Can I call Dakar, Senegal, “my home,” even though I’ll be here for just two short years? What does home mean, after all? To me, it signifies a place of comfort, of happiness, of belonging.
Do I belong? I don’t look Senegalese, that’s for sure. The people are tall, beautiful, dark-skinned. I’m decidedly short and white, a sore thumb amongst many long, slim fingers. But a friendly smile is a friendly smile, no matter if the face directed toward you is white, black or purple. These welcoming smiles are aplenty here in Dakar, and it’ll be hard to get used to not saying hi to every random person on the street once we return to America. The Senegalese seem to view everyone as a friend they simply haven’t met before, rather than as a stranger.
I’m become comfortable in Dakar, no longer intimidated by its exhaust and dirt and noise. I look forward to waking up here every day, and I’m surrounded by good friends, pleasant neighbors and a loving husband. I have a deep respect for the culture, the religion, and the people and their way of life. So yes, even though I’m foreign and only temporarily African, Dakar is certainly home to me. And I’m ever so grateful for the experience.