Anabella Olivera had been living in Andorra for almost nine years, a country where she worked in a chain of pharmacies in charge of the web sales department for Spain and Portugal. In 2012, she tells her, she had made the decision to return to Argentina to heal old wounds. However, before that return she wanted to make sure that her brother, four years younger than her, was safe in Gambia so that she could stay in peace.
July at that time he used drugs and alcohol. One day he left me a letter in which he told me that he was going to meet himself since he was not living the life he wanted, and he disappeared. For six months I didn’t hear from him until I found out from a mutual friend who was sleeping in Plaza España (Barcelona). I immediately sent him help without him knowing he was me. Until one day I received a private message from him on Facebook in which he told me that he was in Africa”, he recalls.
Welcome to the Gambia?
With a mixture of joy, anxiety, fear and uncertainty one morning in October 2012, Anabella landed at the Yundum International Airport in Banjul, the capital of Gambia. Her first feeling upon arrival at her destination was not at all positive since a police officer withheld her passport because she did not know the address where she was going to stay. “So I left the airport scared to be in a place totally different from what I know and my brother did not appear, did not answer the phone, the wait was eternal. Until after an hour I saw him in the distance peeking out with a robe that reached his feet, I ran to him and hugged him tight. I could smell the strong but pleasant scent of incense. He was different, he was hard with my hug.
Anabella says that the two were very moved. She could not contain the emotion and the tears. Her brother, on the other hand, kept a new composure. “Welcome to the cradle of humanity, my sister,” she told him.
A strange request from the commissioner
“When I was able to meet my brother again, we went together to the airport police office. They made us sit down and there for the first time I heard my brother speak the native language, Wolof. A circle of five policemen talked with him who was speaking to them and they all listened to him seriously, until they began to laugh. The Commissioner had asked my brother for my hand in marriage, while he was explaining to them that in my Western culture this was not customary”, he recalls, with a smile.
In the first intimate chat, his brother told him that he had converted to Islam and that his new name was Mohamed. He also confessed to her that he had stopped using. In that conversation, which lasted until dawn, they talked about the new life that he had achieved in Gambia. “The tone of his voice, the look in his eyes and his incredible stillness showed me that my brother had finally found peace.”
As the days went by, Anabella says, her relationship with her brother was taking a new and harmonious direction. “Every morning he got up at four for the first prayer. He once invited me to go out to the neighborhood patio, where we live with other families in community, to listen to the enigmatic sound that came to me with a vibration that invaded my entire body. The murmur was felt everywhere, everyone praying in unison, it gave me goosebumps in an incredible way.
How was your life in Gambia?
During the month that she was in Gambia, Anabella noticed the poverty that abounds in that African country, but she was also struck by the people who left their homes at dawn to get “fresh air” when the temperature exceeded 30 degrees. Also, she was surprised to see that people were sharing taxis, among other things.
“Every day we went to the paradisiacal beaches with warm and crystal clear waters to enjoy the sun. There I saw the contrast of luxury hotels where most of the tourists were English. We ate typical food with rice, vegetables, fish and a lot of spices to counteract the heat. In the afternoons we visited the houses of different brothers of Islam, holding talks through my brother’s translation where I was able to connect with very pure and generous people. What little they had to eat they shared with you and if you didn’t accept it they were offended. That moment was a ritual in which we all sat on the floor around a huge aluminum basin with rice and vegetables crushed in a mortar with peanuts.”
Among the things that surprised her on that trip, Anabella highlights the look of people with the innocence of children, who were always smiling and who lived at a very slow speed. “In each neighborhood a group of women cooked together and then distributed it among the neighbors. The buses were very old and there was always someone leaning out the door shouting the destination where he was going.
Since she and her brother were the only white-skinned people in the neighborhood, she says, it took almost two hours to walk four or five blocks because everyone stopped them because they wanted to hear from them.
“During my stay I received seven hand requests. One even came with a bouquet of flowers to the neighborhood. As I worked in a pharmacy I carried a large amount of ibuprofen, paracetamol and bandages. When they asked for me they called me `Jangalekat` (doctor) to which we explained that I was not. On one occasion we visited a grandmother over 100 years old who invited me to pray with her and had more elasticity than me at 32″.
What the trip left him
When it came time to say goodbye to her brother, Anabella no longer felt the anguish with which she had traveled to visit him, quite the opposite. She understood that he had found her place in the world and that he was happy in her new life.
“Having been in Gambia left me with the feeling that until then I had not understood the meaning of being human and that I had not fully valued the life I had despite so much loss and pain, because even so, my life was tremendously fortunate. My heart opened wide, I left with the feeling of having ‘returned’ to a place that was very familiar to me. The shields that I had for fear of pain began to break, preparing me to return to my land determined to heal everything from the root.
A career and his first book
Upon returning to Argentina, Anabella was no longer the same woman who had landed with fear and uncertainty that hot morning in Gambia. As part of her transformation, a few months after her return, she studied Ontological Coach and, in addition, she was trained in meditation, metaphysics and numerology.
In addition, a few months ago he wrote his first book: you are magicwhich he defines as a walk to discover and discover himself, a clear invitation to break limiting beliefs and transform ourselves. “80% is personal history and the rest I interweave a bit of theory. In the final part I share dynamics and tasks so that the reader can take action”.
your desire to return
Anabella, who is currently 42 years old, enjoys the life she leads with Gustavo, her great life partner, dedicating herself to what she loves independently, traveling, studying and surrounded by loving people. On her part, her brother returned to Argentina in 2016, got married, has a son and is part of the Muslim community.
Beyond this present that she greatly values and admires, somewhere in her heart remained in Gambia, that country that made her and her brother turn 180 degrees. In fact, it is no coincidence that she has devoted an entire chapter of her book to sharing this experience. “I did not return, I would love to return, it is always a pending. They are people with spiritual wisdom, materialized in this human experience with much to give”.