Travel & Design Blog - BY YASMIN METZ-JOHNSON

Monday, 22 February 2016

Changing Continents: Europe to Africa


I have been in the West of Africa for all of 2016 so far, and it’s a decision I have not come to regret. I want to say it was hard to make the choice to leave the life I know and love in the UK. But I wasn’t because I had every intention to return back home. My move wasn’t planned, it almost just happened and I have chosen to go along with it.

I spent January back in my native country Sierra Leone with my family.  As I was there I thought why not visit my adopted home country (Senegal) before returning back to London.  If you follow my blog you will know I spent 6 months in Dakar, Senegal from 2013-2014 on a work placement scheme before completing my final year of BA Interior Architecture in London. (I would recommend taking the opportunity to do an internship/university placement abroad – seize the chance to travel whenever possible!). Before my first time visiting Senegal I was completely unaware of francophone Africa, unaware is not the correct word, I was aware of course it just wasn’t on my radar. After my placement I found that I wanted to visit more West African countries, however the majority of these countries are French speaking. The more I read and research on the colonization of Africa in particular that period of history is mind blowing and frustrating to learn all at the same time. During my time in school I had just been taught about ‘Great’ Britain and every country they invaded. It makes you think who decides/ chooses what chapters of history we learn in school?  – I’ll stop there, and save it for another post.

Anyway the point I’m trying to make is I have to speak French if I want to visit/get by in nine out of the sixteen countries that make West Africa. I learnt what I could of French during my first stint in Dakar, it was not easy I could just about converse, but it was only a matter of time before I returned back to London. You know the saying. If you don’t use it you lose it! So here I am Anglophone African trying to make it in Francophone Africa lets not forget there are the local spoken languages (Wollof predominantly here) to learn also! Lucky for me I was able to get a job at the same firm I did my placement at so that is where I am. Everyone who knows me knows I have always wanted to return to Senegal at some point and why not sooner than later. Going on past experience, I think as an individual you have a much better quality of life in Africa, from the cost of living, to contentment with yourself and lets not forget all that natural vitamin D.


The Transition:
It has not been easy, I'm miss my family and friends so so much! But I know in the long run it will be worth it. I am a firm believer of change and getting out of your comfort zone to discover yourself.
Yes I have more than a dozen mosquito bites and the power might cut out occasionally but so many greater factors override this. I'm learning new skills every day.

The Benefits:

It is the little things that make the difference such as the climate, the sun shines most of the time. I love that I don’t have to where a jacket on my way to work, I'm always wearing sandals unless if I'm going on site. I'm no longer waste a fraction of my wage on TFL. My apartment is £100 a month instead of £500 a month for a bedroom in London. I love the weather, the food, the people, I’m getting déja vu just writing this as many of the reasons why I have returned are covered in the post ‘Things I will miss about Dakar’. Its also refreshing to no longer be in the minority, to look around and see that most people look like you. (It sounds weird even saying that, but if you have grown up and lived your life where despite being born there, your descendants are from elsewhere - you will understand what I mean). I don't usually make references within my posts but I'm going to as this is appropriate and come to mind. I watched Idris Elba's speech at the house of parliament recently, he was calling out for the lack of diversity in race, sex, disabled actors etc. in the British media. And he mentions how he stopped watching TV as he couldn't resinate with the content. Then I thought to myself that makes logical sense this is probably why I don't watch TV back at home in the UK. I watch one show and one show only - Scandal (American series). Your not going to watch something you can't relate to, not all the time anyway. Overall I think I appreciate where I am at the moment because I feel represented. I wish I could explain it better but fundamentally I feel a lot more at ease with everything when I am here. I'm sure anyone who visits here will highly agree once they have stayed here for a week or longer. More from me on my second dosage of Dakar. Who knows how long I could be out here for!






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