Okay its not a celebration of a year of blogging. This is a piece I wrote exactly a year after leaving The Gambia for Morocco for studies. A write-up that mirrors the feelings of many like me, the world over. Let’s get retrospective!!!
November 8 2009. At or around 9pm. She picks up the last of her bags and leaves her mom’s bedroom, after having spent over an hour savouring the smell, the look, the feeling of her mother in this room, getting a final imprint on her mind; one that would stick permanently in a corner of this biological machine. Of course under the pretext of getting dressed, while relatives waited in the little living room to bid her farewell. Personal friends and friends of the family. Neighbours too. Appreciation engulfs her heart as the realisation of the close-knitted nature of Gambians dawned one more time on her. The whole day having been spent receiving relatives and neighbours, each with one or two words of advice, punctuated with sobs some gentle, others not so gentle.
At the last minute possible, she takes a picture of herself in this same room. One that she had shared with mommy and little sister for a long time. One that she still couldn’t resist spending the night in, even with her increasing age. That was it. The time was up. Weeks of shopping, taagor, packing and the stolen moments of solitude spent admiring the home, the people in it, the grandmother- yes the grandmother that felt her departure so much but wouldn’t let it show so as not to weaken the granddaughter’s feelings- now came to an end. It was time to pick up those bags and head out into the unknown. Bitim reww. Morocco!!
Banjul International Airport. Phone call which turns out to be from the best friend who had taken the same route to a different destination months earlier. How good it felt to hear one last time from her on that Africell line that would have been dead if over-texting was a killer-disease. Another thing she was going to miss in her daily life. One thing that she had gotten so much used to that the thumb of her right hand got deformed. It was the final goodbyes. Check-in jotna. Over with that procedure and returning one last time to the main entrance to say GOODBYE to those that journeyed to the airport with her. No, she wasn’t going to let those tears overcome her again. But could she? When it came to the last hug with the mother, those salty drops of water just had to trickle down the already sodden cheeks to illustrate the solemn moment passing between mother and daughter. A moment of silence, yet so loud in meaning. A definite no-no for words. That last smile that surfaces in her mind, even as she writes this. Priceless.
From the long journey to this moment, a lot of experiences remain to be understood. Far from home. No mum, no dad, not a member of the family. Alone in the aala. All in pursuit of greater knowledge. A pride to her family and friends. A source of inspiration for the young ones she left behind. The sharp cry from Marion as she stepped out of the compound over the cold water poured on the doorway still sends shivers down her spine and brings tears to her eyes.
Now a year is gone. A year of joy and sorrows. A year marked with phone calls announcing the birth of a nephew, the marriage of a friend, the death of an aunt or that old neighbour that fell sick. News of all forms, shapes and sizes. A year of one tobaski and one koriteh; the former excellent, the latter a complete case of boredom and nostalgia. A year of extreme cold and then extreme heat. A year of learning a new language. A year of making new friends. Yes this bit she loves the most. Friends from all over the world. From Ghana to Congo; Burkina Faso to Liberia; Mauritius to Kenya; Guinea Bissau to Central African Republic; and the list goes on. Of course further strengthening ties with her Senegalesembokas. A year nurturing the appreciation and respect of the different cultures in the world. A year increasing the open-mindedness in her. But then a year of being broke. A year of understanding what it meant to pay rent, what it meant to provide depaans.A year of appreciation of that one chuwi-diwtirr she disliked but would give anything to have today. A year with no ebbeh. An Easter with no nanburu-sharing, all over town. A Christmas with no hunting. A new year with no fireworks. A year of challenges and barriers and constraints and then success.
A success she still thrives to nurture, to fertilize, to water, to tend with utmost care. A success she got used to and is not willing to let go of. And each day comes with the prayer- on that Africell sajada she brought along, after offering the witr salat- that God protects her and all others of her kind. Away from home, striving for success under sometimes frustrating conditions and yet keeping their heads up. Looking at that glimmer of bright light in the not- so-far distance. That light whose rays shine more hope in their beings, fuelling their determination to overcome, against all odds, come rain come shine and snow if it wishes. That light that keeps getting nearer, though sometimes dim, but each time regaining its radiance as the epic silver lightning behind that cloud. And something whispers into her ear and tells her ‘ca va aller’, it shall be well. And she smiles, as she puts an end to the retrospect of that one year away from home sweet home.
I MISS EVERY TINY BIT OF THE GAMBIA!!!