Sunday, February 22, 2009

The End is Near

After nearly two years of living in Senegal, my stagaires and I are preparing our trip back to civilization. After WAIST we all attended our three day Close of Service conference where we talk about the logistics of reentering American life such as job-hunting, grad school applications, health insurance, and mental readjustment. We were bombarded with numerous forms and reports that we are responsible for finishing before we are allowed to leave, as well as many medical examinations and tests (including urine, blood, TB, and the three compulsory stool samples.) Its really not as fun as it sounds.

While everyone is talking about where to go to school and where to live and what to do, I'm secretly worried about the many behaviors that we as volunteers have picked up in Senegal that may not be...well...considered acceptable to most mentally equipped Americans. As the time draws closer I've begun making a checklist of things to keep in mind as I prepare for my triumphant return.

Once in a America DO NOT:

Pick your nose in public.
Threaten to steal children.
Talk about people (their appearance, behavior, odor, etc.) right in front of them. (They probably speak English too...)
Climb to the roof to go to bed at night.
Comment on the state of every bathroom you see.
Hiss, click, or snap at people to get their attention.
Treat children like personal servants. ("Hey, you, go buy me a soda.")
Walk into a grocery store and ask them to lower the price on tomatoes.
Ask a clerk how their family is before conducting business.
Completely ignore the male population.
Blow snot rockets.
Sleep under a mosquito net. (I'm pretty sure you can't get Malaria in the US...)
Slip a police officer $2 dollars when pulled over for speeding.
Show up 2 and half hours late for meetings.
Get into a car that's lacking all windows, upholstery, has wires holding the doors shut and goats tied to the roof.
Marry a man that already has a wife.
Deny fault for everything and blame the desires of Allah.
Eat off of someone else's plate.
Tell parents that their child is ugly.


America has an intricate set of traffic laws that are enforced.
Toilet paper is plentiful and its use is expected.
Bathing requires nothing more than turning a knob, not filling up cups of water and pouring them on yourself.
Utensils are usually used at meal times.
Its customary to smile in pictures.
If you chase disrespectful children around threatening to beat them with a stick, their parents might be a little upset.