12.19.2012

THE COURAGE TO SAY GOODBYE

It has been over a year since I visited Africa. 
But truthfully I can hardly bring myself to finish up my blog posts. 
Whenever I blog about Africa, my thoughts become occupied for days, and my heart aches just a bit. 
However, I owe it to myself and a few others to finish up and do it properly.

You can read my other African posts here: They make for riveting lunch-time reading.
Part one
Part two 
Part three
Part four
Part five 

The night before we were to leave for Utah, we said goodnight to "The Boys" our "Utes" just outside of the church gates around nine p.m.
 It was a light-hearted goodbye knowing we would see them the next day.

It took us an hour to cross the still crowded Kissy Road and arrive at the little Missionary apartment on the other side of town. Once we were there, Brooke, Josh and I started making preparations to leave.

It didn't seem right to pack up all the gifts, cards, letters and such that we had been given and not leave anything behind for our friends.

The three of us worked well into the night slowly printing off pictures, writing letters and making friendship bracelets. At about three in the morning it all seemed futile and so we went to bed.

The next morning, our last morning, was a rainy one as usual. 
We all just stayed in the apartment listening to the rain and finished packing.

It was a somber mood all around. None of us wanted to be leaving.

My mom made a good taco soup and I remember not being able to eat. 
I was on the verge of tears the whole morning.


Did I mention I hate goodbyes?
Just before packing up, Brooke and I walked up on the main road 
to trade in my mom's coke bottles at the local fruit stand. 
We walked along the red dirt road and the beauty of the morning overwhelmed me.
The locals seemed finally used to us.

By noon we were packed and loaded and driving back down to Government's Wharf 
to wait for our ship to come in...literally.  

My Dad, being the over-planner that he is, had us ready at the wharf in plenty of time.

We even had time to do some last minute shopping at the market 
while my Dad waited with the truck.


In her typical fashion, Brooke decided to make the moment more memorable. 
She suggested (more like forced) Mom, Josh and I to follow her along the crowded street towards an even more crowded market by the beach.
Brooke was just sure it was a place we needed to be.
Right down there in the thick of things.

We followed Brooke, trying to look like we knew exactly where we were going.
My eyes darted from side to side, clearly unsure of what we were doing.
All the while following Brooke's lead.
 I wish I could describe correctly the place we soon found ourselves in.
We were winding our way down tiny wooden steps, broken and worn.
We walked shoulder to shoulder with the locals
with their loads of fish and vegetables a top their heads.
We proceeded down the historical steps of the King Jimmy Market. 
Just the four of us, (like fish out of water) clutching our bags full of souvenirs and trinkets and me, with my People magazine under my arm.  
Immediately, it was clear, 
we were not supposed to be there 
and certainly not welcomed there.

You see, King Jimmy's Market is one of the most well known and most frequently visited sites along the Western area of Africa because it was the major port on the Atlantic Ocean 
between America and Africa.
 Besides being the hub of trade and commerce, King Jimmy Market was also the nation center of the slave trade during colonial times.

It was considered to be founded as a refuge for freed slaves in 1787. 

These days, it is a functioning market and sells various goods. 

So imagine the hostile feeling the four of us felt 
as we paraded ourselves right through their historical market, 
not meaning to, but practically stepping on their goods for sale.  

The deeper in to the market we walked, 
the more claustrophobic and perilous our situation became. 
It felt like thousands of people were aware of our presence there and
weren't too happy about it.   

My mom and I got separated from Josh and Brooke and we turned in circles for a minute,
holding each other's arms, trying not to make fools of ourselves. 
Too late. 
One angry woman who was selling dried fish shouted at us incessantly and put her hands up, not allowing us to pass without paying money.  

Right then, a kind man with a warm smile looked our way. 
He made his way through the crowd over to us and in English offered to help. We quickly accepted. After a loud negotiation in Krio, the woman reluctantly let us pass with an angry wave of her arm and harsh words for our guide.
The man reunited us with Brooke and Josh down by the beach and asked us what our purpose to be there was. We really just wanted a picture. 
Quickly he said, take one quickly.

We stood right on the shore for a moment, trying to not look hideously out of place. 
Right where you see us here, taking it all in as our guide cautiously stood watch.
The scene was one to behold. 
One of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life.  
I  didn't dare take any more pictures, 
I just begged my soul to imprint the moment to memory. 

Our guide indicated it was time to go, and he swiftly escorted us out of the chaos.

Once we were safely at the top of the market, we exchanged names and proper greetings. 

You will be proud that I posted these pictures, even though I look so dumb. 
I have a goal to not be so vain.
My lips were severely sunburned, it hurt to smile, 
and Brooke's constant laughing at me didn't help. 
Our guide in the white hat (I would give anything to remember his name) didn't ask us for money, 
he was just happy to help.
Just before leaving we all pooled some leones (money) to offer him. 
He graciously took it and sent us on our way. 
Later, Josh said we probably gave him the equivalent of .50 cents for his effort.   

At the Wharf, we found my Dad who was ready with our boarding passes. 
Brooke was not too thrilled about it.

We unceremoniously boarded the boat.

Without delay, the large ferry pulled away from the dock.


There was so much to see and think about, I panicked when I realized we were actually leaving. 
Good bye Freetown.

Goodbye Hill Station

Goodbye Mt. Aureol


Goodbye lovely Looking Town
To everything and everyone goodbye

I remember sitting on the deck, looking out to the ocean as Sierra Leone faded further away, wishing the boat would for some reason turn around. 
A little fly landed on the railing...it paused, then flew away. In my over-emotional state I actually said goodbye to the fly and wished it well.

The boat ride over to Lungi (where the airport is located) is only about 45 minutes long,
 not enough time to do anything but think.

My parents were saying goodbye to some of their best missionaries. 
They loved them like their sons.


There was one question on our minds however...would we get to see our friends one last time?

The other ferry caught up to us and I waved, hoping that our friends were aboard. 


AND SURE ENOUGH, THEY WERE!

Everyone came over to say goodbye.

The same boys that we had met for the first time, on the same pier, just seven days before.
My Dad instructed the boys to walk with us down the street away from the crowds. 

Sweet Sam pressed us with questions of American and more questions for our teenage sons.

We continued to walk and talk until we saw the little white missionary truck
parked under a mango tree. 
I didn't realize it at the time, but this was it - 
this was the end of the road-
the time to say goodbye.
Our friends couldn't travel with us to the airport. 
The residents of the home (complete strangers) brought out chairs for all of us to make our final farewell more comfortable.


I wondered to myself while chit-chatting when, if ever, I was going to see them again.
My heart grew heavier by the minute.

In usual form, my Dad gathered us around and asked each one of us to take a turn and speak about love and life and wishes and dreams for each other. 

In a particularly difficult moment for me as I spoke, My friend Alimomy stood up, 
walked over and wiped my tears as they fell from my eyes, 
I'll never forget our boys.
Like me, Brooke and Josh struggled to express adequately the deep love they felt.

Months earlier, about halfway through my parents mission, my Dad wrote about his love for the people of his mission. He talked about the concerns he had of having to leave in such a short time, it kept him up at night. He said "at some point this will all be over and your mom and I will have to find the courage to say goodbye..."

I realized I was only a visitor, "a tourist" as Pete would joke, but I too wondered where I would find
 the courage to say goodbye.
That moment came.

We hugged, and cried, and promised to see each other again. 

 My Dad worried about us missing our flight, so he insisted that we leave quickly. 
So Josh, Brooke and I go in the truck...
but not before this unexpected final goodbye from the boys...

Rather speechless and spent, we waved goodbye and drove away.



 We arrived just in time at the Lungi Airport.

My parents had to catch the last ferry of the night back to their apartment,
so our goodbyes were quick.

Here my Dad told me I was his favorite daughter. I told him I had known that all along.
Emotions were high, but there wasn't time to discuss anything.

We made our way through the ridiculous security practices where the only thing that held us up was my People Magazine. Airport personnel decided to confiscate it. Go figure.
 The African sun was setting just outside our window. 
The flight attendants walked up and down the isle spraying pesticides. 
Whatever it was...it made me sleepy.


We flew a day and a night, and I think a morning again...
the three of us landed again in Paris, France.
Even though we were exhausted, 
we had a twelve hour lay-over and decided to take full advantage of our day.
Josh secured us on the first train into the city and then checked himself out for the ride. 

As Paris was coming in to view, 
all I could think about was my friends in Africa who were probably just waking up. 
My head was spinning.
The quaint streets of Paris were just as I had imagined, maybe even better.
Darling little cafe and bistros lined our way as we walked towards the middle of the city. 
We were on foot for the day, 
so Brooke and Josh made a game plan while I just stood there looking pretty. 
I tried to look like this chic...

nailed it! 

Josh and Brooke were a bit sleep-deprived
and they walked around the city in Matrix mode.
We had our heart set on going to the Louvre, 
 but as you can see, the line stretched down the length of the building even so early as 8:00 a.m.
Plan B: The Eiffel tower

While we walked along our route, I took great pictures of Josh and Brooke...


They in turn took great pictures of me.
like this one...

or this one where I'm poking this tiny lady in the head.

It was hard to believe we were walking the historical streets of Paris, France.


We walked exhausted past some of the most notable landmarks in Paris.
"Oh look kids, there's the Arc de Triomphe!" (yawn...)

"Oh look kids, there's the Obelisk, the oldest monument in Paris" (yawn...)

"Oh look, there's this guy." (hey, hey!)


The streets of Paris were fascinating. 
Beauty and amazement at every corner. 

 It was the perfect place to just casually stroll along -
  (that is if you had more than 12 hours to do it in.)


 Brooke found a little souvenir to take home to her kids.

Meanwhile, I found a little souvenir or two for myself. 

I also found something for Dean as well. 

Brooke, and Josh stopped to rest for a moment and claimed they couldn't go any further. 
I slapped them around a bit and reminded them of the incredible place and circumstance we were in.

 
And then...we saw it.  The Eiffel Tower.

HOORAY! 



We ordered a chocolate and strawberry crepe, 
served to us just yards away from the Eiffel Tower.  

It was also served with a warning to be careful. A young girl tried to pick-pocket Brooke. 

Good choice.



We handed Josh the camera and decided to get a sister picture of just Brooke and I. 
Then Brooke said, "you pick me up..."
Can you imagine what the thousands of people watching us were thinking?
We seemed to not care.
Laughing at each other like little girls.

Not a shred of dignity. Not one. 
From the time I was a little girl, 
I've always wanted to take a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower.
I hoped it would be a glamorous, 
memorable picture... 
something like this...

instead, I got this.
money shot! 
Yep, that's me doing the funky chicken in front of the Eiffel Tower.

I checked the camera to see what Brooke and Josh were laughing at
and decided to try again. 
Again, I had something like this in mind.

And.....
Boo Yeah!
I got this! the 'ol self-portrait. 
...suitable for framing eh?

Zombified, the three of us walked down the street following the rest of the tourists, 
arriving at Palais de Chaillot.
From here we could see everything, a good moment in the day.

I promised Dean that I wouldn't enjoy a second of my time in Paris without him.
This is a fake smile. I am miserable.


Brooke's best moment was when she was giving her personal information and pledging her children's financial future to some foreign scam artist. 
A local undercover cop saved the day and kiboshed the whole thing just in time.

And sooner than we had wanted, we started making our way back to the airport.
Back to the states.


Back to reality. 

The flight from Paris to Atlanta was long and tiring, and crowded.
The three of us would sleep, then wake just as they were serving dinner,
only to go to sleep again and wake up just as they were serving breakfast. 


Before we landed in good 'ol Salt Lake City, the flight attendant came over the speaker announcing the landing protocol. 

I let my mind drift off, thinking of both home and Freetown.
Then I heard the flight attendant say; 
"Ladies and Gentleman we would like to take a minute and recognize
 an American solider flying with us today... 
It is an honor and a privilege to have him aboard
and the United States of America thanks him."
(the soldier in full uniform stood as the cabin of passengers applauded him)  


 Tears welled up in my eyes at that moment as I remembered how lucky I was
to be an American citizen coming home.

Brooke's Scott and little Luke met us at the terminal around 1:30 a.m.   

Would it be too cliche to say that it seemed like an eternity since we had left home? 
I'll say it anyway.

From Salt Lake to New York to Newark - to Paris to Conakry - to Lungi to Freetown - back to Government's Wharf - back to Lungi - back to Conakry - back to Paris - to Atlanta -
and finally back home.
Traveling each and every mile with two of my best friends.

After first dropping off Brooke and then Josh,
I finally started to drive myself home around 2:30 a.m.

On an empty street in Salem, I got pulled over by a policeman.
I may have coasted through a stop-sign.
When the officer came up to my window,
he made the mistake of asking what I was doing out so late.  

I quickly felt a flood of tears and emotion bubbling up and before I knew it,
sloppy, heaves and sobs of tears were spilling over.
I told the officer exactly where I had been and what I had been doing for the past ten days.
I was almost hyperventilating as I poured out my heart to this unsuspecting man.
He listened, then kindly handed me back my licence and told me to head straight home.

Around 3:00 a.m. I pulled up to my darkened house, turned off the car and took a deep breath.
I knew my adventure was over. 
Sleep didn't come easy for me as I laid in my own bed that night.
After kissing my sleeping kids and husband,
I curled up, closed my crying eyes and sang myself to sleep. 

Good night Looking Town.
Good night sweet boys.
Good night warm breezes.
Good night little dark-eyed babies everywhere.



1 comment:

Nikki said...

That is an amazing experience. So glad you shared!

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