A Life-Changing Year in Senegal

by Ellen Rowland • More.com Member { View Profile }

My friend had been a Life Coach by profession and was the one person I always called when I doubted myself, which was a lot of phone calls. Our friendship had spanned almost 30 years and many trials and errors on my part. She had a way of taking my insecurities, dissecting them and holding them up for me to see as opportunities to learn and grown. She had been instrumental in showing me all the possibilities and advantages of moving to Africa, something for which I will always be thankful. During our last (and unbeknownst to me, final) phone conversation, I had made her a promise. For years, I had spoken about my dream of wanting to write, a dream that I had always put off, telling myself (and her) that I would commit to it when I had the time, perhaps when my children went to college (they are 4 & 5!). But she had had enough. In her kind and supportive manner, she told me it was time to get up off my butt, or rather sit down on it, and write! She told me that life was short and dreams were meant to be lived, not sit on some proverbial shelf gathering dust, waiting to be taken down and looked at from time to time. I thought of all the reasons why I couldn’t possibly take time to write—kids and a husband to take care of, packing for our move to Africa—the list was endless. But in the end, I did promise that I would start writing . . . sometime soon. When she died several weeks after that last conversation, her words came rushing back. "Life is short." At her funeral, I promised again, and this time I really meant it, that I would write. And I have kept true to my words. I write almost every day and it’s as if her spirit guides me. The words don’t always come easily, but when I am stuck, I hear her say, "well, you can’t just give up!" and so I don’t. She is always with me in this way. What a wonderful parting gift she has given me, the courage to do what I have only dreamed of. Her gift has seeped into many areas of my life. I am less fearful, more optimistic. I life for the present.

A few weeks after I returned to Senegal from her funeral, we decided to take a short trip with six French friends to the Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal’s only functioning area of protected waterways. After surviving a four hour drive along the hot sand route to avoid traffic and vertebrae crushing potholes, I sat outside our hut reading and taking in the views while my husband and children napped.  I heard laughter echoing from the river basin down below and decided to explore. Our friends had all changed into their bathing suits and were splashing in the river. Because it was low tide, there was an area of open shallow water and then a large part of basin lay exposed. I watched as they swam across the river to the delta and began to walk among the birds and close to a large cluster of dense mangroves.

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