|This has sort of accidentally become our pose (see Morocco and Guinea). Next on our list? Virginia Beach, VA!|
When I felt the plane begin to make its' descent toward Dakar, Senegal, I pulled out my cosmetics bag, a gift from Kate's wedding, and began to freshen up. In the airplane bathroom, I traded in a floor length skirt for a knee-grazing strapless dress. I put on a cardigan and belted it around my waist before slipping on a pair of high heels. After picking up my suitcase and passing through immigration, I took a deep breath and rolled my luggage cart out of the airport's sliding doors. Seven months of waiting to see Abdoulaye in person was about to be over.
Over a year ago, Abdoulaye and I got engaged in my boss's living room (and again on a hillside in Fes, Morocco). After a stint in the US in the fall of 2011, when I began a low-residency Master of Arts degree in International Education, I returned to Mali in February with intentions of staying until December 2013. The coup d'état in March changed those plans. After a brief evacuation to Ghana, and a visit to Guinea to meet Abdoulaye's family, I returned to the US at the end of April and submitted the paperwork for a K-1 fiancé visa for Abdoulaye – a process that is estimated to take 6-9 months. In June, I packed my bags again and moved to Washington, DC to begin work at the World Resources Institute – this time for what I hoped would be a more permanent move!
Spring turned to summer and summer turned to fall before we heard from Immigration Services again. Then, as I waited out Hurricane Sandy with my family in Virginia Beach, I received a text message indicating that our case was en route to Senegal – the West African regional processing center for K-1 (and immigration) visas. Abdoulaye was in Guinea assisting with preparations for the 40-day celebration following the death of his father. We scheduled his interview for December 4th – almost seven months to the day after our case was processed by USCIS. Life has a funny way of hiding blessings – Baba's passing meant Abdoulaye went to Guinea much earlier than previously planned and allowed him to spend much more time with his family than he had intended. Had he already been in the US and his father passed away, it would have been much more difficult to do so.
|With Abdoulaye (left) and his little brother, Youssouf (right). Me in the middle!|
As I stepped out of the airport, the cold morning air sent chills throughout my body. The sun was just about to rise in Dakar and the sky was filled with soft blues and pinks, the low-light forcing me to strain a little bit to discern the faces in the crowd of people before me. Thankful for the cart's handle to lean on, I tried to walk slowly in order to not trip on my heels and carefully scanned the sea of expectant faces in the pre-dawn light. After rolling a few steps I heard Abdoulaye's voice before I saw him, “Jenny!” he called and I saw his lanky form behind the iron barriers – flanked by his younger brother, Youssouf and another friend from Guinea, Michel. Seven months of waiting to see Abdoulaye in person was over!
Part II detailing our visit to the American embassy and our time in Dakar on the way!