So… I’m leaving Dakar. Which I know sounds ridiculous coming just days after I posted a love letter to the city. I meant every word of it, and I’m sure I would fall even harder the longer I stayed. But sometimes you can’t be with the one you love.
To take the city-as-lover analogy way too far, I’m thinking of it this way: When I left New York, it felt like emerging from a very long, very bad marriage into exhilarating freedom. Like a newly minted bachelor(ette), I relished the idea of sowing my wild oats. Dakar was the first place I went, because I had wanted to come here for almost 25 years, but it was far from the only place I wanted to go. In fact, the more I traveled around West Africa and beyond, the more my desire to travel grew.
So, I’m feeling highly noncommittal these days. Breaking up with Dakar is incredibly painful, but necessary, given my current mood. I keep saying to myself that it’s not actually that big a deal, because I can always return if I miss it too much. But, I’m old and wise enough by now to know that one road leads to another and then another and it becomes harder and harder to find your way back.
Which means Dakar will probably become the one that got away. I am not sure ours was ever meant to be a long-term, monogamous relationship, but my heart hurts at the thought of saying goodbye.
And yet… I’ve got a one-way ticket out of this town on March 10.
Where am I going, you ask? That is a very good question and I haven’t quite answered it yet. The easy response is that I am heading to the United States for a month of visits with family and friends on both coasts. And then on April 9 I am flying one-way to Paris.
Which is hilarious, given that I love talking about how much I don’t love Paris. On three occasions, I’ve tried to embrace it the way everyone else seems to, but each time I’ve found it just alright-ish to visit… and I would never want to live there (I think. But maybe I’m wrong?).
I’m giving it a fourth quasi-chance because I’ve somewhat pegged the South of France as my following destination, and I’ve got to fly into Paris to get there in any case. I may as well give it a shot before continuing on to a more sustainable locale.
Which begs the question, what is a sustainable locale? For me, at least right now, it’s a place where, A. I can continue speaking French every day, since I want to become more proficient before switching to Spanish immersion. (Yes, I’m still holding on to that dream.), B. there are seasons but not super harsh summers or winters, C. delicious cheese, coffee and/or other creature comforts are not always in extremely short supply, D. on the other hand, options are blissfully limited and I’m not spoiled for infinite choice, E. along the same lines, people are not gluttons for capitalism and conspicuous consumption, F. life moves more slowly than at breakneck speed, but Internet is of at least moderate speed and consistency (I cannot say the same for my current situation.), G. the landscape and human-made setting are both fairly lovely, and H. I have a reasonable chance of finding work making films about the subjects I care about – namely, women’s rights, children’s well-being, humanitarian crises, and interesting cultural phenomena.
I am crossing my fingers that the south of France is such a place. My plan is to spend a few weeks exploring my options in Paris, and then to head first to Marseille and then along the Mediterranean coast until, like Goldilocks, I find the place that is just right. As in, just right for a few months or a few years, until I get the itch to move on once again.
At this point I’m thinking I’ll then either hop across the border to do Spanish immersion in Barcelona – the city that inspired me to sign up for my first Spanish class so that I could one day move there; or I’ll somehow make my way back to Buenos Aires – the city that inspired me to sign up for my second Spanish class 15 years later, so that I could one day move to Argentina.
Or maybe I’ll hatch a completely different plan, who knows. (Or maybe I’ll exhaust myself and come crawling back to New York. It’s a distinct possibility given that just writing this made me tired.)
Long story short: I’m so sad to be leaving Senegal, but I’m so excited for where my life is heading next… even though the (literal) direction is still unclear.