Looking out of the car I see high buildings, many asphalted lanes, cars without bursts in their windows or side mirrors. Most of all I see no sand alongside the road. I’m back in the Netherlands.
Balloons, post cards, flowers and a chocolate cake await me at my house in Amsterdam West. So nice to have my friends and family near again. I show my mother and brother the pictures and film clips I made in the Gambia. I tell them as much as I can about the last few days. Show them the presents I got from so many people. From my colleagues at Gambia College, from the nursery school, from my neighbors, from my friends. You brought that in your suitcase? My mom asks when she sees the peanut sauce for the domoda. My brother and mom choose a present from some of the woodwork I brought. I must admit that most of it was a last minute gift from my friend after he saw how little souvenirs I bought. ‘You were in Africa for almost 5 months. Your people expect some real African souvenirs’, he explains. And he was right. My brother is already playing his Cora, a snare instrument, and searching YouTube for some Cora instructions. They leave and I fall asleep.
A couple of hours later I wake up and find this silence in my house and on the streets. I was used to having people around, all the time: children walking in and out my rooms, sometimes hiding under my bed trying to scare me, or watching over my shoulder when I was working on my laptop. Outside at the compound grounds I could find my neighbor women: cooking, cleaning, relaxing in the shade, talking about men, plating some girls hair, drinking ataya. And when I did not see them outside I joined them inside: watching wrestling on TV or dancing in the living room on Assane Ndiaye.
But here in my place in Amsterdam there are not many people around. And probably because it’s raining there are also not many people outside. They are inside their houses and the doors are locked. I decide to walk over to my friends place just a few streets away. I’m happy to find her and her family home and welcoming me back with a hug.
Probably I will get used to Dutch life again in no time. Jazzy and bluesy sounds will replace the djembes and douns. And work will continue without the need of a fan in the office and without sounds of goats or cows walking on the iPabo grounds. But a longing to work and life in the Gambia again will not easily disappear.