Friday, October 7, 2011

East Africa Day 101 (Mon Aug 22): NBO > LHR > EWR

By the time I finished updating this blog, packing, and cleaning up after myself I only had about thirty minutes left before my taxi arrived at 5am, to take me to the airport. I managed to close my eyes for a little bit, which I thought would help put a little bit of closure on my last day in East Africa.

When I went out to the compound gates a little before 5am with my things, the taxi I'd arranged for hadn't yet arrived. I spent a few minutes talking with the askari who was on duty at the guard booth, inside of the compound gates. He said that whenever he saw me, I always rushing in and out of the compound gate. He asked me if this was because I was afraid [to be out on the street]. He said that only he sees Americans walking down our street in groups. I was so surprised and entertained by the question. Scared? I explained that I was always running off for meetings and was afraid that I was going to be late, so that's why I was hustling through the compound gate. Nairobi ... it's been my home. Feeling badly that he thought I was scared of our street. I'm also conscious of the fact that I'm leaving the compound without saying goodbye to Donald, one of the other askaris who often asked me about my departure date. Ah well. I will be back!

The taxi driver pulled up at 5am, and helped me put my backpack, second tote bag, and day pack in the trunk. Then it was off to NBO. All summer I knew that I would be going to NBO on August 22, but somehow it still didn't feel quite right. I handed the driver the last of my Kenyan bills, and hauled my stuff out onto the sidewalk. Took a look at this sign hanging above the curb ... wistfully wishing I was heading to another country on the African continent.

Instead I was on my way to Heathrow. No problems clearing security, and then it was up to the gates. I had some extra time before my flight boarded, so I walked through the shops and listened to calls for the flights to Sudan. I went into a little book shop, became overwhelmed by the African-themed titles, and finally let the tears out. The summer was really over - time to go.

When I boarded my Virgin flight and started walking down the aisle, the company was playing a Michael Franti song over the loudspeakers. It made me smile - first time I'd heard his voice all summer - I felt like it was the USA welcoming me back. I didn't sleep much, and wasn't entirely impressed with the movie selection. The sound was skipping on the Jennifer Aniston movie that I wanted to watch. I wound up watching it anyway - twice.

When we landed at Heathrow, I went straight for the nearest water fountain, and marveled at the safe drinking water that came out of the spout. I had a few hours before my next flight. I walked around the airport - the closest I was going to get to London, on this trip. Still missing East Africa.

I sat down beneath a light board with gate announcements on it, to make sure I wouldn't miss my flight. More destinations that sounded pretty good:)

The entertainment system on my second flight was more high-tech than the first flight. Movies on demand. I first watched "Water for Elephants", because it rang a bell. Sad, but good. Next, I watched "Never Say Never". I knew that one of my sorority sisters works with Justin Bieber, but I almost fell out of my seat when I saw her in the beginning of the documentary. But it wasn't just the beginning - she was in the whole thing. It made the film even better, but I would have loved it anyway. If I could have jumped through that tiny screen and into the movie then I absolutely would have. It's a beautiful story - if you get to see it, then see it. I even love this trailer:)

I didn't have time to re-watch the documentary - some other time:) My flight landed at EWR (Newark, NJ) shortly thereafter, at about midnight. I somehow managed to be the very last person in line at immigration. The airport was pretty much empty. The immigration officer, when he saw how long I'd been in East Africa asked me if I was a missionary. Nope. But I guess he sees a lot of missionaries. Picked up my luggage and then that was it - welcome home, Nicole.

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