Friday, April 19, 2013

Only Until Next Time

The morning I left Salémata I didn't take any photos. The night before, Jackie, Jubal, Katie O. and Katie W. had all spent the night, and when we woke they went to the garage to see about bean sandwiches and a car as I started to clear out my hut.

I stacked my water filter and trunk outside, set aside the furniture and gas tank for Katie W., and gave most of my clothes and buckets and tubs and miscellaneous things to my host family. Mariama Kesso brought Fatou in and helped me to stack things and divide up the photos and cards and t-shirts. She had the kids bring the buckets and things over to my host father, to be distributed later on. The older kids stopped by to say good-bye; they were stoic and so was I, but when Mariama Gaulo gave me a long, tearful hug, a bracelet, and a beautiful letter, even Mariama Kesso started to well up and I started to sniffle.

Her little brother Mamadou also gave me a heartfelt farewell letter, and all the women, Mariama, Kade, Hassanatou, and Saliou Njan, couldn't look at me without crying. Earlier, Sada, my host father, had presented me with six meters of gorgeous, costly indigo fabric as a gift from the whole family, and my host mother Mariama had given me baobab powder and shea butter. They both said wonderful things, about me and my family and my time in Senegal, reminded me to call when I got to America, and wished me well. I haven't cried so much in a very long while, and certainly not in public. Painful as it was, it was good to know that I'd invested in my life here, that I built relationships that were worth missing, and it was good to see that they cared about me and would miss me as well.

When the time came everyone gathered under the mango tree, Sada and I both made short farewell speeches, and there was not a dry eye on the compound. He finished by remarking that "People say, when they see a good person, that they came from a good family. You came from a good family, and we thank your mother and father. Wherever you go I know that you will do well, because you have done well here and you are a good person. May God bless you and your family, may God grant you good health and good luck, and may God make your road smooth. And this, today, this is not "good-bye," this is only "until next time." Adama, we will see you next time."

Then everyone rose, and picked up my bags and my trunk and my boxes, and we all walked down to meet the car. I didn't have anything to carry, so I carried Fatou, who happily tugged on my braids and poked at my glasses and ate the cookies that a shopkeeper offered me as we walked past. Everyone thanked me, and blessed me, and shook my hands and I did my best to return all the gratitude and well-wishes. My host family made sure we all got into the car, which took awhile, and waved goodbye when the car finally pulled out. I put on my sunglasses to shield my red and puffy eyes, put on my scarf and bandana to keep the dust out, and then just sat there, was so very glad that Jackie and Jubal and Katie O. and Katie W. were wedged in beside me.  

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