A New Chapter
Tolkien is one of my (Jeremy) favorite authors and I have been reminded of his iconic character Frodo Baggins several times over the last two weeks here in Senegal. Frodo's adventures (in the trilogy The Lord of the Rings) all began when he decided to make "dangerous" decision of stepping out his front door. And that one decision forever changed his life.
And for our young family, our lives are rapidly changing as we begin to make West Africa our new home. Some days it feels overwhelming and exhausting. Some days it is exhilarating and inspiring. Some days - it feels like a kaleidoscope mix of all of those emotions.
Why are we undergoing such a dramatic transition?
Each of us is faced with the decision of how we will make the most "with the time that is given us." That is why we are here in Senegal: to be faithful with the time and talents God has gifted us.
Like Frodo Baggins, we don't know where taking these first steps will take us. But we do know that this new chapter will forever change our lives.
Our time here in Senegal has started very well due in large part to the dozens of individuals (fellow missionaries, local church leaders, and church members) who have gone out of their way to help us in our move here to the capital city of Dakar. Without their help in translating the culture and two main languages (French and Wolof), our transition would be much more challenging.
These new friends have helped us move into our new apartment, navigate grocery stores, and teach us how to get a taxi. They've made meals for us, given us rides to church, and introduced us to delicious local cuisine.
And because of them, many of these following highlights were made possible for our family:
- We rode in our first taxi cab! While this wouldn't be much of an accomplishment in the US, we count it as a victory because it means we successfully hailed a driver, explained where we wanted to go, negotiated a price for the ride, and arrive where we intended to!
- A young adult mission trip from South Africa served here in Dakar for a week and we had a wonderful time getting to know them. Also, they fell in love with Zane (and understandably so)! They led worship our first Sunday here for church and took part in an "open-mic" night that we attended as well.
- Our new apartment is quickly becoming home as we decorate it (with our new 12 inch tree) for Christmas and get to know our new neighborhood. We are going on daily walks through the neighborhood and finding the best corner shops and grocery stores near us.
- We attended a Christmas concert at the local missionary school here in Dakar (it's where we took our first taxi to!). It was a wonderful evening of music by the middle and high schoolers, as well as meeting other families in the city. (And Zane loved the Christmas cookies people shared with him as well!)
- We have been able to sample various foods - including Senegalese Maafé (chicken in a delicious peanut sauce with rice). And all of it is amazing!
In addition to the several highlights of the past two weeks, here are some of the things we have learned as well:
- "Peace" is one of the top priorities of Senegal as a nation - which may play a role into why it is such an open and accepting country.
- Based off their French influence, Senegalese refer to the second floor (by US standards) as the first floor. Because the bottom floor is referred to as the "rez-de-chaussée" (think: curbside level) rather than first floor. So our apartment is one flight of stairs up, on the first floor.
- Cheddar cheese is not a common product here. (But there are plenty of fancy French cheeses available!)
- Asking for the bathroom will confuse people because you are asking about a room with a shower (to bathe). Rather, ask for the "toilet."
All in all, we can sum up our first two weeks here in Senegal as a roller coaster ride of blessings and challenges. Many days end with us feeling exhausted from navigating the culture and language of our new home, but we know with 100% confidence that this is where God has called us to!
Thank you for joining us in our journey as enter this new chapter of our lives in West Africa! As we seek to make the most of our time on earth, we hope you do the same where God has called you.
(And comment below with any questions about life here in Senegal that you would like answered!)
From our family to yours, we hope you are having a blessed Advent!
-Jeremy, Reetu, and Zane
p.s. - here's more photos from our first two weeks here in Dakar: