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The airport deserves an entry all it's own. I must say I left Senegal in a very bad mood. I don't think I have been more frustrated in my life. If my normal friends or family saw what kind of state I was in, I think they might have disowned me. I was definitely not myself.

We all waited for ever for Souleye to return after parking the bus with the driver. He finally arrives, Papis gives us all our tickets and travel documents, and sends us inside to wait in the most crowded mass of people I have ever seen. It was like LAX during World War III.  It was like the fall of Saigon and everyone HAD to get out of the country immediately.

We were told by the South African Airline staff to split into pairs and go into seperate lines to the check-in counter. Frankie and I split up into the slowest line. We were in the first group of four to enter the line, but we were still waiting when the rest of our group was all checked in. We had to have been in the same spot for at least and hour and a half. We had to battle security men being mean to us, making Frankie upwrap her large wicker basket that she had worked so hard to pack in plasitic. She was on the verge of tears. I suggested we wrap it back up with plastic bags and masking tape that I happened to have in my bag. Thank God I kept it at easy access.

We wanted to go back out and say goodbye to Souleye, which everyone else got to do. But, by the time we get through the line (actually another line, which we got to switch into), we go outside to see that the whole SIT staff has left. They're gone, and we're pissed off. Really upset. I was just not in a happy state of mind, and things were just getting worse.

Well, we had to get over that fast. The next challenge is customs. Of course the line is long and painful, but getting up the counter was the worst. We had wasted so much time that Frankie and I were in danger of missing the flight. We were very late and had to get through those customs booths as fast as possible.

We finally get up to the front, and a two men with a little boy try to cut right in front of us. I lose it. Completely lose it. I start screamin and babbling in what I'm sure is extremely broken French. They argue that they are allowed to go first because the have a child with them. Under normal circumstances, I probably would have let it fly. But not today. I scream that that's fine at the gate, but not at customs! They have to wait in line like the rest of us! We have a flight to catch and we are going to miss it! I am on the verge of tears. No. I'm in tears. And finally, I get Frankie to push our passports under the window so that the customs agent has no choice. AHHHHHH!!!!

We finally get in to find the rest of our group sitting in the waiting area. They've had time to shop and eat and get a last cafe touba. But us? NO! I walk in mouthing curses and mimicking the motion of ripping my hair out. I have never been in such a horrible state in my life. I never thought I could get that severe on someone who really wasn't doing anything too wrong. It was like a was a completely different person. I guess it's a good think I'm going home before I permantely change into something unrecognizable.

The entire flight, I feel sick. My stomach has the oddest grumbling swirling inside me, and I feel that I need to vomit, but can't. I barely slept.

We get to New York, and we all pretty much scream as we disembark. It is so nice to be back in the States. We'll take the complex and long process of US Customs anyday. It's a blessing.

As we exit the customs area, the time has finally come. We all hug and say goodbye. Nikki is lucky, her mom is there to pick her up and drive her back into the city where they live. Chris is taking the subway to his sister's apartment in Midtown. From the middle of nowhere to urban city life. Crazy. We all bid farewell to those going to different terminals. Some of us going in the same direction head to the shuttle train.

Goodbyes on the airtrain felt rushed; it was quick, and I could tell the goodbyes towards me were a bit less personal. But it's all good. I couldn't believe it was the last time I would see these people. I head to the JetBlue terminal, and it's just like Dakar's airport. But nothing could top that, so I guess is was a God-sent preperation in disguise.

I grab a snack from Hudson News, and see an actor walk by. I don't know his name, but I remember seeing him guest star in sitcoms such as "Friends" and "Fraiser" a bunch of times. I should research and find out his name. It was very cool. I try to make sense of the weaving snake lines of people lining up for the check-in counter or security. There was no way of knowing. You would ask the people in line what the line was for, and they didn't know. I was walking back and forth with by cart and finally saw David in line. Thank God he was so nice and casually motioned be to stand in line with him. (Note: odd that he's so nice to me too.)

There are delays, and other flights have been changed and cancelled. We both get checked in in a decent fashion, then I hang out outside with David, who desprately needs a smoke. It's interesting to see him quickly bond with the other smokers outside as they talk about what flights they are on, who is delayed, etc. Like a whole other culture. We get to security, where we split up into the seperate lines. Though David says he'll meet me on the other side, I never see him again. Oh well, his flight was about to leave, and I had about two hours to kill.

I wanted to load up on every food stand I saw in that terminal. Starbucks, coffee, pizza, hot dogs, peanuts....I got a smoothie and some fruit snacks and the new healthy snack stands and headed towards my gate. And that's where the drama ends. I fly home and meet my parents, my aunt and little cousin at Charlotte-Douglas. They gave me a welcome back balloon that my mom had made.

HOME!! I felt nasty, wanted to shower, throw away my oversized, brown-tinted, once-white t-shirt, and unpack. But for everything, I wouldn't trade. The entire experience was amazing, life-changing, and I learned a lot. A lot that I wasn't expecting to learn. But good lessons, nonetheless. Farewell, Senegal. You really changed me for the better.


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photo by: herman_munster