Monday, April 04, 2011

First, The Mango Tree

In two weeks time I will be packing my bags, frustrated about why I always leave things until the very last moment and wishing I had an intern to bail me out like last August. In two weeks and one day I will be on a plane to West Africa full of Sierra Leoneans flying home to celebrate 50 years of independence.

And so the adventure will continue...

As we entered April it struck me how soon all of this was going to happen. Today a nurse stuck a needle in my arm to restock my supplies of resistance to typhoid, something which also makes future travel feel close. And so over the next few days I will be blogging about the things I am most looking forward to. Of course I could tap on my keyboard about the many things I will miss about being with my family and friends in Belfast and some of the things I won't be excited about finding myself once again in the midst of...but let's be positive here...

First, The Mango Tree.

I am looking forward to the journey to Banta immensely. Sitting in the van watching the jungle and villages rush past. Waving to kids amused by my funny coloured face. Testing out my rusty krio and even rustier mende on women and kids selling on the side of the road. I love taking this trip with interns and answering their wide eyed questions, pointing things out as we drive and feeling their nervous excitement but I am actually looking forward to travelling alone this time around and just being able to focus on my own feelings of being back again. And then we'll reach Mosenesi Junction and suddenly I'll feel like a coiled spring.

The road from Mosenesi to Ngolala isn't particularly long but my mind plays tricks all the way along as it flicks through memories of numerous past journeys, trying to recall exactly how close that particular corner or village now makes us. Staring out the front window and wanting to see one thing - the mango tree. Ryszard Kapuściński writes about how where you see a mango tree you can often be confident that there will be a village nearby - these trees are so often used as meeting places as people enjoy the shade they provide not to mention the annually amazing season of fresh fruit. The mango tree I will look for sits almost directly opposite the entrance to my African home - Children of the Nations' Banta ministry site.

When I last arrived I stepped out of the van and knew I should wait until everyone else was ready so that we could greet the children, who had all lined up at the gate, together. As the team of interns I was with unloaded from the vehicle I sneaked a peak around its corner. Maseray was stood at the gate post beside Marie Marrah and I could see her do a shy little smile and mouth, "It's Uncle Mark!" I pulled a silly face at her and hid behind the van again. Checking that everyone was ready I turned around to lead them through the gates to where the children were starting to sing their greeting to us.

"You are welcome, welcome now!
You are welcome, welcome now.
So you are welcome.
And I am welcome.
And you are welcome, welcome now!

But as I turned around I almost tripped over Pastor who had broken from the ranks to wander over and say his own personal hello. He looked up at me and wordlessly jumped up in to my arms.

I was welcome.

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