Today was quite special.
If you’ve been reading these “Out of Africa” posts, you know that I have lived in Guinea for five years, about thirty years ago.
In the small town where I lived (Kamsar), there weren’t a whole lot of us, expat children. We were forced to learn how to get along together. A little like sibblings, we didn’t have much of a choice. Of course, some of us got along and mingled more with each others than with others. But all in all, we were all friends. And being so isolated from the rest of the world, we almost became brothers and sisters. But in the end, each family had to go back to their native country, and we were spread back, all around the planet.
I kept in touch for a while with some of the friends whose families stayed in Québec like me, and one that lives in the States. But I lost contact with those living in Europe and Africa. Facebook helped “reuniting” us, but only vaguely, and on a virtual level.
On a couple of occasions, I met with some of these friends, still living on my side of the ocean. But I had never seen any of the European friends I had to leave behind when it was time to move from Africa.
One of them, Stéphanie, is visiting Canada for the first time, and we arranged to have a picnic with her, her husband and their two young boys.
Stéphanie wasn’t my closest friend in Kamsar, but I felt like I had to be there. Unfortunately, many people were out on vacation or simply unavailable, and only six of us made it. Add to that the husbands, boyfriends, and children… We were still a group of about twenty people, gathered in the park.
Of course, Mother Nature had to try to spoil the day, and by the time I got there with my brother, it was raining cats and dogs! For the first time in weeks!!
Luckily, there was a small open building with a couple of benches where we set up our little picnic, while the kids were having fun in the water playground. As soon as we sat down together, it was as if we had never lost touch.
Of course, there was a lot of catching up to do… The usual “what do you do for a living now?” “How are your parents doing?” “Do you have news about this or that person?”… But everything was incredibly natural.
More than natural, it was comforting, to share our stories again, knowing that the others had the references to understand what we were talking about. For about twenty five years, we had regularly talked about this time when “we lived in Africa”, but people could only listen and not relate.
The time we have spent in Kamsar has changed all of us in a very similar way. When we went back to our home countries, we didn’t want it all to end. Forced to learn to live the American/European way again, we had to put Kamsar behind us.
This afternoon, for a couple of hours, we were teenagers again. Reminding each other of as many anecdotes as we could recall, eyes lightening up, giggles fusing as if it was just yesterday. Our memories complementary, one adding to another’s souvenir, bringing back details like a puzzle we all had different pieces of.
It was nice to see the whole picture again. To laugh about the good times, and about the not so good ones too.
Today, we were sibblings again. Reunited, despite the bad weather, in a park, in Montréal. We didn’t cry when we met, thinking about the years we lived apart. We didn’t cry when we parted, not knowing if/when we’d see each other again.
Because we know we are a family. And time and distance don’t break that kind of bonds!