He Stopped by Her Table, and Then Into Her Life


After six months of cleansing and Quran reading, she hadn’t forgotten Mr. Sama and his accent. Also on her mind was something Rashida Gaye, the friend who had married a man from Gambia, told her. “She was like, ‘Gambians are really good men and really loyal.’ When I said I had met this fellow, Bamba, she was like, ‘Don’t lose him.’”

By the time Ms. Ebah pulled out his business card six months after the restaurant encounter, though, she wasn’t sure he would even remember her. The first two times she called him, in October 2018, she blocked her number out of nervousness and he didn’t pick up. The third time, when she unblocked it, he did. “We have so much in common we haven’t stopped talking since then,” she said.

A first date, at a Starbucks in Philadelphia on Nov. 17, 2018, unearthed a few minor differences. Ms. Ebah is an avid runner — she was in Philadelphia to run the Rothman Institute 8-kilometer race — while Mr. Sama is not a runner. And while he enjoyed a daily Starbucks fix, she avoids coffee and drinks tea. On more important issues, though, they were perfectly aligned.

“I was nervous meeting her, because at my point in age I was only looking to meet someone special,” said Mr. Sama who was divorced in 2010. “When she started talking about her family and showing me pictures, I knew it could be special.”

Ms. Ebah describes her relationship with her mother, Cecelia Anne Gooding, and her sister, Raedad Ebah, and brother, Aelbahrah Ebah, as especially close. “I lost my father when I was 5, so my mother raised us in Philadelphia as a single mother,” she said. “She was very grounded and was all about higher education being the key to success.”


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