Friday, May 21, 2010

time to go

So this is it. The paperwork is done, all medical tests cleared, bags are packed and yes, I'm ready to go. Sunday, Inch'Allah, I will fly away. And I do say "Inch'Allah" not because I think that it won't happen, but because I really hope that it will. That all will go well, that I will leave roughly on time and arrive around time, make all my connections and get where I am going "in peace, all in one piece," as I have taken to praying every time I get into a shaky sept-place or public bus.

But I also believe, somehow, that even if I am late, if I end up paying an arm and a leg (and maybe a spare kidney) for my excess baggage, that I will, eventually, get home. That no matter what happens, from now on, I can deal with it. Because of what I have lived here, because of what I have learned here, I feel up to whatever comes next. So come Sunday I will still cross my fingers and say a little prayer, but I will also remember that whatever happens, it will all work out.

"How will it?" you might say.
I don't know. It's a mystery - but one that doesn't frighten me so much anymore.

NB: To those of you out there who read this, especially to those in particular who know who they are, please deploy your bubbles of security Sunday through Monday for me and my travel partner Diana, as even modern technology can use a little boost. Bu sobee Yalla (God willing) we will arrive, but I will travel a little easier knowing that bubble is out there. Merci mille fois, et en attendant de vous voir je vous embrasse tres fort!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

may you go in peace, and arrive in peace...

But the news is not all bad. So many people have wished me well these last few days, I feel the combined strength of their prayers propelling me on to finish my last tasks, motivating me to pack my bags, clean out my room and say my final goodbyes.

Friday my Senegalese mom Rama threw me a party at our house, and so many people came, I was overwhelmed. I had invited about thirty, people I have worked with mostly, a few friends and relatives of my family, and after I had wondered if anyone would show up at all, most of them came, and then a few more. A goat was killed in honor of the event, and the night before I helped Rama to cut up two big bowls of carrots and turnips to marinate for topping the rice and meat. Somehow as if by magic there was enough food for everyone who kept coming, one single bottle of Coke in the ice bucket at the end of the afternoon, and just enough meat and onions left over for Rama to make a pot of soup for a quiet dinner.

I spent most of the day on my feet, greeting and smiling and taking in the presence of all these people who had come to see me off. The last guest left after 6pm, and after pounding peppercorns for Rama's soup I got a warm bucket bath at 7, tired but happy.

Tonight is my last night in town, in my own bed, until I get back to the States in three weeks, bu sobee Yalla. I need to get back to the house now and sit a spell with my family, because tomorrow is goodbye.

To my family back home, I'm coming soon. Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you and can't wait to see you!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

genn rekk (just get out)

The days are rushing by.
Barely a week left before I have to pack up and leave this town.
My head is spinning, and all of a sudden it's goodbye. I don't want to say it.
Wish I could slip out quietly in the night, grab by bags, slide the keys under the door as I steal away.

Genn rekk. Bagne wakh kenn. Dem.

But I can't do that. (Just get out, not tell anyone, go.)
As hard as it is, I have to say goodbye. I just wonder if I'll have the time to see everyone I want to before I go. More than that, if I'll have the energy to.

Each time I shake another person's hand, each time someone else says "really? you're leaving?" I feel a little part of me tug and wrench. I fear if I keep on saying goodbye all the little tugs will combine to pull me to pieces.

Yes, I waited until the week before leaving to tell most people I know that I'm going. But in this country, it's not like you send out a memo a month before an event. You invite people to meetings the day before, or at most a week in advance. If I had told people a month ago that I was leaving town this coming Monday, most of them would forget way before then, and I'd just have to remind them again, making saying goodbye all the more painful. Now people are accusing me of surprising them, of not caring enough to give them advance notice that I'm leaving. It's not that, I tell them, though they're not really listening because they're too busy scolding me for my indifference.

I know a part of me waited so long to say goodbye because I didn't want people to treat me any differently these last few weeks. I'm the kind of person who doesn't want to bother other people, who hates people fussing over me. Leaving, I have learned, has instigated people here to start telling me how much they will miss me, how great I am, how my Wolof is so great now it's a shame that I'm just going to leave and forget it all, how I shouldn't go, etc. etc., and it just makes me embarrassed and tired all at once. I know I should be flattered, and I am, but I still wish they could just be happy for me that I will soon rejoin my family and friends and country. I know it's hard for them to see it that way, but the few people who can are the easiest ones to say goodbye to.

Part of me feels terrible, being bitter about leaving, but there are so many reasons that make it hard. Take the people, for instance, who ask if here is not good enough for me, who say derisively that I must be in a hurry to go back to America if I'm so happy about leaving Senegal. I'll never be able to make those people understand why I can't stay. I have just another six days here in Joal, but part of me wishes I were leaving tomorrow, that I could just get it over with already.

Once I leave town I'll have a little respite in Dakar, Alhamdulilah. Two weeks to relax a bit, see any sites I haven't yet seen, spend time with some of my best friends. But then soon enough again I'll have to say goodbye to more people I care about.

I've been warned that this is only the beginning of the heartbreak.