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I left my village for the last time on Monday morning. I had packed my hut the day before, so there was nothing to do in the morning but sit in the compound and wait for two hours while the boys found a horse and charette. There was no sign of Bandi, which was okay since it saved me from having to chase him down and lock him in my hut so that he wouldn’t follow me to Tamba.

I said goodbye to the family that was there (Madame had gone to visit another village, I think Fanta was still in bed), shaking everyone’s hands and saying thank you, thank you. Aadama got upset and refused to give me her hand but eventually let me pick her up and hug her—she seemed to be the only kid who understood I was leaving leaving.

Kanni and Hawa came along on the charette, and in Tamba we went to the bank to deposit a giant chunk of change in the group account. We said goodbye in the street outside the Peace Corps house. I gave them each an awkward hug and then we shook with our left hands, which signifies departure. They started walking away, but when I got to the house gate and turned around, they were standing in the street watching me. We waved and I went inside and it was okay because I will come back and see them again, even though they don’t believe I will.

I found that if I only took quick, indirect glances at the enormity of all that was happening, I was in far less danger of crying.

Last night we had a very nice candlelit Tamba dinner of pizza and champagne, and today I made the eight-hour trip to Dakar for the last time. I dropped off my bike at the Peace Corps office and received the first of many necessary check marks for the COS process.

Then I took the most ridiculous taxi ride of my two years in Senegal. The car itself didn’t seem all that much worse than most of the cabs wheezing their way around Dakar, but I soon found out that almost every time it came to a full stop (which is often in rush-hour traffic), it stalled. The driver would then reach down to the left of the steering wheel and restart the car with his left hand while jerking wildly at the stick shift with his right. The car would falter, jolt forward, and then, if we were lucky enough to get going that fast, maybe or maybe not transition from second to third gear. It is a testament to my increased patience and dulled senses that I sat there calmly during the almost hour-long ride and found it all vaguely amusing.

In a week and a half I fly back to America. Three nights ago chocolate peanut butter spread was a special treat for breaking the fast in the village, and today I ate tomato basil soup out of a white china bowl. I sense that nothing will qualify as “normal” for a while to come.

4 Responses to “walk on”

However you may take this I think you’re amazing. And though perhaps I should not halve followed your peace core experience through this, it’s been fascinating and inspiring. Truly

I just stumbled across your blog today and have read only one entry – this one. I was medevac’d from Senegal on May 29, 2001 and am now planning to return this January to the country that gave me the very best times of my life, and truly the very worst as well. You’ll be back. And they will remember you. Good luck on your trip home – reentry is not easy, but worth it for the ability to teach Americans how to be more Senegalese. 🙂

Oh, and your taxi ride reminds me of my very last ride to Dakar – except we had smoke coming out of the parking break into the car for most of the ride….

Hi-

I have followed your journey for the last year (I was the random stranger who sent you a package last spring-) and am touched to be able to read through to the end.

Though I don’t know you, following your story has been important to me as I consider the transition to come. Go third goal, I guess!

I got tears in my eyes reading this today, probably partially because I’m teetering on the exact opposite end of the Peace Corps spectrum- I found out that I’d be getting an invitation in the mail soon just yesterday!

Best of luck on your return,
Melissa

Sarah – the parking break? quality!

Melissa – Congrats on the invitation — care package karma, coming your way 🙂