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Senegalese Ideas of American Culture

The U.S.A is a place of wonder for my homestay family in Temento Samba and it seemed odd to me that they found it to be such. During my free time with my family I talked a lot about my life in the U.S.A with current political conflicts, women’s rights movements, school shootings, immigration, and America’s racial ideals. They’d ask me questions about immigrating to America, and even though I’ve never experienced it, I told stories of my friends who immigrated and the backlash they received. I told them a story about a doctor I knew from the Congo who came to America only to find that his education and background was worthless and that he had to attend college again. I told them a story about my friend who immigrated from Mexico when he was 2 months old, attended school, speaks fluent English, but is being deported in February if he can’t become a citizen by then. And lastly, I told stories of the countless times my friends from Iraq, Burundi, and Sudan have been called racial slurs, robbed, and beat up purely based on the color of their skin.

 

My family was aware of the big picture problems of migrating to America, however, work was the one aspect that made America so attractive to them. It was something I largely took for granted up until now, and it’s one of the driving factors for my family to move to the U.S. I had the opportunity to work a day in my family’s peanut fields which was something I initially was excited about and wanted to do. I worked with my two brothers, farming peanuts from 8 to 11, because it was “cooler” in the morning. The work was much harder than I would have ever thought. The temperature in the morning was around high 80’s, and the work consisted of digging up dirt and pulling out large bushels of peanuts. You would pile up all the peanuts and by the end you’d place them all in one large pile in the center of the field. By the end I was sweaty, covered in dirt, my feet were hurting and I was ready to go to sleep. After one day I never wanted to farm peanuts again, yet this was something that my two brothers would go out and do every morning for far longer than I did. When you compare peanut farming to my first job as a dishwasher at the age of 16, dishwashing is a better deal. I have the utmost respect for people who wash dishes, however, on the job I was given free food, good working conditions, and the occasional raise. I’m not saying that it isn’t hard to come to the U.S.A and to work a low paying, long hour job, but the idea that you could work for 7,500 Senegalese francs (15$) an hour had my family in wonder.

 

I came into this trip thinking that America was one of the last places anyone would want to be. I still hear news of a shooting at a bar that killed 15 people, wildfires in California that killed 40 people, and the predicted foreign aid budget is $0. I don’t want to discourage my family from coming to the U.S because they have to visit me, but if there is one thing I’ve noticed is that people see what they want. This can be applied to anything and it’s something that is done by everyone if they know it or not. My family sees America as a wealthy country where people work simple jobs and get rich, which is true to an extent, but they don’t see it as I do. I see Senegal as a beautiful, peaceful country with welcoming people. So far I’ve been proven right, yet I still don’t see it to the extent that my family does. I know it’s nice to see something for surface value because it makes things simpler, but it’s important to look past that and go deeper. It’s important to study the French colonization, middle schools that are run in the streets of Dakar, and the Koranic teachers who use their students as beggars. The world by face value is simple, and at times its very nice to sit in your courtyard and sip attaya. However looking past that, everything goes deeper. Traveling and learning is essential for everyone’s growth so we can deepen our perspectives and opinions and go beyond face value.