Saying Goodbye

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My last day in Senegal is quickly approaching, which means this is my last blog post of the semester. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to read this blog. I hope you gained as much from reading it as I did from writing it.

Goodbyes. I try so hard to avoid them, all of the discomfort and sadness that they bring. Sometimes, though, I think a goodbye turns into something more. Sometimes goodbye isn’t really a goodbye when you know you’ll be taking something with you. That a place, a person, a memory will forever lodge itself in the deepest corner of your brain, will resurface when your heart is feeling heavy. Will fill you with appreciation for what you had. I think now of the goodbyes that I hold closest: keeping my eyes glued on the Canadian Rockies as my family’s car drove away, my forehead pressed to the glass of the rear view window as I watched their outline fade in the setting sun. Holding back tears until the moment I knew my brother could no longer see me as his train pulled away from the Charlottesville station after a week end, leaving me bawling like a baby. One final moment of quiet in the middle of my high school cafeteria on graduation day, alone and picturing it full the way I knew it and the way it would never be again.

I feel that way now as my time in Senegal comes to an end. I wonder what memories will come to my mind when I think of this place. I worry my favorite memories will fade, the way the sound of a friend’s laugh loses some of its sparkle as time carries on. I wonder if I will remember what I’ve tried so hard not to forget.

I hope to remember the softness of my baby brother’s hands when he grabs onto my own in an attempt to stand. I hope to remember the smell of sunshine and sunscreen and smoked fish, of sand being stuck between the pages of a book. I hope to remember my first full conversation in Wolof, words springing to my lips of their own accord. I hope to remember the sweetness of sugared peanuts, the slightly plastic taste of water in a bag, the respite that a shady tree offers under the hot African sun. Of singing amidst the sound of ocean waves crashing into rocks below. Of bumpy car rides, of taxi horns, of Bollywood soap operas, of bright blue birds on a wax clothe dress. Of the sound of prayer beads knocking together, worn and cracked from a lifetime of use. Of late nights and strawberry ice cream, of French fries and onions and eggs fried to perfection. Of the wind whipping through my hair, of I-missed-you hugs from my little sisters, of drums and calls to prayer and stars in a clear night sky. Of dancing. Of sunsets on a roof high above sandy streets, of a lone voice that cuts through the radio static. Gravel digging into my palms, staring at the moon and wondering how many others are doing the same. Of the times my heart beat fast because I couldn’t believe where I was, the times when I could hear the blood pounding in my ears and everything was put into slow motion for a minute, a voice in my ear telling me to watch the way an insect moves in the lamplight, listen to the rustling of a nearby tree in the night time wind, smell the dust as it rises around you. Be present. Be here, now.

Through all of these memories, a feeling comforts me. It’s calm, and it’s the Senegal that I love: it tells me not to worry. It assures me that no matter what I remember about my time here, I will remember that it was full of color, that there were adventures to be had, and that I was happy.

Senegal has left me with countless memories. They will always evoke for me the same feeling: one of warmth, and one of wonder. Thank you, Senegal, for the gift of a goodbye. For I know that your goodbye is not really a goodbye. I will cry tears when I leave you, but they will be happy tears. Happy like the tears I will shed when I see my family waiting for me at the airport, and when my scruffy ten-year-old puppy runs out my front door to greet me for the first time in months. I will keep your memories in my mind, and your feeling in my heart. I will take you with me wherever I may go. Ba beneen yoon, à la prochaine. Until next time.

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