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.)