It’s been more than two days now that I’ve been travelling, and my body is reeling from the experience. My heart is engaged, sorting out the maelstrom of emotions which are overwhelming at the present moment. My head is rather clear though, and I’m in a calm which is certainly helping what needs to happen to happen; I’m staying out of my own way right now, and the moments, thoughts, and emotions are coming and going, without grasping and holding each for posterity.
My travels home have been quite full and rich with good conversation and experience. The flight from Zanzibar to Dar-es-Salaam was quiet and sad, short and easy. I sat in Dar at the airport for about 4 1/2 hours, and read quite a bit in the book I’m currently reading, “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying,” which is a great read if you have any interest in Buddhism and/or meditation. As circumstance would have it, Aya, one of the two Japanese girls I shared a ride with to Hakuna Majiwe in Paje, Zanzibar walked into the Flamingo Cafe at the airport, so we sat and talked for a bit before her departure to Tokyo and Nairobi for myself.
The flight to Kilimanjaro was beautiful watching the sun set over the Great Continent the last time for awhile. It was quiet and still, and about 90 minutes long. We picked up another group of passengers to join our dual-propeller ride to Nairobi, and a Swedish girl sat next to me who had been living in Moshi, near Kilimanjaro, for the last two months. Somehow she’d managed to spend the whole of her stay without learning any significant amount of Swahili, which is perplexing to me. Personally, I don’t know how you understand a culture if you do not at least make a stab at understanding the language – so much of culture finds root in the language.
In Nairobi, one of my Zanzibari brothers Naufal came to meet me at my hotel with his wife and daughter. Naufal was the last of the siblings I’d not met – Eddie, I met on my second night in Zanzibar and spent a majority of the trip with – and it’s always so incredible to me how quickly connection is established with my Zanzibari brothers and sisters, even if we didn’t meet on our first trip. They all know so much of my life and could pick me out of a crowd, no doubt due to Shinuna and the fam telling stories and showing pictures (the same is true vice versa, as I knew quite a bit about both Naufal and Eddie before meeting them). So, we hung out for a short visit only because Dr. Naufal was on call at the hospital and couldn’t stay too long.
I ate a big meal, took a nice, long, hot shower, flipped on the news for a bit, and went to sleep. I awoke early, and headed to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to board the first of the long return flights. The Kenya Airlines Boeing 777 was immaculate and the most comfortable plane I’ve ever ridden in. Added to the comfort was the bonus of being seated next to an older man named Thor (pronounced ‘Tor’) who had lived in and around Uganda and Kenya on and off for the past 45 years. He first arrived in Uganda in the late 50’s on a mission, and later returned to help WorldVision set up their program in Uganda. Very knowledgeable and personable, the first three hours of the flight flew by in conversation about East African history and the present situation in which the region finds itself. I wish I could’ve talked longer, but I couldn’t last too much longer and dozed in and out for the next few hours, basically until the flight ended.
The layover in Amsterdam was more just a shifting of planes. It would’ve been nice to rest, stretch the legs a bit, and relax for a few before getting on another flight, but alas, I jumped on my second flight an hour after arriving in Amsterdam, this one just as long…8+ more hours.
Again though, I really lucked out with my seating. I landed on the aisle packing in Walter (Crazy) from Switzerland and Katherine from France. Between the three of us we had 9 languages I think – English, Swiss, German, Italian, Polish, French, Spanish, Mandarin, and Swahili – and not one of them did we all speak. So, Walter served as the translator between Katherine’s French and my English. We had so much fun talking and getting to know each other over the flight.
Walter is a world-renown breakdancer who was en route to NYC for the annual reunion of the Rock Steady Crew. He’s 40 and is one of the OG European Bboys. He had plenty of good stories from back in the day to keep our ears perked. He had been travelling about as long as I had coming from Switzerland earlier in the day, but all the way from Korea the day before (where he was judging an international qualifying breakdancing event for the world championships).
Katherine is a 17-year-old high-school student travelling to her cousin’s in Long Island for a month holiday. Here’s a busy girl. She is a competitive ice skater and pianist, pre-med (the education system works a little different), a painter, and as we found out a fiendish chocolate addict. We certainly made for an interesting group, and had a lot of fun bouncing around stories and conversation. Maybe I’ll be as lucky with my last flight here. I’m now at JFK sitting on a wireless connection in this Wal-mart of a waiting area. I can’t believe how many people are here, and how damn loud it is. I am not liking this as my location for reacclimating myself to American society. Loud ass people with a loud ass PA system never make for an interesting time unless you’re at a club. And, umm, I’m not interested in going to a club right now. I want to climb in a hole.
It’s odd how much different the world is only 18 hours away. The standard of living may be a little bit lower (or a lot), but what should define that standard? Twenty-eight percent of all Americans are listed as having some sort of mental disorder or another. We have thousands of murders each year. THOUSANDS. There’s much less disease here in the States, the water is safe to drink, I don’t have to worry about getting bit by a mosquito and the ensuing disease (unless West Nile picks up again), and still I don’t feel any safer here.
People are chattering away about the Space Shuttle and it’s impending doom. Who really cares in the grand scheme of things? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do care about the people up there, and seeing as my uncle works on the Space Shuttle a successful mission is of concern to me. But, there are many more pressing issues in this world that I can’t find any news on. It’s not just stuff that’s more pressing to me, it’s pressing to many people around the world, but you have to hunt for it here in the States. What is going on with Sudan? What’s happening with the UK’s enormous food drop in Niger? Anyone have any idea how the demonstrations are in Nairobi?
Arg. I’m preaching now, and that’s not my intent. I don’t mean to be too down on the States, it’s just that there are so many things which are hard to get used to here. I’m going to go relax and read for a bit. I’ll see you all soon, Inshallah.