Six Years Ago Part 6

Fanta Orange

Six years ago today I woke up in my friend’s SUV and thought I heard gunfire.  Six years ago today I was mistaken.  It was merely the sound of this ginormous barrel contraption that the elementary kids could get inside and do their best imitation of a hamster on a wheel.  Six years ago today we sat around in  the morning waiting for whatever was next.  Six years ago today I walked past Travis, one of the seniors from my mission.  He was talking on his cell phone to his Mom who was in a town in the northern part of the country.  Six years ago today his parents were trapped there and didn’t know when they would get out.  Six years ago today Travis’ mom wanted him to get out of the country as soon as he could, but she didn’t want him to travel alone.  Six years ago today as I walked past I told him to tell his mom I would travel with him.

Six years ago today we had a meeting to help us decide how to leave.  Six years ago today we were given the choice of taking a military flight to Ghana or driving down to Abidjan.  Six years ago today I chose to stay with the majority and drive.  Six years ago today all the kids from Ghana and a few other people got on a bus and headed for the nearby airport to fly away.  Six years ago today I said good-bye to some of them . . . maybe forever.  (Six years later I get to see one of them next week!)

Six years ago today those of us whose vehicles needed fuel formed a small convoy and drove to the nearest gas station.  Six years ago today Yamoussoukro felt like a ghost town.  Six years ago today the word going around was that the rebels had advanced to the edge of the city but were being held at bay there.  Six years ago today it felt strange to leave the Special Forces at the school and venture out to the gas station without an escort.

Six years ago today after we had consumed all the available bread and juice, we piled in the cars to leave.  Six years ago yesterday during the ride Brenda who was on the Crisis Management Team and Jessica who was riding in my car switched places.  Six years ago today I was asked to be the last car in our caravan because Brenda and her walkie talkie would be in it.  Six years ago today Brenda answered for me and said of course we would be at the end.  Six years ago today Brenda missed the announcement that the military would not be accompanying us but would be headed back to Bouake to extricate the other expatriates who were there.  Six years ago today I had a brief moment of panic when she agreed to go last.  Six years ago today we asked one of the men to put his car in front of ours and pay attention in case we got separated from the group or were stopped by police.

Six years ago today we made the drive to Abidjan less circuitously than we had made the drive to Yamo the day before.  Six years ago today the ride was quite uneventful.  Six years ago today we pulled onto the campus of the International Community School of Abidjan.  Six years ago today I saw my friends Steve and Steve standing there waving us in and breaking into big smiles when they saw me.  Six years ago today I drew a ragged breath, remembered there were still kids in the car,  and used almost all my energy to keep from sobbing when I saw the Steves.  Six years ago today I felt safer than I had in a week.

Six years ago today we sat in this weird indoor-outdoor room and participated in some kind of welcome ceremony.  Six years ago today they had cokes and fantas for us. Six years ago today I remember that there were some embassy people there—but strangely I only remember people from the Canadian embassy.  There were speeches and thanks and more thanks.  Six years ago today we were assigned to people who would house us for the next few days.  Six years ago today I got to go home with my friends Nansie and Steve.  Six years ago today there was a part of me that knew in my heart of hearts school would not reopen in three weeks like most people wanted to believe.  Six years ago today I couldn’t bring myself to destroy the dreams of those people.  So, six years ago today I just said things like I’m looking forward to seeing you when we get back and enjoy being with your family.  Six years ago today there was a part of me that denied it was all over.  Six years ago today I heard myself offering to stay and work on whatever needed to be done to get school reopened.  Six years ago today I was quite conflicted.

Six years ago today I got back to Steve and Nansie’s and took the first long, hot shower I’d had in a week.  Six years ago today I broke down and sobbed in the shower. Six years ago today it was like my tears were air and I couldn’t get enough.  Six years ago today we had spaghetti for dinner.  Six years later I can’t remember another thing about that evening.

photo courtesy of Lisa Askew

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One Response to “Six Years Ago Part 6”

  1. allieSeptember 20, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    wow…

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