puking, and having panic attacks in airports. To be clear, I would never do something that I thought would seriously jeopardize my physical, mental, or emotional health- ultimately I figured that if I could just get here, I would be fine. And so far, that's been absolutely true- but getting here was really, really hard. Like, really hard, you guys.

To summarize- Decided to move to Africa, Freaked out, Moved to Africa. And now on to lighter subject matter, specifically, observations and adventures thus far.

1) I am going to get crazy, crazy skinny here.
The biggest difference between Senegal and America, in my opinion, is the sheer lack of excess. Which is not to say that people in America do not know hunger or want- many of them do. I've come close to counting myself among them once or twice. However, people in America are starving because sometimes circumstances, both because of personal and government choices, don't allow them enough money to buy food. People in Senegal are starving because there is not enough food for them to eat. If I understand correctly, most of the food my family eats was either moved with us, or imported from France. Anything they have purchased that was locally grown has had to have been soaked in bleach, and usually results in illness after ingestion (although to be fair, we Joneses are not known for our strong stomachs. See above mention of stress puking. Apply that to everything.) Given that importing all other food from France runs very expensive very quickly, we don't eat a lot. Three moderately sized meals a day, the end. This is absolutely sufficient and I know I'm lucky to have it, but let's not kid ourselves, it's a lot less than I am used to eating. I'm a big girl, guys. And while some of my weight can be pinned on a cocktail of medication I took for the cray-cray, most of it is because I like to eat and I consider excessive making out to be the ideal form of exercise (oh, and zumba, of course.) I've always thought of eating as sort of a privilege- both in having access to good food, and the ability to eat it- the aforementioned medication frequently makes it difficult to consume solid food- so I eat because I can. However, this would be selfish to an extent I'm not comfortable with here, so it's just not going to happen.  Which is a crying shame, as I've frequently said that my idea of an ideal evening is watching Friends while a beautiful man feeds me cheesecake and pets my hair. Time to find a new dream, I guess.

2) Third world countries are icky, icky, icky.
About every six months I decide that joining the peace corp is just the best idea. This usually comes at the end of a thought spiral where I remember I'm too crazy for health insurance and can't afford drugs, etc, and decide that joining the peace corp would be the best solution to all my problems. Because they cover health insurance. That's all. Never does it occur to my panic stricken mind that if you're too cray for insurance, you're too cray for the peace corp, but that's a story for another time. However, the truth of the matter is that I would actually be very, very bad at the peace corp- I like food and internet and fancy shoes and I'm way too selfish to help people all the time. I would also probably be a horrible missionary. What I'm getting at here is that I'm really not cut out for third world countries, and probably shouldn't live in them, but I do, and so far these are the things I'm not so thrilled about:

The water. Good lordy lordy I miss American water. If we've ever had a conversation about my living in Botswana, I've probably mentioned how much I hated the water- the taste, the scum it left on your teeth. Hated it. Here, you cannot drink the water. It will kill you. Or just make you really sick. Nobody is really clear on this. For our water-drinking needs, we have a small distillery in the kitchen, which produces yucky water that will NOT kill you. This is a transition I will whine about a lot, as I drink upwards of 5 Liters of water every day.

The internet. I love me some movies. And TV. And pinterest. And instant messaging. And facebook. And in America, I had access to all of these things all the time always, to the point where it was really beginning to become a problem. The internet here is literally one hundred times slower than it was in the States. One. Hundred. Times. So I can email, I can check facebook, that's about it. That being said, over the past twenty four hours I've read two James Patterson novels (not a huge JP fan, but they are always available in excess at embassies. I do not know why this is.) I remember now how I learned to do so many things in Botswana- not a lot of screen distractions. I was also isolated from the world and felt the loneliest I've ever been, so I guess now's a good a time as any to find a happy medium.

Filth. The air smells like salt and sweat and filth. There is garbage and sewage everywhere. I wish I'd brought some scuzzy shoes to wear while walking- and we walk quite a bit. Yesterday I did some strategic climbing and leaping getting out of a taxi in a way my father described as "almost ladylike" in order to avoid stepping in what I hope was a mud puddle.

Germs and bugs and other icky things. Mango worms. I'm deathly afraid of getting them, and entirely convinced that  I will. DO NOT GOOGLE THEM. Malaria is a big issue here- if you get a fever, it's mandated you get tested for it. I sleep with a net over my bed, which is awesome and makes me feel like a princess, because I'm secretly five years old. I am also supposed to be taking anti malarias, but from what I can tell they fell out of my suitcase so I'm currently going without. If a mosquito kills me, remember me well, folks.

3) I need to speak french.
I hate, hate, hate not being able to communicate and express myself. I hate feeling left in the dark. So in this country, I hate not speaking french. My father introduces me, in french, by saying "This is my daughter. If at all possible, she speaks less french than my wife" and then they all have a good laugh (in french) while I stand there grinning like an idiot. I am now attempting to learn french. I am very bad at it. I am very bad at learning any language. But I'm downloading the first season of friends in french (which should be finished in oh...four weeks. Slow internet, remember?) and that's my best strategy for the moment.

4) I am so beautiful here.
I remembered this about three seconds after I got off the plan and the airport security guard was like, heyyyy babyyyy, and I was like I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THIS I AM SO UNCOMFORTABLE. To be clear, I am equally perturbed by this kind of advance in the states, but they are much fewer and farther between- "big pasty white girl who loves cats and is borderline cray" is hardly the american standard of beauty. That, and my idea of flirting involves the exchange of wittily crafted insults. Compliments tend to make me wildly uncomfortable, unless I'm expecting or straight up asking for them.
I'm just a multi-faceted gem of a girl, everyone.
But yeah. Moral of the story, I am beautiful, also the humidity has caused my hair to resemble that of a cocker spaniel. I always forget it's actually curly until I go somewhere that's...not Utah.

Well, that's about it.
I guess I live here now.

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I'm a sucker for kittens and fancy dresses.