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Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal Bridge Year Program.

The Hesitancy to Yak

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Our instructors are always encouraging us to Yak. They want us to share our experiences with our family, friends, Princeton and Dragons staff, and everyone else who is eager to hear about our time here in Senegal.

While I am no doubt support this aspiration, I am still hesitant to Yak. Not because it requires massive academic rigor or because I hate writing, but because my greatest fear in doing so is to perpetuate stereotypes of the “nation” of Africa and the developing world.

I recognize that my experience as a “toubab” (foreigner in Wolof), will naturally be a viewpoint completely out of context of what is actually happening, thus in sharing my experiences, I may unknowingly simplify complex social, religious, and cultural structures.

Since our initial arrival at the airport, I have had many experiences when I thought, “this would be a great Yak” but my fear of conveying an incomplete picture of what actually happened leads me to just write it in my journal instead.

I simply share this because the pressure to Yak is real and I genuinely want to Yak because it’s a great way to share with others. Despite my hesitations, I plan to Yak more often in the coming weeks but I not only speak for myself when I say that it’s hard to write about our experiences in a way that acknowledges the drastically different cultural context in which we are now living in. In any case, I realize now that aside from sharing with others, Yaking provides us the opportunity to reflect on our experiences and our notions of normality. I look forward to the many more eye-opening experiences I will have, and the many potential Yaks that will result.