Leaving the airport in Dakar, Senegal and landing in New York was one of the most terrifying events of my life. Did something go wrong you might ask? Nope. Only reverse culture shock. Ironic how I was filled with excitement and joy when landing in Senegal, what was supposed to be a foreign land, but experienced the complete opposite when returning "home". Here's an excerpt from my journal to give you a brief idea of where my thoughts were at that exact moment:
May 12, 2012
"Landing in New York now. I haven't been on American soil in a long time and I'm having an inward panic attack. The crowds of toubabs (white people) will be intimidating with everyone bustling around in their fancy clothes and speaking English. I'm scared."
Looking back on that day, I realize that I didn't simply adjust to the culture and go through the acceptable motions of a Senegalese individual. I was truly thinking like an African. Which is why these next few months and YEAR would prove to be so difficult to face.
After a short period of hellos to my family and friends, I hit the ground running, already with my next agenda in motion. During my last few months in Senegal, I applied to work at a summer camp in Royse City called Sabine Creek Ranch. I knew I couldn't go home to sit in my house all summer and miss the faces of those I'd left behind in Senegal. I'd always wanted to work at a summer camp, so why not now?
It was an all day-all night job that required the staffs' full attention and devotion to the camp, each other, and most importantly every kid who attended. The one con to this decision was that I never had time to fully recuperate and reflect on everything I had just poured my life into a world away from where I was. I thought I was doing great, but little did I know it would eventually catch up with me. The pros of this decision still far outweighed that one con! Sabine Creek Ranch was my summer ministry and I saw God work in a lot of children's lives, bringing many of them to Christ. It gave me reassurance that God is always nearby, no matter how many different places I go, He's going to stick with me.
Shout out to Sabine Creek Staff.....y'all are the BEST! You gave me friendships that will last a lifetime, fun times with lots of laughter, uplifting and encouraging words, and hugs when the tears came. I would have fallen apart without you guys.
In January, I began attending Texas A&M University, majoring in International Studies. I have three semesters left and still have every intention of one day becoming a full-time missionary over seas, being a servant in places that few people are willing or able to go. Where and when is the question, and one that I am waiting on God to answer.
After one year, you'd think I would have this whole living in America thing figured out. Truth is....I don't. The reverse culture shock is much more mild than it used to be, but I believe it still lingers.
The first month I was back was a mixture of doing embarrassing things and feeling weird: speaking in Wolof to the cashier at Starbucks, forgetting street names and basic directions within the perimeter of my own house, and feeling scandalous every time I went out in public wearing shorts. Upon returning I discovered that, in fact, time does not freeze while you are gone. People move on and change; your best friends aren't your best friends anymore. Those who dropped me off at the airport one year ago were not the same ones who picked me back up. It was hard. Not to mention, the shocking snowstorms Texas welcomed me back with in the winter. The lower temperatures were not pleasant for my African acclimated body, so I was constantly sick. And I mean every other week sick for months. Only God knows how I could become sick in America more than I would ever dream of being in Senegal.
Nowadays, I'm back into the old patterns and swing of life in the states. The emotional struggles are present and show up every once in awhile. I'm happy to be back with family and loved ones, and I'm thankful for the time I have with them, but I know I'm meant to do more. I ignore thoughts of Senegal, knowing its a dangerous place for my mind to wander. Apart from praying, there's no reason to live in the past. On the rare occasions when I let memories float into my thoughts, my longing to return to the dusty streets of Africa spreads like wildfire and bursts through in either a short temper or tears.
It's like I'm a GPS that needs to recalculate. Literally, because geographically I still want to think I'm in Africa, but I need to be told that I'm in America. And figuratively, because maybe I need to re-adjust my plans and expectations of myself. Let me tell you, if I was in charge of this GPS, I'd be "recalculating" my little Ford truck all the way to the Atlantic ocean and say drive 5,072 miles until you feel the tires bump land. You have reached your final destination, AKA "mother land Africa". But....there is a time and a season for everything.
I feel stuck in a typical busy pattern of going to class and work. I feel antsy and out place nearly 90% of the time, and I wonder if God has given me this feeling for a reason, as a nudge of sorts. Maybe it's not only about missing Africa. Maybe I'm meant for more and I'm not living up to all God has for me or utilizing the talents and gifts He has given me. Ministry won't look the same here as it did in Senegal. It just won't. It will be different, but different doesn't mean less important. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I have a passion for serving and for people from other cultures, but how to go about that when I've been jumping from Dallas, to Royse City, to Quinlan, and to College Station is tricky. God wants me to do something big, but specifics would help right about now!
Prayers for a specific passion to serve the Lord in this new season of life would be greatly appreciated! Thank you all again so much for your support. If anyone would like to read more updates, let me know. I have several blog posts that were never published from my last few weeks in Senegal and my travels to Sierra Leone where God showed his provision in the greatest way yet.