The Dutchman Gerben Potman studied Tropical Forestry at the Wageningen University when he did his internship in Senegal. He was stationed in the village Borama (about 2000 inhabitants) in the eastern parts of this West African country. Another student Juliëtte stayed there as well. During the time he spent there (June till November 1988) he wrote letters to his relatives and his friends and he kept notes about his daily life, his daily despair and his daily joy.
In this book (Lonely in Senegal) he writes about his experience of ‘cultureshock’, he is not afraid to write about his own despair and to criticize the people and the systems he meets. He did in his letters home, his notes and in face to face situations with co-workers and fellow villagers. At the end of his book he gives a scientific resume of what ‘cultureshock’ entails. Best to leave that part till the end.
The year 1988 was in the days that the world wide web and national and international communication was at a different level from 2020. people wrote letters from one continent to another and received a reply many weeks later. There was no skype to unburden your heart in that small village in Senegal. It was up to you to connect with your neighbours, to depend on them, to share with them. As a stranger in Borama your own world was light years away.
Nowadays we have the world at our fingertips, but do we know our neighbours and the other people in our area? You can be lonely with the world at your fingertips.
Gerben Potman – Eenzaam in Senegal – 1991