I said my goodbyes to my new African family tonight at the airport. Talk about feeling special: 14 people came to the airport to bid me farewell. 14! For all the complaining I did about the country (mostly internally because my French is shit) it sure is full of some really fantastic people.
They suggested I go check in for my flight and then come back out to say goodbye. This is something I’d never considered doing before (because normally I don’t have an entourage), but it seemed like a good idea. It takes forever to get anything done in Africa, so maybe I had rushed everyone to the airport and my flight really wasn’t for three hours.
I headed into the airport, had my passport checked three times, filled out a health survey, had my temperature taken, got my boarding pass and then headed back out to the parking lot. But, uh, I guess you actually can’t leave once you’ve got your temperature taken in Guinea, because, well: EBOLA.
I hadn’t even brought my bags with me. Security was like, “Call someone and have them bring them.” And I was like, “I don’t have a phone.” Finally, one security guy who spoke English better than I speak French (not hard to do) said he would let me out. “When they ask, tell them you haven’t gotten your temperature taken yet. Hide this.” He took my boarding pass and folded it while I opened my purse and shoved it inside.
So now I’m lying to African security guards. In French.
They stared me down as I left. “I forget…” I said, a useful phrase I had known in French for a full week now. I pointed out to the parking lot. He mimed out a person getting their temperature taken, and I shook my head no. “Non?” he asked suspiciously. I had probably been in there for 20 minutes. “Non,” I assured him. He let me go.
Phew. I ran back to my family. “C’est pas possible venir !” They laughed at me. They could tell something had happened, but hell if I knew how to explain it to them. I told them I should go back, with my bags this time. It got quiet. It got awkward.
I started doling out hugs and I pretty much immediately started crying. Pretty much I cry every time I’m at an airport. I’m hugging and hugging and I get to Yamo: my 11-year-old bestie. I’m honestly not sure I could’ve made it through three weeks in Africa without him. I hug him and hug him and I’m crying SO. HARD.
When I let him go, I see that he is crying too, and it breaks my freaking heart.
Then I hug Na, my African mother, and she starts to cry. Next my sister, Mahawa. Basically, everyone turned into a mess and it’s all my fault for not keeping it together.
I give out all the hugs and in the meantime, two of the boys have gotten my bags from the car. I start to walk back into the airport and I turn around and see… well, I turned around and snapped one last picture of Africa: My big African family waving to me.
I took my bags from the boys, gave them each one last hug, and headed through security, wondering if I’d ever see any of these wonderful people again. Especially little Yamo.