At my favorite place in all of Senegal.

Last Thursday began like any other in Dakar. The drunken lullaby of the mosque wafted over my sleepy African city as I slowly awoke, stumbled off the floor, and went to make a pot of hazelnut crème coffee.

As I sat curled up on the couch reading and drinking a steaming mug of said coffee, I was blithely unaware of the fact that the person I’ve missed more than anybody was impatiently sitting upstairs.

 Goodness, if I’d only known!

At 5:00 AM that morning, while the rest of the world was still asleep, Ben had picked Kellan up at the airport. After our team meeting, Ben and I walked over to a local rooftop café for our weekly team leader meeting.

I walked out onto the roof with sopping wet hair and a dirty t-shirt [because hey, what did I care what I looked like?

At my favorite place to eat Senegalese food in Dakar. It's essentially a shack on the side of the road.

I live in Africa.]-…and sitting at a wooden table looking every inch the calm, together man that he is, was Kellan.

Constraints of the English language make it entirely impossible for me to convey the depth of my utter shock. I stood there frozen-staring at the man that occupies the better part of my daydreams, unable to reconcile what I saw with what I adamantly believed to be impossible. He looked like my boyfriend-but my frantic mind was grasping for an explanation. I had to be dreaming or hallucinating-I was convinced that the African sun had finally gotten to me and I was experiencing a total break from reality. There had to be some explanation-because there was no way Kellan was in Africa. I knew exactly where he was-he was in the middle of his final exams back in Chapel Hill. And he’d wanted to come visit but couldn’t-he’d told me so himself. I knew his schedule-he didn’t have time to fly to Senegal! My baffled mind raced with a thousand protests and unreasonable explanations.

Going out to dinner Kellan's first night in Dakar. I was still such a mess-something I figured out when I realized halfway through dinner that my dress was on inside out...

But all of the sudden his arms were around a violently shaking me, and I was wondering where my legs had gone as I melted into the floor and desperately tried to will my nervous system into latency.

The thing is, I’ve spent a lifetime carefully perfecting my “faux-stunned” face. I’m not simply the kid that unwrapped and rewrapped Christmas gifts under the tree-that’s junior varsity. No, I’m the girl that found a book series meant for Christmas morning stashed away in my parents room back in September-and read every single book by October. My surprise sixteenth birthday party? I knew what the invitations looked like before they’d ever been sent out. [Sorry, Mom and Dad!] I can’t think of a surprise in my life that I didn’t know about well in advance-but thankfully, I long ago mastered the subtle art of deftly arranging my facial expression into a something that suggests I’d had no idea all along.

Really. I should get an Oscar.

However, as good as I am, there’s no faking this…

Or this…

Or this…

And definitely not this…

This series of wildly unattractive pictures of me brought to you by “The Story Is Too Good To Hide The Evidence.” In theatres Friday.

Tea and chocolate macaroons at one of my favorite bakeries!

He’d kept the secret from me the only way that could have worked-by not telling anyone on my team until two days before he boarded his flight. Without ever letting on, he’d singlehandedly booked his trip, taken all of his exams early, and coordinated the myriad of the inescapable details that accompany getting to and from Senegal. When I finally regained the elusive power of speech that morning [and believe me, it took a while], all I could say was “What are you doing here?”. To Kellan’s great amusement, I must have asked a thousand times.

I spent the six days that followed lit up like Christmas. It was embarrassing-I had student after student tease me about the fact that I was “glowing”. [Luckily, they were saying it in French-so Kellan was blissfully unaware. ;)] The days were a dizzying, perfect blur-full of all the things I’ve spent months wishing I could show him.

It’s one thing to hear stories-but another thing entirely to live them. I took Kellan to all my favorite places and introduced him to the people in Senegal that have left an indelible mark on my life. We didn’t do anything

2:00 AM-taking him to the airport to fly home.

out of the ordinary-he seamlessly stepped into my life in Dakar as though he’d been there all along. We cooked together in my drab little kitchen on the hotplate, ate dinners with my team, sat on my beach, bought fruit from Mohammad the fruit stand man, walked through my city, and talked with my sweet Muslim friends. One morning, no fewer than ten of those friends came over to listen to Kellan talk about how Jesus has changed both his life, and the way that he approaches our relationship. The longing in their eyes as he talked was heartbreaking-the way he talked about Jesus resonated with a deep-rooted need in their hearts that will be satisfied by nothing else. Most of them have never met a man like him-and the stark difference between Kellan and their Muslim Fathers, brothers and boyfriends was unmistakable. They saw Jesus so clearly that day-and in an unforgettable way that I never could have conjured up.

We packed more into six days than I would have thought possible-and before I knew it, we were climbing into a rickety old taxi at 2:00 AM to go to the airport. He was gone before it had really sunk in that he was even there. Those six days in Dakar were incredible-…and account for my recent blogging hiatus. But never fear-I’m back!  And we’ll leave this particular story here for now-because if we didn’t, I’d have no choice but to start getting really sappy and posting pictures like this:

And that? That might be too much for a Monday afternoon. :)


  1. This hits the nail on the head. What an AMAZING week!
    (Annnnd sorry for single-handedly turning your blog into a sappy mess- this and the Georgetown cupcakes back to back is brutal to your street cred)

  2. So glad Ben caught that moment in pictures. I’ve been dying to see!

    Now, still want to know how he got that Starbucks drink all the way there. I can just picture seat-mates on the plane thinking he’s a total weirdo for not taking one sip.

    • He carried it over on the plane. :) Sadly, he’s not a coffee drinker…though, I suppose there are times when that works in my favor!

      I’m working on him, though. ;)

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