The Journey Back

Once home, an empty shell at that point, I said a hearty farewell to the apartment that had been our home for the past 8 months, and left. I had a very heavy luggage to carry, and was scared of the consequences. We went to Kenya with 30kg, and were expected to come back with 30kg… not exactly an easy feat. I had no idea how much my luggage weighed, but it was way over the mark.. but with what Egyptair website had promised – calculated to around $2.50 an extra kg, I wasn’t too worried.

Except that I should have been. At the airport, they were charging a hefty $12 a kg! Apparently they obviously neglected to include some company whose services make up the rest of the cost! I was furious. I also had luggage weighing at 47kg – I had tons of stuff to leave behind.

At 3am, this isn’t pleasant. It ain’t pleasant at all, I can tell you that. Especially when you have to pay another 10 euros so that someone can make a carton box for you! But I had no choice. I basically dumped all my books and summer clothes in that box, and, mistakingly, some of my gifts-to-give too! I only realised that at home, and was extremely disappointed. Thankfully, I managed to trim down my luggage weight to 35kg.

To cut a long story short (involving waking up a currency exchange lady sleeping on the floor of the booth who complained she couldn’t get a good night’s sleep – well, you took the night shift didn’t you, my dear?) we eventually got onto the flight, and try as I might, I couldn’t get more than half an hour’s sleep.

Cairo with Alan

I had forgotten how beautiful Cairo Terminal 3 was.. it is truly a masterpiece, in a country where otherwise most buildings are shoddy at best. Once outside, we met Alan Pulis, a dear friend of ours who is working with an NGO in Cairo. We were to stay in Cairo for 1 whole day and a half, so we immediately set off to his place in Zamalek to leave our luggage. I couldn’t help but stare out of the window at this Noisy, Chaotic city, where millions upon millions of people hive around their busy lives, shouting and DOING things, or simply lazing about on roundabouts! the traffic, I confirm, is much worse in Cairo than in Nairobi… maybe the worst anywhere. I’d been to Cairo before, and everytime I realise I love and hate everything about it (except it’s history – you can only love that).

After dumping our luggage at Alan’s 4th floor apartment in Zamalek, we spent the day going round Cairo, visiting the places we had never been to before, such as El-Saladin Mosque in the Citadel. However it was, of all days, the only day of RAIN in the whole bloody year, so we didn’t have a nice vista of Cairo from on top of the Citadel’s walls. We of course also did the thing all Mediterranean people love to do – EAT, and we did go out to eat, twice that day, for lunch in a shoddy place, and for dinner in a lovely restaurant on the Nile. 2 extremes… and you get to love both in Cairo 🙂

Malta

The next day Alan set off for work at 9am, and we headed to the airport to catch the 1.30pm flight. At that point I couldn’t wait to get home. It had been a long journey back, and not that I hadn’t enjoyed it, but at that point you just want to reach your destination and stay there.

And we got home all right. As we flew over Malta (in about 30 seconds) my heart simply started beating full-throttle. When the plane landed, the first thing I heard was a “Mario ZUR MIN-NOFS!” which was a rude awakening, to my mind, that not only I was “Back in Malta” but also that from this point onwards, I couldn’t speak or gossip in Maltese any more wherever I wanted. As I went down the escalator and saw the crowd of friends who had come to greet me, I wanted to cry…

It’s hard to express how one feels at such moments. On the one hand, the realisation that you’re back feels terrible because you’d have built a life in Kenya, and then suddenly you realise that that life is over. On the other hand, seeing your family and friends again makes it all seem like a dream, an episode on TV that you’ve watched and finished, and that’s it.

In other words, I was stunned.

As I went outside into the arrivals area, it all seemed like a blur. I immediately ran to my family, and then was greeted by inYgo people (our hosting organisation) and then went round my friends in turn, one by one, thanking them heartily for coming, but at the same time telling them and making sure that whatever it was my eyes were showing, it was definitely confusion. And I truly was. I didn’t know where I was, what I was doing and what was happening to me. Suddenly the realisation that a new year was at the door, and that our time in Kenya was over, that I suddenly wasn’t Mzungu anymore, that I was nmo longer the “odd one out” with all its benefits and uncomfortable stares… all was gone now. I was home.

And so, after some time we headed home. I remember, almost robotically, going up the stairs, going into my room, noticed the changes made to it, sitting down on the bed and, just as dear Samwise Gamgee said, at the ending of the best tale ever written, I said to myself with a sigh.. “Well, I’m back.”

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2 Responses to “The Journey Back”

  1. Alan Pulis Says:

    Just one correction John.. that wasn’t the “only day of RAIN in the whole bloody year”. It’s been raining quite a lot recently.. and, just now, something completely unexpected: Thunder!

  2. johncauchi Says:

    Woah… La Nina for you!
    Well, last year it WAS that day right?

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