Monday, January 16, 2012

The Trip Home

The last of my days in Africa slipped through my fingers. We returned to Cape Town and I managed to sneak in a few more visits here and there. I visited with my cousin Greg, went out to my aunt’s house for a last cup of tea with her and enjoyed a final braai with my uncle’s clan. It was heart-wrenching to let go of the continent, that I felt like I was just beginning to get to know, but it was also time. I had been gone for ten months and my homeland called to me. I longed to see my mother’s face, to feel my sister’s hug and to hear my friend’s excited banter. To know that this new continent that I had come to love would be so far away in a matter of days was bewildering, but acceptance tamed my qualms. It had to.

A phone call arranged a layover in Germany to visit with an old dear friend on my return flight. I would have a week to decompress and adjust to life away from Africa, before winging back to Canadian shores. It all felt so lacklustre, but I tried to muster up a little excitement at the prospect of seeing a long-lost friend and catching up on her life and times. I wondered though, how I would process stepping onto European soil after my earthy African adventures that spanned the southern half of the continent. Europe would be like a different world. Of course Canada would be an adjustment all over again the week later.

For now though, I tried to imprint every image, taste, feel and smell of this land that had gotten under my skin. The concept of leaving was akin to abandoning a homeland that I dearly loved and feared I would never see again. Africa was home to my soul and I ached at the thought of leaving. The fates refused to give me reason to stay though and I begrudgingly packed the last of my things, adding last minute trinkets to my battered backpack to keep Africa close forever.

On August 29th the last full moon arose to wish me adieu to the continent of my dreams. The following day, I drove to the airport with kin that would forever hold a piece of my heart. With a few strings pulled, I was upgraded to the luxury of Business Class and slid into the ample seat with a sad sigh. A flight attendant materialized with a champagne glass topped off with orange juice and a smile. I peered out the window of the plane, tipped my glass to Table Mountain and let a tear slide down my cheek in farewell. I was going home, but leaving a heart-space behind. All the moments that I had lived in this amazing continent seared into my brain as the jumbo jet lifted off the ground. Just like my first flight, there would be no sleep on the return journey. With aching soul, I left a piece of me behind, but more importantly, took a bigger piece of Africa with me. It would always be, and continues to this day, to be a part of my heart. 


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