The fuchsia coloured bougainvillea hung over the balustrade, falling into the back balcony swaying in submission to the ocean breeze. The consistent breaking of the surf on the beach made a sonorous rumble adding significantly to the ambience of the Dakar villa.
My friend visiting me from back home in New Brunswick, Canada took a seat at the table I had readied for tea on the back balcony. I felt she could use something familiar after ten days of living and working on a project in the African bush. An English tea setting to cheer her was just the thing!
It had taken at least three trips up and down the winding staircase to prepare the setup. From my point of view, it was idyllic. English bone china tea cups with flower decals on the tablecloth and a small plate of shortbread cookies gave the perfect touch to the scene.
“I miss Waaaayne,” she wailed into our ever so nice tete-a-tete setting.
I held back on voicing my thought, “Why?”, as it wasn’t the moment for even light sarcasm, though I’m sure Wayne himself would have seen the funny in my comment. But he wasn’t there - thus, the issue. Barb and Wayne were longtime friends of mine and my hubby. And as I looked at her over the teapot, I could see Barb’s tears were genuine. The moment demanded my sympathetic encouragement.
“Hmmmm,” I mustered. “How’s the tea, Barb? You’re tea is the benchmark for mine. I hope it even comes close to the standard.”
She burst out a quick giggle through the tears and took a sip. “It’s good,” she confirmed.
I soaked in the scene and the visit with my friend, multitasking as an open ear and a shoulder to cry on as she continued to share her homesick blues. I was chalking the episode up to nothing more than fatigue and a smattering of culture shock.
I was fully aware that this opportunity of place and setting would never happen again. Barb would leave in a couple days filling out two weeks being away from “Wayne.” We had another year in Dakar and then our family would be completely moved back to Canada. Our oldest son would leave in a few weeks after high school graduation. After not quite one full year, I defined Dakar, Senegal as a city of contradictions evoking conflicting emotions on every dimension.
We sipped our tea mindful of the background chorus of sounds: the pounding of grain by mortar and pestle, neighbours talking in the local language, gardeners hosing the plants, the bonne’s flip-flops flapping on the ceramic tile below us as she went from room to room completing her morning tasks. Kids’ chatter was punctuated by crying screams or squeals of laughter mixed with dogs’ barking. Passing cars honked and geared down as they pushed through the beach sand. These moments were melding into memories.