A Life-Changing Year in Senegal

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

Their distant voices called to each other and traveled up the slope, reaching me long after their words had dissipated. On a whim, I ran back to our hut, stripped and searched for my bathing suit. I would join them. Exhilarated, I pulled out all the clothes and reached the bottom of the bag and then searched through the second small duffle which I already knew held mostly food reserves. I sat down hard on the floor as the realization came: I had forgotten my bathing suit. I heard my friend’s voice rise from within: "so what, don’t let that stop you." Donning matching underwear and bra and a large beachtowel, I ran down the path, descended the rickety stairs and came to a halt. By the time I got there, my friends had already swum back and were lying on the beach, panting out their enthusiasm. "SOU PEAR" one said as he passes me on the stairs. "C’etait incroyable", it was incredible, another rasped, wiping droplets from his flushed cheeks before bounding up the stairs with the others. Oh, I thought to myself, I missed it. Maybe next time. As their voices faded, Africa and I were alone for the first time. I let the towel go and walked into the river to wet my feet. I couldn’t see the bottom. The air was starting to chill and I was tired. (Dangerous, perhaps.) My book was waiting. It’s just as well, I thought. Still, I couldn’t help but take one last look across to the wide expanse on the other side. Was the shore near or was it far? The flat bottom of the river bubbled up visibly in the distance, birds hovered, some picking their way along the massive flats, mangroves swaying at the edge of the shore, waving to me. I looked back down at my feet in the water, inched in a little further. Sun descending. A small current swirling and chirping. Something darting between my ankles. Feet in the water isn’t much, I thought. A small shiver. And I dove.

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