The Jongas say goodbye to New York in late August, on one of the hottest days of the year. They board an Air Maroc flight from JFK to Douala via Casablanca. On the cab ride to the airport, Neni stares out the window, seeing New York and America pass her by. Jende forces himself to feel nothing. He sits in the front seat with the seed money for his new life—twenty-one bundles of cash, each containing a thousand dollars—tucked into his backpack. They got an additional fourteen hundred dollars from the congregation at Judson. He insists on carrying the money with him out of fear that, if he sends it via Western Union, the Cameroonian government will find out and come after him.
Neni looks longingly at everything that she believes she’ll never see again. Jende doesn’t want to feel anything because he doesn’t want to be saddened or feel the sense of loss that consumes Neni. He wants to focus on the life that the intends to build for his family in Cameroon. With one dream dead, he must envision another one. However, he hasn’t relinquished his reservations about the extent of corruption in his home country.
When the Jongas arrive at Douala International Airport, it’s “steamy and overcrowded.” People are shouting in English, French, pidgin English, and in any of the two hundred indigenous languages of the country. Moto meets them at the airport with a borrowed Ford pickup truck for the two-hour ride to Limbe. Just after seven o’clock, while Neni and the children sleep, the pickup drives under the red and white sign above the highway that says “Welcome to Limbe, The Town of Friendship.” Liomi is waking up. Jende turns from the front seat to look at his son and asks him to guess where they are. The boy opens his eyes and asks, “Home?”
Though Neni will miss the diversity that characterizes New York, she overlooks the diversity of her own country, which is expressed through its multilingualism. The truck in which Moto picks them up is a reminder that, even far away from the United States, the country’s commercial and cultural influences are always close. The sign is a symbol of the feeling of welcome that Jende longed for in the U.S. but could only achieve at home.