A few days ago I noticed an email message from a name I didn't recognize but seemed familiar somehow. It was from Marie-Claire, the waitress at the cafe where Alan and I ate all of our meals; the one I described as having the sad eyes. It read:
I think you have no problems taking your flight.
Tell me about your travel.
And your holidays in Senegal?
I hope you come back next year.
Many things to your ...
Amy Sene (Marie Claire VSD Dakar)
As you can imagine I was deeply touched that she made the effort to connect with me. It reminded me that all that had happened there was real and that the meanings and relationships can be sustained from this new perspective. It just requires a new quality of effort from me....
The reason it took me 35 hours to make the trip from Dakar to Richmond is that I missed the earliest flight out of Paris because I felt I needed time to reconnect with Alan in a setting that was safe and familiar to us. At his apartment I took a shower and we walked down the Seine to La Fruit du Paradis, (I think that's right), my favorite salad restaurant where we sat talking, while we ate our great salads, watched Notre Dame and the quiet city and remembered how it all began. We spoke briefly about what had happened between us and affirmed that any bad feelings were behind us. He's a remarkable man and I will never forget that without his inspiration I would never have made that trip. He and I both gained a tremendous amount from this adventure and we remain great friends.
I'm feeling completely recovered from the cold I got from Badou's daughter. I'm eager to replace the running shoes I gave to Assane so I can avoid regaining any weight I may have left in Africa.
I haven't begun to process the 50 or so rolls of film I shot there. When I do, the first thing you'll see will be images on my website incorporated in some way with this text. You can be sure I'll let you know when and where to look.
Of my first lingering impressions, the most vivid are the insights I gained into the ways human nature expresses itself under the pressures and blessing of Africa. Poverty certainly has different meanings for me now. Both Amadu, the beggar boy we fed, and Badou are poor, but the differences in their perspectives and potentials are stunning. It makes the work I can do with the Photo Fund all the more important to me. But I also come away with a clear sense of how vast an experience Africa really is. I've only briefly touched one tiny corner of its whole.
Susannah and I have a tremendous amount of work to do together and there are moments when it's daunting, but in the early morning light I can easily know how right this path is for me.
Let me thank you again for being there for me to write to. Having a place to put my thoughts made a huge difference to my experience there.
And I will be in touch....