Goodbyes and Karibu!

 I can’t believe I am writing this post from my home in the U.S. I keep saying how it feels kind of surreal to be here. Before I write about being back I want to share about my last day and night in Kenya.

Our going away “party” was my ideal type of party. It consisted of a really small group of people telling funny stories, laughing hysterically, eating African flavored potato chips (can’t quite describe these), and drinking Tuskers. We spent our last night with friends in our favorite spot in Nairobi: our cozy and beautiful apartment.

The next day we went to the arboretum. I didn’t know what to expect and we asked David a million questions, most of them focusing on whether we could get food there. He was so baffled by our concern about where we were going to have lunch that he laughed and said, “It is not such a big deal to skip lunch. Have a big breakfast!” That cracked us up, but clearly he did not understand who he was dealing with. The arboretum felt like a Kenyan version of a park in a big city. It looked like a place locals go to hang out or have group meetings. There were a few pretty paths although some were very close to the road and others close to “rivers” of sewage. It was an interesting experience, but not quite as beautiful as our hiking last weekend. The bright side was we had our last meal right back where we started, at the Ethiopian restaurant we ate at one of our first nights.

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Saying goodbye to the people who took such great care of us was really lovely. We took one last picture we David and told him we would miss him and somehow forced him to say he would miss us as well. He was looking out for us right up until we get on the plane sending me a text to leave early for the airport because there was traffic. When we got into our apartment the cleaning lady there Jane was so excited about a gift we left for her which was a card with a tip in it. She was more grateful than we ever anticipated and she gave us each huge hugs goodbye. Rather than have two overweight bags (I have learned my lesson about over packing) I left some clothes for Jane and her two teenage daughters. It fills me with joy to think about them wearing them.

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David and his blue mini van!

While we were packing there was a huge thunderstorm and it was the first time I saw it truly pour in Nairobi. When our driver for the airport arrived we opened the door to find the rest of our building pitch black. The power had gone out, but our generator must have gone on in our apartment. As I already have difficulty walking down stairs it was a frightening experience dragging my huge bags down two flights of stairs in pitch darkness. I should have known at this point to expect challenges on the trip home. The trip to Nairobi felt like all part of my journey, but I must say the trip home felt like something that I just needed to get through.

I had my last experience with Nairobi traffic and after having to jump through hoops to check our bags and get tickets I thought we would get to relax as soon as we got on the plane. I was in fact sorely mistaken. As we were settling on the plane the pilot told us they were checking the plane because it flew through lightning on the trip to Nairobi. One hour later the check was still being performed and the plane was sweltering. I was so nervous that they were not going to get us out of Nairobi that night that I could not sleep or do anything, but wait. After another half an hour they brought water and snacks. Finally, the pilot said they were making a repair and we would be leaving in twenty minutes. I sighed in relief and the rest of the journey back to the U.S. was pretty smooth. I had a huge smile on my face when the Pilot announced, “Welcome to the U.S.” as we landed. I certainly earned that welcome or Kairbu (one of the five Swahili words I learned and plan to insert into as many sentences as possible).

It feels beyond amazing to be back home. I walked into our apartment and was struck by the fact that it has a cozy smell that I never noticed before. I walked through each room and jumped up and down a few times in excitement. It felt lovely to be with my boyfriend (S) and to  know that we weren’t going to be separated again soon. I showed him each gift I bought and he placed them carefully around our apartment. I have already brought Kenya into my home here. Despite setting a goal of staying up until 9pm I passed out on the couch at 8:30pm. I was so disoriented when S woke me because I forgot where I was. A wave of comfort washed over me when I remembered I wash home.

Today I had a date with myself. S was able to join me for lunch and I had the delicious salad I had been craving. It felt so good to be able to walk everywhere and just stroll in and out of shops. It smelled like summer out and I observed my city and neighborhood with new eyes. I do my best to appreciate being with the ones I love and I commonly talk about how much I love where I live, but there is nothing like returning to truly make you feel grateful inside. The theme of my next week is going to be gratitude. Gratitude for the experience I had in Kenya and for the things I get to return to.

Before I left for Nairobi I made a list with five goals for my experience.  This is something I have never done before, but I think I will continue to do in the future. I tried to make them as realistic as possible and I can honestly say I achieved them all! Here is my list:

1) Improve interview and research skills – certainly accomplished this!

2) Learn to comfort myself – check!

3) Blog – this one you can all vouch for!

4) Embrace the present and remember how lucky I am to be having this experience – check!

5) Be whoever I want to be – for some reason I hesitated before checking this one off (and yes I have a real list where I made check marks next to each goal). In Kenya I feel like I certainly was the best version of myself, but I don’t like the concept that I should be trying to be someone else. I think who I am is pretty great and I should be focusing on growing and refining that person, not trying to reinvent her. I will revise this one so next time it simply states – grow.

Thank you for those who read about my trip and told me that they enjoyed my blog. It kept me passionate about writing and I feel honored to have readers! Despite, being back in the U.S. I plan to continue to write about my daily adventures. They certainly will be different, but I hope you will continue reading.

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