So long Njongon....
The last weeks flashed into the last days. Days faded into hours, stolen moments - hugs, laughter, tears. I tried to suck all I could out of it, conscious that I would never be back here, never be this person again.
I lingered on the mat in late into the nights, staring at the stars until the mosquito's and exhaustion finally drove us indoors. I drank over 6 cups of strong, syrupy green tea in one day as cherished last conversations with friends and favorite old men. I allowed myself to be dressed up as an ebadou (the practice of covering ones head and body) Barbie for the day, memorizing the shouts of delight and the gleam in Haddy Bah's eyes as she remarked how beautiful I looked with my head covered so modestly, just as Allah intends. I watched with amusement as 10 year old Jean patiently but hopelessly tried to teach his small cousin Paul to crawl, using a mobile to coerce him across the mat. I sat in the stifling hot computer lab teaching Mariama, a grade nine student to use the computer, because she actually asked and so few students show that much initiative. I was shocked, filled with pride and my hope restored as I watched her master double clicking in less then 2 minutes her first time ever touching a computer, a task that most of my adult computer students had yet to master after 7 weeks of classes. I listened to my students and colleagues as they gave speeches thanking me for being friendly, for remembering their names and taking an interest in their classes and their lives. I handed out certificates to my very proud computer students - teachers who were very excited to show their newly acquired status symbol to the villagers and their home people. I listened as they sang songs to bid me farewell, prayed for my long life and health and the hope that I would have a very nice husband and many, many children. I clung to the children, despite their dirty faces mud covered clothes, I kissed them, tickled them and pulled their hair for the last times.
I broke down and cried as I saw Pa come over, his eyes red and welling with tears. He came to shake my hand goodbye and do his terribly adorable half hug, but I broke about 4 different cultural norms as I flung my arms around his neck, sobbing and completely unable to be stoic in the face of a crying old man. Wanting so much to express my sincere thanks and love to this man who welcomed me into his home, protected and sheltered me, imparted so much wisdom and brought so much joy and laughter to my life here. He disappeared before he could loose to much more face, as men are never supposed to cry here, just saying "go, go, I am going to the bush." and I collapsed into Ansel and YaBoi, as we cried our farewells Ansel laughed at us all for being so dramatic and urging me into the car assuring me she would see me before I got on the plane. I kissed Baby Paul and climbed into the car listening to Pauline's wails. Wailing is in general a very disturbing experience and is even more disorienting and heart wrenching when it is your friend's cries directed towards you. I stopped to give last hugs and farewells to the smiling faces of Jabou and Corr Kunda and climbed into the car drove away. As Njongon descended into a whirl of red dust behind me, I stopped and took a deep intake of air.