From the plane ride to South Dakota

I’ve known this for a long time.

I knew it sitting in the Niamey Airport at 5 a.m., battling bacteria and fog of nerves.

I knew it when it was uttered for the first time out loud in a Moroccan hotel conference room.

I knew it on the crowded train ride to the Casablanca Airport.

I knew it on the flight across the Atlantic.

But for some reason, the reality that I am never going back to Niger hit me on the flight from Chicago to Sioux Falls, the last leg of my month-long travels. It hit me that this is the end while listening to “Sabali” by Amadou and Mariam, a song that was often commenced my morning runs in Dantchiao, and sitting rows behind the South Dakota State University (my alma mater) Women’s Basketball team — a crazy mix of that life and this one. Tears filled me eyes like they did one early July morning on a Denver-bound plane eight months. Those tears were sad, but had ounces of excitement for what was ahead. I suppose these do too.

This strike of emotion, I tell myself, is like a final sigh of the last month. Truth is, like other heartbreaks, I am not done crying about leave Niger but I’ve accepted it. C’est la vie. Niger isn’t something I will just get over; I can’t. I still can’t grasp its power over me and I may never be able to but I understand that, in seven months, it captured my soul for a lifetime.

My plane now floats above cotton clouds and in an hour’s time I’ll land in my home state, the one I constantly bragged about to other volunteers. I’ll be met with familiar faces and sights. It’ll feel good and strange.

A piece of my heart is buried in a small village in West Africa. It will always be my home, just like South Dakota. I may never go back but I’ll never forget.

This is my reality now, being home. Unplanned, but not unnecessary.

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2 thoughts on “From the plane ride to South Dakota

  1. You express a lot of what we all feel, that Niger will not leave us. We have trouble leaving it as we’ve already sent cards and a package back there.

    Are you re=enrolling for another assignment, or do I recall that you plan to pursue other things now—such as writing? I wish you well in whatever pursuit you chooose and know that you’ll do well in anything,. As I’ve decided—-anyone who survived and thrived in Niger with all of its challenges, can do anything they want to.

    I hope you’ll stay in touch and I”ll definitely follow whatever posts you make to your blog in the future. I am still feeling the need to post on ours as we wait impatiently (man kala suru) for a new assignment. Expedited return to service is not fast enough but better than totally starting over. Dave and I want to get going, quit hanging out , do something, somewhere—-just as we know you do, in whatever direction you choose. All the best to you.

  2. You, lady, have a lot of years left in your life. A lot of opportunities. So long as you are breathing, you cannot say you will NEVER do anything again. Just saying. 🙂

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