Monday, July 9, 2012

Goodbyes and all that Entails

Now let’s get to the heart of this post series.  GOODBYE.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Was it hard! There were so many goodbyes, it felt like it was unending. 

I had to say adios to many volunteers that have become close friends, knowing we would most likely all end up in Amerik eventually, but with no assurance that we would see each other again.  That part was hard but I could trick myself into believing that we would all be together very soon, because we were all going to the village of America.

The infinitely harder part was saying goodbye to my Senegalese village, family and friends.  When I started with my girls group and the tears came a-flowing, I knew this was going to be one of the hardest things I had ever done.   Then there was my refuge of Wassadou.  I said goodbye to the river, the hippos, the monkeys, my favorite ginormous tree and all of the workers of the hut-style hotel that have provided me with a cold beer and good company when I really needed a break from village.  Next up were my Catholics.  Illi, the man I have constantly gone to for advice or inspiration, took me to his garden and made me promise that I’d be back.  I said so many goodbyes to his daughters I can’t even count them, each of us always wanting one last hug or guarantee that we would see each other again.

The kicker.  Goodbye to my family and physically walking out of my village.  The night before I left my family decided for me how we were going to handle everything.  They made me promise I would stay for breakfast and that we could all walk to the road together and wait for a car for me. I had considered saying goodbye that night and leaving at call to prayer at 5a.m. to make goodbye less painful but they would hear none of it.  That night we sat around eating American popcorn (huge hit), drinking crystal light mixes and playing Parcheesi.  I was spoiled with a huge bowl of leaf sauce all to myself.

We hung out late into the night and my sister Hawa even moved her kids to my other sisters room so that w.  It was hard to go to bed, knowing that this would be the last night I would get to hang out with my sisters like this.  Issa said, “tomorrow I’ll be laying down passing the evening lonely without you…” This has always been one of the best things about village.  Laying next to my tokora (namesake) outside or in bed, with the babies and talking about life.  I knew that night that it would be one of the things I’d miss the most and boy has it proved true.

That morning I woke up super early, outside on my stick bed, under my mosquito net in my backyard and I couldn’t get back to sleep knowing this was the day I would walk out of my village and leave my family behind me.  I did some last minute packing and more give-aways, but mostly just sat outside with my family.  Several family members came in my hut just to look around and be in “my space” before it was not mine anymore. 
(Here is the video I took of my compound that last morning.)

Last breakfast was corn gossi (pounded corn boiled in salt water).  I can’t say I’ll miss that although I did eat up just to get the taste imprinted in my memory. This is the video I took of my compound before leaving.

When it came time to go, my brothers Souleyman and Diakari Yow got the donkey cart ready and took it to the road while the rest of us walked behind.  I said goodbye to my dad in my compound and to my mom at the edge of the village,  but Issa, Hawa, Djebou, Ruby, Gassimo, Ramatou, Fanta, Mamadou, Hawa Becky, Binta, Penda, Ami, and Fatou all walked me to the road.  Along the way we stopped at several houses to say last goodbyes and several people ran out to shake my left hand (a gesture that says ‘may God bring us together again’). 

There were a few times when the tears welled up as I looked back at my sisters, and our village behind them and the huge trees on either side.  I couldn’t believe that I was leaving my family, my village, my Senegalese life behind. 

We waited, all together, for about 30 minutes until I had a car.  As soon as the bus came I forced my hugs on everyone (a gesture uncommon in West Africa) and everyone was sharing their last words/goodbyes/left hand shakes.  The tears welled up as my best-friend/namesake/sister kissed me on the cheek (something I’ve never seen in Senegal) and told me not to forget her and how much she’d miss me.  I took a long good look at each of the babies and gave them a kiss on the forehead.  I gave Ruby the biggest hug and told her to study hard and stay in school.  Fatou made it a point to take my left hand and look into my eyes.  She slipped a bracelet on my wrist and before hopping onto the bus I choked up breaking into a full cry, took my bag from Gassimo, said goodbye to him and got in semi-sobbing.

The next hour, (and as I write this now) I could not quit crying.  Knowing that my sisters were walking back to our compound without me and that I wouldn’t see my family in years.  The babies will be kids.  So much will have changed.  I will eventually have trouble communicating in Pulaar…it was/is all so overwhelmingly emotional to think about.  My bus was full of people on there way to a prayer festival so they sang the whole way which was comforting.

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