Friendships

As you get older, you realize that your pool of friends slowly diminishes. Sure you may have 1,495 friends on Facebook but how many of those people are true friends? How many of those friends can you call up anytime of the day and say I need to talk and pour your heart out about something shite that just happened or pretty much scream down the phone some super exciting news? If you have more than 5 people you can do this with, well done! If you have more than 10, please email me and let me know how you did this.

When I moved to Senegal, I was worried about making friends. My sister told me not to worry and to remember that I have moved several times in the 3 decades of my life and each time I manage to make a great bunch of friends. My friends reminded me how loveable ( apparently), friendly and open I can be. They reassured me that I would make friends in no time. So I embarked on my journey  hopeful and with a positive attitude.

As I write this, perhaps I have not found my new best friend ( because my best friend still exists and we talk all the time)  but I can definitely say I have made some good friends and several acquaintances. And this is how I managed to do it. 

  1. When you first move to a new country, go to every single party you are invited to. Make that effort to go out. Seriously, if you are a home-body you are going to need to leave your house to meet other people.
  2. Go to events and interest groups around your city. Internations is usually a good start. You will soon realize that everybody is looking for friends.
  3. Exchange numbers with people you meet and plan a “friend date”shortly afterwards.
  4. Keep in touch with people you get along with and invite them to various events.
  5. Try and make friends with people that are in the country long term or are nationals. Eventually your expat friends will leave and you will be all alone. To be honest, this is something that I have not been very successful at doing however I am currently making an effort to do this. My goal by the end of the year, is to have at least one Senegalese friend. And no, the guy that I dated does not count!
  6. Most importantly, be flexible and open to new people and experiences. 

I wrote this post because two of my friends will be leaving Dakar in September and to be honest, I am quite bummed out. While I am happy for them, it is clear that I need to go back to out there and make more friends. Clearly this illustrates that, one should always be meeting new people and making friends as you never know when you current friends might leave 😦 ! 

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M

For a hot second, I thought I found love abroad. I honestly don’t know if it was a potential love, lust, just having someone or maybe a combination of all three but I do believe it was a friendship that progressed into more. So here is the gist, M and I dated for about 2 months and although it was not long for some reason it felt serious. Or at least to me it was.  The first time I hung out with M, it was completely platonic and we could have spent all night chatting but the restaurant kicked us out as we had been there for more than 3 hours and they needed the table. We were so comfortable with each other. I thought Hey, I have found a potential new best friend. Woohoo for me!

Given that we were both single, attracted to each other and with the help of liquid courage, we decided to turn the friendship in a relationship. He did however tell me that his family (extended family) was pressuring him to getting married to a third cousin who he used to date but ultimately it did not work out as they had lifestyle differences. He reiterated that he had absolutely no interest in marrying her or marrying someone from “the family”. In need of reassurance, I  repeatedly asked him to clarify the likelihood of this happening and his response varied from I do not know, I don’t think so, probably not, if the khalif makes a decision for me, I will have to comply, to and an eventual no. Once I heard the “no”, my mind was at peace and I stopped asking. Clearly looking back, the real answer was not “no”. I should have used common sense and walked away or at minimum been prepared that one day he would tell me that he was getting married.

That day came and it ended our relationship. I was speechless. I could not understand why he said yes considering that he promised me hours before going to see his family that he would say no. Since the first day we met he said that was not the life he wanted for himself. He assured me in times of doubt during our relationship that the life he wanted was a future with me despite any challenges we may face: I am not a traditional, Muslim Senegalese Woman. He reassured me that while he is a Muslim Senegalese Man, his religion and nationality do not define him or his future. A future with me aligns with what he wants regardless of what his family wants. Ultimately he claimed  that he wanted to stand on his own and he wanted me.

So as you can imagine, my emotions were shock, anger and sadness (filled with self-doubt) when M came back from visiting the family and told me he agreed to marry his third cousin. He kept saying that I just don’t understand. So to help me better understand the situation, I spoke to a few people more accustomed to Senegalese culture and  a Senegalese coworker and it became clear that my story is all too common in Senegal. People can date for years and meet the parents, but when it comes to marriage (at least the first) family approval is required. If the family says no, their decision is final unless you are one of the rare few that will stand up to them. So if the family presents you with someone you know it is easier to just say yes and hope for the best. Even if you still have lifestyle differences and the marriage would mean her sacrificing something she was not ready to sacrifice for you less than a year ago. Worst case scenario you get divorced or cheat on each other. After all, divorce in Senegal is not uncommon so if it does not work out the first time, you can get divorced and marry the one you want the second time around. Or, just take a second, third or fourth wife.

As my brother said, even if M did not cave under family pressure this time he may have in a month, a year or after we got engaged and then no matter what I did (convert, speak the language, learn the customs and traditions), I would not have been accepted by the family. I am not a traditional, Muslim, Senegalese Woman. I am not from the family. I probably would have ended up in the same position but with the sadness and bruised ego amplified.

To M, I am quoting Beyonce ” you seem to be the best thing I never had” and since I am not Adele I don’t wish the best for you and your future wife/cousin because you hurt me. I do however want to thank you from saving me from what may have been a very painful experience.

 

Tindering Abroad

When I moved to Senegal in October 2015, and although I was moving for work, I  hoped to meet someone as well. Yes, I was also looking for love to enhance to my experience and perhaps convince myself that I made the right decision. As such, I decided to put myself out there. I made an effort to go out, go to parties, meet people and make new friends. I channeled my Gemini-side and started making friends quickly and realized that many young and single people were like me. We all shared the similar aspiration with a few exceptions that were DTF . We became friends and  after speaking to a few of these people, I found out that a number of them were on Tinder and I thought why not?  Yes, Tinder may be a hook-up site but we always hear about those couples that met on Tinder and are now married with 2.5 kids, a dog and a white picket fence. Wait, since I am in Senegal let me change it to 4 children, a cat and a house by the beach ;).

slider-heartSo, mid-November/ early-December I downloaded the app and matched with a few people. Not realising that there was a limited pool of people, I was quick to swipe left on many and eventually ran out of “new profiles”. Nonetheless, I had a few matches that resulted in some conversations on the app, exchanging numbers, whatsapping / texting, a few calls and eventual first dates.

This is what I learned:

  1. People will omit being single-parents until you meet in person. I have nothing against single-parents but I was not looking for that.
  2. Tinder does not include height and as such I ended up on a date with a nice-guy who was probably 5″3. I am 5″8.5 so the height difference was quite noticeable.
  3. You should not develop a strong rapport until you meet in person. I spent about a month chatting with a guy I had matched with before the holidays. We continued chatting while we were abroad just to keep contact and when we eventually met, there was so much anticipation for the meeting that it did not live up to it and frankly we both left disappointed.
  4. Online pictures are not always 100% accurate (duh!). If all the pictures you see of a guy do not include close-ups or all close-up pictures have his mouth slightly covered (by a scarf),  you best believe he has a weird mouth or F’ed up teeth.
  5. You know how some people don’t really look like their picture IRL and that can be disappointing? Well, if you look better than your picture IRL, that can also be disappointing. I got a “wow you are gorgeous” look when I met my Tinder date who then processed to ask me if I like “classy” stuff and then look disgusted when my response was “sure, why not?“. I’m sorry that I don’t look like I want to hang out in the hood with you.. 8-| 

So after these experiences from two dates and being faint at heart, I needed a break. I deleted my profile, removed the app from my phone and decided to live vicariously through my friends. Little, did I know that I would be downloading the app again in a few months…