I will be posting a few updates as I settle in to life at home, so stay posted. I would love to chat with anyone who wants to who wants to hear more about my journey and share what you’ve been up to while I’ve been gone. I will also be sharing with various groups in the next couple weeks: Genesis Sunday School this Sunday@9am at Central Baptist, CRU meeting at Augie this Monday @9pm. I hope to do one for those who are interested on April 3 in the afternoon (exact time TBA), location TBA. Please let me know if you are interested in coming. It should be about 1 hour.
Conference – written Feb 24
I had to start some of my goodbyes during the conference that we had. I was surprised at the emotion that bubbled up as I had to say my formal goodbye to the whole team. Most I would see again in the next few weeks, but some I had to say goodbye for the last time. It seems strange to be saying goodbye and honestly not know if I will ever see these wonderful people again. But as a good family friend always says, “it is never goodbye, it is always see you later” with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Being flexible again
I had to be flexible with my schedule for my vacation. Initially I was going to go visit my friend Cheryl in Chamen first, and then go to Senegal, and then to Sibanor for my final goodbyes. God had a better plan though. I first went to Sibanor and had a wonderful but busy few days saying all my goodbyes to people in the village and to some of my teammates. Then I traveled to Senegal to the school where almost all of the kids on our team attend. Following that, I traveled to Chamen and then to the coast for a couple days before I flew back to the US.
Sibanor – written Feb 24
As I am saying goodbyes in my village, I am realizing how much I really will miss the people here. At times I felt like I didn’t belong here and was doubtful if I would actually be missed. But, as I’ve gone to visit people for the last time and wish them my final goodbye, I’ve been amazed at the sadness and grief that some have showed. I was especially touched that my language helper/coworker cried when I came to say goodbye because most people here don’t cry unless someone dies. It makes me sad to say goodbyes when I know that I’ve just gotten to the point that I might have an impact in this culture, and makes me realize the necessity of long-term commitment to make any breakthrough.
In the culture here, it is extremely important to say goodbye well. You have to let people know ahead of time when you are leaving, as well as saying a proper goodbye when you actually leave. You are usually meant to give a goodbye gift, especially to the people you know well. This has been pretty easy considering I don’t have a whole lot of room in my suitcase, so I can give away clothing I won’t take home or other various items that I don’t mind leaving behind. I’ve been forced to the realization that I cannot be attached to stuff.
The road to and from the school was the most adventurous part of the trip. There are some spots that you can hardly go over 5mph because the potholes are so big, or the road is not paved all the way. There were big chunks of the road that were wonderful, but the bad parts were really bad. It was really fun to watch out the window and see how different Senegal is from Gambia. First of all it is strange to see a lot of similar things but with French signs, as well as different modes of transportation. In Gambia, there are mostly small 5-person cars or 18 passenger vans that serve as transportation, but in Senegal, the majority of the transport was by “sept-place” (station wagon seating 7) or tour bus. They also greet in French, so they could pick us out as Gambian when we would use the traditional Arabic greeting “Salaam malekum.” Even though I took 3.5 years of French in school, I did a terrible job of adapting to the language. The last couple days I started to get my “French brain” on and could start to function there.
The school was really fun to see. The kids and teachers and atmosphere were really welcoming. I was very impressed, and it encouraged me that sending kids to a boarding school is not the end of the world and can be a wonderful experience for the kids.
My trip back to Gambia was the worst experience of public transport in my time abroad. Public transport is much more expensive in Senegal than in Gambia, and I almost didn’t have enough money to make it to Gambia again. I ended up being fine, but not knowing so much French didn’t help my case. I felt much more at home when I made it back to Gambia and could converse easily and feel more at home.
On the last leg of the journey in Senegal, the sept-place I was traveling in came across a small village in which a compound had caught on fire. The air and the thatched roof were so dry that the flames burned very fast and high. Our driver pulled over and all the men in the vehicle got out and ran to help put out the fire. The old woman in front of me started wailing. From the time that we stopped to the time that it was finished was about 10 minutes; in that time, the people fighting the fire went from about 10-15 to 100. It was surreal to watch all that happen before my eyes. I don’t think there were any casualties, otherwise I’d have gone to see if I could do anything, but our vehicle left very quickly. I would have taken a picture of the fire, but my camera died the day before and I didn’t have the right adapter to charge it at the school.
I spent almost three days in Chamen had the most wonderful relaxing time. Cheryl and I had a lot of good talks about life in Gambia, my going home, and everything in between. I also got to help some of the ladies with some creativity in jewelry making. Even at home I like to do beading and being creative with wire, so this was a blast. It was really like vacation.
Traveling towards home
To travel to the coast, I had to use public transport again (this time it was a lot better because I was in Gambia). I also traveled with a national who was going the same way I was, so it was very nice to have his help. During that trip, I used pretty much all modes of transportation: first I rode on a serretto (horse drawn cart) for the first time. Then I rode in gelly-gellies to get to the ferry. I rode the ferry and then took another gelly and then a little taxi until I was finally at headquarters.
For my last two days, I mostly finished up with packing, shopping, and finalizing of a bunch of details. My last afternoon I went to the beach for a bit to soak up those wonderful rays before trekking to the frozen tundra called SD. 😛