It's a little after three in the morning and I've reached that pre-departure anxiousness that leaves me unable to sleep or stop wondering what exactly is ahead or if I'm forgetting anything behind. I'm streaming music on-line, listening to the Southern bands whose shows I used to regularly attend, while the drone of my parents' snoring rolls under the melodies. Like the calls to prayer, the honking of taxis and the bicycle tires treading gravel roads in Tunisia, it did not take long for me to grow accustomed to the sounds of Louisville again--the ring of my cell phone when a friend calls, my father's constant listening to CNN and the thumping bass of cars driving down my block, their "pimped out" rims bouncing in the stale Louisville air. Unlike my Tunisian summer, however, Louisville carries with it a certain feeling of nostalgia--of being here, but living in the past every time I go over to a best friend's house or hang out at my favorite coffee shop. And it carries with it a certain feeling of leaving--constantly calling travel agents to organize the complex criss-cross of flights I have taken and will take this year, filling out clearances for a job I will have in 4 years and rehearsing verb conjugations for a language I will speak daily in less than a week. Maybe that, more than anything, is what makes Louisville a home, in the Yohannes family sense of the word--the place you live, come back to and leave again, but a place in which your whole self is never truly settled.
On Sunday I leave for Senegal. I am already dreading the rude alarm clock awakening for my 6 a.m. flight, but I am both excited and curious for my semester in Senegal. To give you all a glimpse of my upcoming year, here is a rough itinerary (to be detailed after the fact):
August 30 to Mid-October: I will be in Dakar (Senegal's capitol), taking classes in French about development, Senegal and the Wolof language. I will live with a host family and study with the thirty-some other MSID (Minnesota Studies in International Development) students.
Mid-October to early December: I move to a rural location in Senegal, where I will spend six weeks completing an internship with a local non-profit. I will live with another host family and will be apart from the other students.
Early December to December 11: Our final week of the program is spent back in Dakar, where we write a paper and wrap up the program.
December 13 to January 2: I will have a real Parisian adventure! Melinda and I are spending about a week in Paris, seeing how our African French holds up. Then, I will head to Germany (I'm so happy to be going back!), where I will spend Christmas with some family friends.
January 2 to June 6: My semester as part of the Macalester Program in Globalization from a Comparative Perspective begins with a month long seminar led by Macalester faculty and staff, during which we will visit the Hague, Brussels and Amsterdam (!!!). Then, I will take classes at the University of Maastricht, live in international student dorms with the other participants (there are six of us together) and work on a big research paper I will have started researching in Senegal.
There is an Arabic word that should follow all of this: Inshallah, or hopefully, God-willing. Until my ultimate road trip of sorts begins, I have a lot to fit in. From the State Fair and visits to my favorite neighborhoods to sharing food with good friends and family to saying good-byes to people and places I only just said hello to, I will try to make the most of my last few days in this city. You probably won't hear from me until I have touched down in Senegal. Like in Tunisia, I will try to post as regularly as I can, but I have no idea what that will mean for this trip.