This picture looks like this picture. It is also a last moment but the differences are:
- This time I am a little more ecstatic to be leaving
- I am wearing fake glasses that I bought in an African market which make me feel like Annie Hall, but I have been told look more like that fat nerdy boy in Stand By Me. (A Google image search reveals it was Alvy, not Annie who wore glasses, so fair point.)
Ugh, never fly Delta if you are going to Dakar. It is so horrible, like a winged Greyhound bus. This is an international flight which means I should have my own seatback TV and a selection of things to watch, but instead they play straight-to-DVD movies on screens in the middle of the aisle. Also the whole thing smells like pee. Also they charge you for alcohol (NOT the industry standard for international flights) and the food is terrible.
Because I wanted to make it home so badly, for the last few weeks before I left I was really paranoid about potentially not making it home in one piece or not making it home at all. Dakar taxi drivers’ typical disregard for traffic rules had me particularly on edge. I rode on the back of my friend’s motorbike for about five minutes and freaked out and took one of the aforementioned dangerous taxicabs home.
I checked my flight time and then I checked it again and then I checked it again. I barely closed my eyes the night before I left because I was so panicked about not waking up. To ensure that didn’t happen I set two alarms and also enlisted two friends as back up alarms.
And then, when I got to the airport three hours early, the check-in people didn’t have my reservation. Then they found it, but told me my flight was delayed by two hours. Then it was delayed by three. But finally, at 10:52 am on May 15, 2011, I took this picture of my last glimpse of Dakar.
May I never see it again. Okay, maybe, but only for a lot of money.
I’m leaving here on Sunday and what is there to say? That I’ll miss it? I won’t. I can’t imagine at any point in the future wishing I was back in The Gambia. “But once you’re gone you’ll remember all the good stuff!” Nope. I don’t miss college either.
But I will miss who I was over the course of this year because of who I became at the end of it (I’m not sure what that is yet). This year I was scared and tough and lonely and smothered and fascinated and bored and depressed and ecstatic. And I learned. A lot.
There are small things: how to shower with a bucket and a plastic cup, how to greet people in three different West African languages, how to write a report for the UN, how to cook a vegetable that tastes like a sweet potato but doesn’t look like one. But all of that just makes up the big thing which was simply: how people live. Broadly defined.
With only six days left to go out of 356 I keep falling into memories of My Time in The Gambia. Not the epic stuff—not cockroach invasions or the mowing down of cows—I don’t think about that. What I mean is that recently I’ve been finding myself lost for extended periods of time, picking over the details of nothing moments: What it was like to sit on the edge of my bed in The Gambia last November and eat Trader Joe’s trail mix. What peanuts and chocolate tasted like while I dripped sweat down my face and wooden boards dug into the backs of my knees and threadbare soft sheets lay under my thighs. The shouts in Jula and the sounds of sloshing laundry water and the smell of rice simmering in palm oil—all of that filtering through my battered window screen. Feeling really hot and really far away. A warm wind blowing sand through the emptiness of that room as I sat there with a bed and a mosquito net and a bag of trail mix from America.
These tiny, insignificant moments in my life—this is the kind of stuff I can’t believe I did. The strangest or hardest (or maybe best) part about being in West Africa for a year is not to do with pit latrines or insects or heat or the oppression of women. It is just that every day, every single day, you are still here.
Except Sunday. Then I’m gone.
(That picture above is of me the midst of my epic cockroach battle and pretty much encapsulates exactly who I was this year.)
I have like a 36 hour layover so this all is way possible.
At first I didn’t care about the royal wedding at all because: barf. But a few weeks ago I started getting really obsessed with all the crazy stuff that is being made to commemorate the event (nail decals, a fridge) and then what finally pushed me over the edge was last night when, in preparation for the big day, I watched all the episodes available on YouTube of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. Everyone go watch this right now! It is about Irish gypsies in the UK throwing the insanest weddings you have ever seen: a light up gown with a ten foot diameter skirt, a hot pink limo, a six year old getting a spray tan, a Barbie castle wedding cake with 130 pounds of frosting on it, people who live in trailers arriving at their weddings by helicopter. (Then there’s also a whole Mormon-like oppression of women aspect made all the more intriguing by the fact that the gypsies look a little more Bunny Ranch than Bountiful.)
So after spending last night getting all psyched up about over-the-top British weddings I found myself in my office this morning, breathlessly watching the Ultimate Over-the-Top British Wedding stream choppily over YouTube while my friend Amma and I concurrently got super excited about browsing pictures of all the fascinators. (British people—will one of you please invite me to your wedding so I can wear a fascinator like Princess Beatrice’s?) Then after Kate’s beautiful, beautiful dress was revealed I didn’t care anymore until like an hour later when they started racing around town in horse drawn carriages with tons of other fancily dressed horses thrown in the mix too! And then the kiss! And the pouty flower girl! Very exciting.
To culinarily commemorate the event in our own way (we lacked the supplies and skills to make a pizza with the newlyweds’ faces on it), Amma and I made a cross-cultural adaptation of these scones (very British right?) by replacing the currants with bissap flower, which is similar to (the same as?) hibiscus and everyone drinks a juice made from it here and Amma in particular is a big fan.
Then we ate the scones with jam while fighting off flies. I don’t think Will and Kate will have to deal with that. (But a girl on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding did get flies all up in her giant white dress.)
Some stuff I thought about blogging about but then didn’t because none of it was worth it:
- Look at my niece! That is my sister’s cat. Her name is Scout and she has one blue eye and one green one. I’m excited about America.
- Do you guys know about Childish Gambino? I get the sense that he’s popular in the US? I obviously have no idea. He is a rapper and my sister sent me his songs. He is also a former 30 Rock writer and current Community cast member. I hate hearing about the wild success of other people while I am trudging through an unfruitful job hunt. “Longest Text Message” is still pretty good though.
- If you barely read French and last used the formula functions on Excel in high school it’s hard to do both those things at once.
- I cook and eat a lot of lentils. My favorite recipes are this one from Smitten Kitchen made delicious by ginger and cabbage and this one from Sri Lanka made delicious by coconut milk and nostalgia.
- I haven’t taken a hot shower since November 30, 2010.
Stuff I ate today at Easter brunch:
- Spanish tortilla made by a Spanish man accompanied by Spanish aioli
- Cinnamon rolls
- Caramelized onions with scrambled eggs
- French press coffee
- Mimosas made with grapefruit juice instead of orange juice
- Then some regular mimosas made with orange juice
- Pastries including croissants and pain au chocolat and a pinwheely thing
- Deviled eggs
- French toast with homemade mango jam
- This spinach and cheese strata which I make a lot and highly recommend (today I added mushrooms and olives, I only recommend the mushrooms)
- Speculoos spread on everything. Speculooses are a kind of cinnamony Belgian cookie and there was some Belgian reality TV show on which the contestants were inventors trying to make the best invention and at the end this was the winner—cookies ground up and mixed with oil to make them spreadable. The runner up was a device to help you put your underwear on without bending over. Belgium hasn’t had a government for a while.