Today I met my host dad (Papa Daniel) for the first time. I heard his voice before I actually met him. He’d been gone since I arrived to Dakar and was just coming back from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem (I live with a Catholic family). Both of my host parents are retired and my Aunt mentioned that this was a real treat for him to be able to go visit France, Italy, and finally Israel.
I’d been anticipating his arrival ever since I met my family and was feeling nervous about meeting him. I don’t really know why I felt nervous – perhaps it was because of the Senegalese patriarchal society that I knew of, or because he was ‘my father,’ or simply because he would be another new family member I’d have to meet. All I could think about was, ‘man, I hope he likes me cause he’s the head honcho of this house!’
When I finally did meet him, his tall stature and his age (he’s a bit less agile than my mother) already intimidated me without him having to say anything. I felt relieved knowing I couldn’t say much to him anyway because I had to walk (an hour) to school in a few minutes.
Later that night when it was just him and I watching TV together in the living room, I tried to make small talk but utterly failed and was so nervous for some reason that I started wringing my hands! I felt like I was a little kid who got into trouble but didn’t really know why.
Plus it didn’t help that he had a low voice and anytime he asked a question or said something in response, I had to lean in and say ‘huh?’
Ohh boy….I’ve got a long way to go.