Saying goodbye to friends

I just finished watching the last episode of FRIENDS. The one where they all say goodbye and turn in their key. The one where you see the cameras scan the empty purple apartment where they shared ten years of memories together.

As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not good at goodbyes. Saying goodbye to FRIENDS wasn’t easy. I cried the first time I saw the season finale air on TV, and I cried today. I’m just gearing up for a week of my own goodbyes. 
TheBarefootBeatMy last day at school.
Teiman, Ghana 2014

Five months ago I arrived in Ghana, alone, and unsure of exactly what I was doing here. All I knew was that I was sad to have left Morocco so quickly, missing my friends in France, and standing outside smoking a cigarette in yet another new surrounding. I was feeling solitary and hesitant to embrace this new experience; begrudgingly present, but not sure I wanted to be. 

Now, Ghana feels like home. Now I have a family here. Now I know the neighbor’s kids not only by their names, but by their cries, laughter, and shrieks of joy. I know which of my students to keep an eye on, and which one needs to be pushed harder, in spite of a few tears. I know how to peel a mango and how to slice a juicy pineapple. I know which tro-tro to take, and how much small change I’ll need.

More than that, my time here has become full of friends and memories. There’s the time Matthias came back from Togo and went hiking with Lena and I, up the mountain, in the heat. We were resting in the shade when a baby lizard fell from the school top roof. As we watched it meet instant death, we decided to name it and give it a proper burial beneath the cool breeze of a tree. As we placed its tiny body under a big brown leaf, we said our goodbye to Lou the lizard. Every time I see a small lizard doing tiny push-ups outside on our stone wall, I think of him.

There’s the time we went out dancing in Accra. After hitch hiking to town on the back of an empty water truck, six of us crammed into a taxi and drove forever in bumper to bumper traffic to watch a live band. The power went out and we had to eat in the dark. A few beers later it came back on and we danced like fools. It was Jennifer’s last night. After wearing ourselves out, we left and piled back into our taxi. Laughing with the windows rolled down, we became hysterical, yelling, hooting, hollering our goodbyes, imitating the children we hear every day on our way to school, “Bye-bye! Bye-bye obruni, bye-bye!”  
TheBarefootBeatSaying goodbye for the last time.
Teiman, Ghana 2014

I’m going to miss so many things. I’m going to miss the incessant creaking of our old wooden doors as the wind blows through the open windows, slamming shut and swinging open. I’m going to miss the broken plastic chairs we’ve learned to tolerate with a bit of wariness and quick-footedness as we feel them buckle beneath our weight.

I’m going to miss making fun of each other like brothers and sisters, snickering during another power outage at how badly P. Laud plays “two truths and a lie” or how two frogs doing it froggy style can be so freakin’ loud. I’m going to miss the excitement and fear that fills the house when another scorpion makes an appearance or a large spider sneaks inside.

I’m going to miss long walks on dusty roads, guessing at what our future holds and trying to help each other fill in the blanks. I’m going to miss the hugs, the banana and cinnamon pancakes for breakfast, and fried plantains for dinner. I’m going to miss the way the longed-for rain sounds as it beats against the tin roof at night, the sound of crickets when the church music finally dies.
TheBarefootBeatMy students performing a traditional Ghanian dance for my last day.
Teiman, Ghana 2014

I had no idea how full life would be here. I had no idea how quickly it’d feel as if this was always what I’d been doing.

I’m not good at goodbyes, not good at the in-between moments of transition when my heart struggles to catch up to my body. I’m not good at waiting, not patient with myself or others when feeling so separated from  past and present experiences. I get uncomfortable, waiting for the void to be filled again, waiting to feel home once more.
TheBarefootBeatPalm trees, hanging laundry, and dusty roads, all part of my home in Ghana!
Teiman, Ghana 2014

It doesn’t get easier, but I’m beginning not to dread it. I’m beginning to realize it’s not something to fear or avoid. Saying goodbye with tear filled eyes means something important happened here. It means growth, experience, happiness. It means people I loved and a country I learned to love. Letting go just means there’s more waiting for me around the bend. More love, more adventure, more than I can possibly hold within my grasp.

Goodbye has to come first. It has to come before Hello has a chance to soar with wings, out of my chest and into the Universe, seeking more.
TheBarefootBeatMy adopted family in Ghana, volunteers from Germany, Sweden, and Ghana!
Accra, Ghana 2014

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