When I was a little girl, our most special outing was when we would walk with my dad to a tiny boutique near the open air market and pick out a cool, fizzy soda in a glass bottle. We would sit down on the steps out front and talk and sip until we’d finished and had to give the empty bottles back.

Then we’d go to the Kédougou guest house and I would climb on the tire swing and ask my dad to push me higher and higher until I could see The Gambia River over the wall and watch the women wash laundry while the children played in the water.

And on the way home, my dad would tell us stories from his childhood, about growing up on a farm in Washington State and it sounded nice and all, but I remember thinking nothing could be better than growing up here, in little Kédougou.

It’s been 12 years and I still feel the same way.