Thursday, April 18, 2013

Left-Hand Goodbyes

My parents and friends in the U.S. are counting down to May 1st, the day that I arrive back in the States; but for me these past few weeks, the date that I was counting down to was April 18- the day that I left my village for the last time. And that date has come and went, so I'm officially moved out of my village- and just in time because it has gotten pretty HOT! That will be one thing that I will certainly not miss when I'm sipping on icy drinks in air conditioning...but anyway...

Leaving a place that you've lived in for a while is always weird, but I've been doing a lot of that the past seven-ish years (leaving home before college, leaving college, leaving the U.S. to go to Senegal), but this goodbye was definitely the most permanent goodbye I feel like I've ever said.

But before the mushiness begins, let's get a little lesson on how people in Senegal say goodbye... Here (and in many other countries), there is a strict "right hand only" rule- aka if you're shaking hands, eating, or handing someone something, it all goes down with your right hand. No left hand interactions allowed. Why is this? Because your left hand is reserved strictly for bathroom purposes. In countries where things like toilet paper don't exist, your left hand and a splash of water are used instead. Therefore, your left hand is your "poop hand," and it's impolite (and nasty) to use your left hand for pretty much anything else.

The one exception to this right hand rule is when you say goodbye. In Senegal, the custom is that if you are saying goodbye (a real, long goodbye), you shake with your left hand. Before leaving my village, I had never left-handed anyone here before. My last week in-village, I was left-hand-shaking like it was my job. People here tend to not get too sad or weepy when saying goodbye. And, as I've come to expect with this country, there was pretty much a standard set of phrases that almost every person said to me, so most goodbyes were exactly the same.

I heard a lot of "Greet your parents for me," "May Allah watch over you in your travels," "It will be lonely with you gone," "If Allah wills it, I will see you again someday," etc. Lots of prayers, lots of people telling me to greet the people of America, etc. I was often asked when I would come back, and to that the only real reply that you can give is "Only Allah knows". I told them that I would like to continue working in development and with Africa, so hopefully one day work will take me back to Senegal.

In typical Mbeuleukhe fashion, my village didn't do anything special as I was leaving, or even really acknowledge that I was going. It was me going around to people's houses to say goodbye, not the other way around. My last night with my family was a completely normal night. Nothing different at all. I woke up early this morning to arrange all of my clothes and stuff for my family. They lucked out and received a TON of stuff that I'm leaving behind. I'm bringing back little to none of the clothes that I brought with me here, so they hit the jackpot with that.

It doesn't feel real to me that I won't be seeing my family again. I still don't feel like I'm leaving. I keep hearing the same from other departing volunteers. I think the consensus is that it will feel real on the plane/in the various airports I'll be in during my insanely long travels back to the U.S. As unbelievably excited as I am to be going back to The Promised Land, I do think I may get a little homesick for my Senegalese family once I'm back.

The good thing is that I took a lot of photos and videos my last few days with my kids. The internet here is too slow to load all of them, but once I'm back in America I can upload a lot of that kind of stuff. I'm looking forward to that. Here's a little preview...

Messina taking a bath

Sisters playing with finger puppets

Maam Rama eating the finger puppets

Seyni cheesing for the camera

My babies, Maam Rama and Messina!

My attempt to take Seyni in my backpack :)

Happy Lissa 

Maam Rama in a pretty dress

Such a cutie

Seyni playing with M.R. as our mom naps

Love these girls!

As always, thanks to everyone who has sent any letters or packages to me the whole time I've been here. My host siblings have so much American swag now. They're definitely the coolest kids in the village. And I have really appreciated the goodies that I've received as well.

Now I'm headed off to Dakar to get all of my stuff in order. I have a couple med appointments to make sure that I won't be bringing any fun tropical diseases back to America, a lot of annoying logistical stuff (spending the morning in the bank to cancel my bank account, meetings to sign off on official documents, etc.) and plenty more goodbyes to say. Luckily, saying goodbye to other Peace Corps Volunteers isn't that sad because I know I'll see them again in the U.S. 

Also, a happy anniversary to my amazing Mama and Dad!! You go, guys!! And happy birthday to my lovely Mama :) So if you don't hear from me again in the next week and a half (which I honestly have no idea whether or not you will), I'll see you all soon in the USA!!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I'm applying for a Fulbright scholarship to return to Senegal. My project will use animation and art for women's health education. I am desperately looking for a host organization to write a Letter of Affiliation for my grant application. If you have any interest/suggestions please email me:

    Thanks, Tim