Like many other Dakarites, we’ll be heading back to the US for the summer months. I don’t usually post about our travel plans, but I figured since we are sub-letting our place to a pitbull breeder who likes to sharpen his knife collection twice a day, it’s all good.
Depending on your perspective (and my mood at the moment), this trip is either ‘leaving home’ or ‘going home’. Sometimes I’m so excited that I don’t think I’ll sleep between now and touching down in Atlanta. Other times, like when I find out my friend down the street will be moving over the summer, I just want to stay here and for nothing to change.
I love our life here right now. I mean, we just bought our very first (albeit third-hand) dryer and the buutik down the street now knows us well enough to deliver whatever we need that day. I’m writing this on the balcony, listening to wind chimes, drinking café Layal from my favorite mug, looking out over our neighborhood and the ocean. Why would I ever want to leave this?
Because out of the last 10 years, I’ve spent only 9 months in the US.
Because today is my mom’s birthday and I can’t hug her and tell her I love her.
Because Chick Fil A and Marietta Pizza Co.
Because my son will go to parks with grass and walk on sidewalks.
Because Jazmine is talking now, Renae and Sammy run around the house wearing costumes and the girls ran the mile last week. And we aren’t there for it.
Because 4th of July fireworks and stores open 24/7.
But here’s the thing. As much as I
want crave America times, I know this:
The further I am from America, the more American I feel. And the further I am from Africa, the more African I feel.
I’m never fully at home in either place. Sometimes realizing how hard it is for me to fit in and follow the conversations in America is difficult… and even embarrassing. It’s like driving with cruise control on, but not being completely sure you set it correctly.
I feel like I’ll always be ‘that girl from Africa’. When someone’s complimenting my cool bracelets or the fact that my son says words in Wolof, I love being that girl. But I don’t like feeling like I’m seen through some kind of Africa filter.
Over the years I’ve found friends in the US who love and understand me, no matter which culture I’m living in or living out that day. My cousin-in-law Beth is a perfect example. She’s never been to Africa and at first glance may be the last person you think could ‘get’ me. Oh, but she does. She loves me and my family and the parts she doesn’t understand, she asks about rather than ignoring them.
As in most things, being a parent adds a whole new dimension to all of this. On the one hand, I am so proud of my little guy who walks into a room and initiates shaking hands with the adults – just like any well-mannered Senegalese child. I love when he hollers “AU REVOIR!” when we leave a friend’s home or brings me his teddy bear to tie on his back. On the other hand, I feel myself wanting to protect him from the chuckles if he does this in America.
Most days what I want for him is something I’ve never learned to do: walk the tightrope between cultures. But ultimately what I want is to love him no matter what culture he finds himself living in our living out, for him to be secure in the fact that his experiences make him unique, and to know that ‘home’ is wherever God leads you.