Friday, June 29, 2007

A corny goodbye

Ghana’s tear ducts opened wide this morning, the day after Janet got on a plane and went back to Canada. Please forgive me for being so sappy (though I don’t know if Janet will when she reads this) but it’s been raining steadily since dawn, and I miss her already!

And I think a lot of other people here do too. Janet can touch people in a way I’ve seen rivaled only by her mother and my mother, and that ability was on display yesterday when I went on a bit of a farewell tour with her before she left.

Janet has written much about the women of Dade Link. They had become good friends of hers, and by extension mine, so we took one last walk there before we caught a cab to the airport.

We went to Filipina’s place first. She lives in a partly constructed building that resembles a parking garage. Construction was halted at some point and squatters like Filipina and her grandchildren now occupy it. She has planted a field of corn and groundnut plants that are now flourishing in the rainy season.

We passed through the cornfield and went up to the second floor of the building. Filipina was sitting on a mat spread on the concrete floor, but she sprung to her feet when she saw Janet. She hugged her and pointed at her heart when she pulled away, indicating that it was difficult to see Janet go. Filipina always chatters away whenever you see her. She doesn’t speak much English ,but she’s very emotional and gestures a lot so it’s not hard to understand what she’s trying to say.

When we left, Filipina waved and cried out goodbyes until we were out of sight.

Janet had already said goodbye to Elizabeth, Giftina and Deliza, but we were going by there anyway so, much to their surprise, there was a second round of goodbyes. When Deliza saw Janet come down the road, she smiled broadly and her eyes opened wide. She ran and told her mother and sister that Janet was here and they all came running out of their shack. The girls ran up and embraced her. They were so excited they hugged me too, which surprised me because they’ve always been friendly toward me but a little shy and standoff-ish.

Janet and I weren’t going to see each other for a couple of months, so I had been hoping to spend the last few moments at the airport alone with her. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be! A trio of women from Janet’s volunteer placement had planned to come and say goodbye – Esther, Rebecca and Momma Lou. They were all very excited to see Janet off; Rebecca and Esther even got dressed up for the occasion.

We sat around a table on the outdoor patio of the airport restaurant. Playing the part of the gloomy writer, I looked around and saw the foreboding signs of Janet’s departure – to my right the tail of the plane that would carry Janet to Canada, to my left gathering rain clouds! Janet and her friends chatted away, seemingly oblivious that she would be gone soon and might never see each other again.

This somehow didn’t matter to them, perhaps because – as Janet said to Filipina earlier that afternoon – we all leave pieces of ourselves behind with people when we go away. Those pieces of ourselves – or memories – feed and sustain us.

The same is true of the rain drops, which weren’t really tears at all of course, but nourishment for the corn that will feed Filipina and her granddaughters a couple of months after Janet has returned home.

I should still be here when it's ready, though, and Filipina has invited me to come eat some with her when it’s ready. I’ll let you know when I do.

- Mark


Anonymous said...

Hi Marky,

Sunny, Lawrence and I are all curled up on the couch.We have just finished reading your blog. I read aloud as the cats listened with anticipation. Sunny misses you terribly and awaits your next blog!

Love you,

Becky, Sunny & Lawrence

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,
Dad and just finished reading this blog. So may emotions. Janet will miss these dear people as they will miss her.
It is hard for you too. These people will be a comfort to you too for the next two months. You will be acomfort to them also.
Love, Mummy and Daddy