Woneng Gaa

Emily Stevens - Senegal


April 11, 2014

Written February 28, 2014

This last Sunday I was in Kedougou city with Alex running errands before going home for the last five weeks of our stay. Kaitlyn was hosting us and agreed to take us to her tailor. On the walk there we were discussing how far we’ve come and all the changes that have taken place. Kaitlyn told us a short story that perfectly encapsulates how we all feel right now. Alsane, a relative of Kaitlyn’s, sat down with her early on (when we were just getting our bearings in our new homes) and said “Right now, it’s going to be hard and you might not like it all the time, but then it’s going to get easier and we’re going to be friends and you’re not going to want to leave.”  And he was right. Things did get easier, they became great friends and now she doesn’t want to leave, Alex doesn’t want to leave, and I don’t want to leave. Here’s why:
I don’t want to leave my mom who cooks a special lunch for my return from a three day trip and buys meat and waits up for me.
I don’t want to leave lying on mats outside under the stars at night.
I don’t want to leave the women at the garden who offer me their watering cans and trust me to return them to their houses when I’m finished.
I don’t want to leave my little sister who flops down next to me on the bed and says “Let’s tickle!” (“En waday Killikilli!)
I don’t want to leave walking through the banana field that always smells like apple cider for some reason at dusk on my way home from the garden.
I don’t want to leave helping Diami with her homework and translating her English exercises into Pulaar.
I don’t want to leave having my hair braided by my mother-in-law into a new design every two weeks.
I don’t want to leave my husband of two months who picks the best mangoes for me and bought me wedding clothes.
I don’t want to leave his sisters who take me to the waterfall during the day and cuddle with me at night while we make cookie-milk-tea smoothies.
I don’t want to leave walks through the town center to buy ingredients for lunch and having all the women stop to ask if I’m cooking today and exuberantly exclaim that they’ll be eating lunch at my house when I respond in the affirmative.
I don’t want to leave mothers who trust me to hold their four-day-old babies (shout out to Kenda Diallo)
I don’t want to leave my mom who trusts me to make lunch by myself for the family when she goes to Kedougou and my sisters are off at school.
I don’t want to leave my dad who asks me to make tea everyday under the mango tree after lunch.
I don’t want to leave cracking open peanuts on the floor for hours and racing my sisters to see who can finish their pile fastest.
I don’t want to leave mixing dough with Diami every Sunday morning and taking it to the baker’s house to make bread to sell in town.
I don’t want to leave sharing everything equally no matter who “owns it.”
I don’t want to leave sleeping in the family hut with my mom and sisters instead of alone in mine.
I don’t want to leave making nine rounds of tea in a day and not being able to sleep at night.
I don’t want to leave people telling me what to do and treating me like a real daughter or a real sister.
I don’t want to leave my friends who say “Aminata, jooni an a hootaata. Woneng gaa, moodi.” which roughly translates to “Emily, don’t go home. Stay here sweetie.”
This list was compiled in five minutes. It’s just a sampling of what I’ll miss. It boils down to the fact that I finally have a place here- as a daughter, an older sister, a niece, a wife, an in-law, and a friend.

Emily Stevens