By Danielle Abban
It seemed like we would never leave the village, and we had been there for years. Because of the teeming energy, vibrancy and action present, it was easy to get in tune with the village life. It was easy to get used to gathering around a big bowl, chasing kids to grab them and throw them over our shoulders, and it was easy to greet every member of the village as if they were our family. When I woke up on the last full day of our visit, it was hard to comprehend that we were soon leaving. It didn’t really sink in until I said my first thank you and when I learned to say I’ll miss you in Mandinka (Mbe Eboulala-bi)
I will always remember the moments when the action happened. For example, I’ll remember swimming in the Gambia River, walking miles in the midday heat to another village, and riding a donkey. Still, I’ll remember the relaxed, calm moments even more. When we calmly made bracelets with the kids on the last day, calmly ate our dinner as we got fuller with each bite, and especially calmly saying our goodbyes (half asleep). When realizing it was our last full day in the village, the hours slipped away. Time moves really fast when you are trying to capture every moment.
We went to the market on the last day. It was burning hot as we all piled into the van. Sira joined us, which was nice because she was always cooking and working, making us feel welcome. Keita came with us, too, to guide us around and translate and I always enjoyed his company. When we first got to the market I asked Olivier to translate ‘jewelry’ (Toulto Doumo) because we all wanted bracelets. We saw bracelets we liked and I asked Keita to ask the man selling them how much they were (Dialoumo). He translated for us once again and we each bought one. Using what Keita taught me, I told the man “thank you” in Mandinka (Abbarka).
We left the market and went to the river, one last time, to escape the heat and then soon after we were eating dinner for the last time. I asked Keita to translate that the food was very good (Keno Diatta), and that was all I could say. After dinner came our goodbyes. My first thank you was not for the food, or for taking us swimming, it was for a calm moment. It was a thank you to Keita for calmly teaching me so many words in Mandinka and French. He spent so much time stopping and making sure I got the pronunciation correct and saying the words slow enough so I could understand. Of course, I thanked everyone else in the village too, letting them know how much they meant to me.
The next morning was the real deal as it was actually time to leave. I packed my dust covered bags. I brushed my teeth one last time—I’ll never forget the satisfying feeling of spitting on the ground. I stepped out of my tent for the last time—I’ll never forget the satisfying feeling of zipping it up. Before we left, I asked Keita to translate “I’ll miss you!” in Mandinka one last time—I’ll never forget how satisfying it was to repeat after him.