coming and going

Au revoir, a demain!

C’est La Semaine de la Francophonie, so our farewell today is, naturellement, en Francais. 19 quick fist bumps, and it’s time to go.

It’s breezy today. The wind funnels down the lane as we join the scores of kids meandering towards pickup. But it’s more than just a simple transfer. This is a time for proper farewells. And greetings.

Peter Senge shares a daily ritual of the Northern Natal in Southern Africa. When you first encounter someone in the morning you say sawu bona, equivalent to ‘I see you’. In reply, one says sikhona, or ‘I am here’. The order of the exchange is critical – until a person is seen by others, they don’t exist.

In Ghana, you are seen.

Greetings here are a hearty and delicious main dish. Warmth, love, and affection on the sides. The smile, dessert.

Put it all together and, on a walk across campus, in the neighborhood, through town, anywhere you pass by people (you always pass by people, btw), you feel energized, and full. Greetings are honored, shared, expected.

You say hello. It’s what you do.

We parade by the watchful eyes of drivers, parents, and guards. For some, eye contact is avoided and shyness wins the day. For most others, we reciprocate their bright hello, both arms raised and palms out, all smiling eyes and teeth. We often don’t know these folks by name, but that matters little.

We are seen.

And, while greetings are paramount, equally important,

is saying goodbye

Lisa approaches, makes eye contact, and subtly begs my attention.

I’m leaving the country next Tuesday

I furrow my brow and utter my disappointment

So soon? Nooooo!

I had known it was coming, but this feels sudden. She gives me a quick hug and promises to keep in touch. We offer to exchange details.

Comings and goings are the norm here. People make it home, then make it away. It’s not easy for our Ghanaian friends for whom transience is not so simple. Their home is here.

I consider what it will feel like to say a goodbye like this

And quickly resolve to make the most of the hellos

I have left

Published by Radutti

Teaching in Ha Noi, screwing things up daily but surviving to write about it. ...everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

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  1. Wow, Radu!
    sawu bona!
    “Greetings are honored, shared, expected.” Love how you worked in so much heartfelt detail in this big moment of transition.
    This is my sixth year with challenge and the first time I’ve reconnected with an old friend! I wish you and your family a great welcome back to the states. I know it will be hard but you will be so warmly received back here. Will follow you now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I connect so much with this slide! We need to e seen an acknowledged! It’s never easy to say good bye but then we always hold on to the memories and the bonds formed.I see you,radutti!


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