I get on a plane tomorrow, and head back to Canada. Of course I’m excited to see my family, wrap my arms around them tight and share all of my stories with them. Show them what I’ve brought back for them from Africa, and show them photos from my six weeks here.
But what’s hard for many people to understand is the feeling of leaving somewhere you’ve enjoyed so much. When I, (and so many others who know what this feeling is like!), leave home… I know I can always go back. I know that my lovely, amazing, supportive family is waiting with open arms for me to walk back through the gates at Pearson International. But when you travel somewhere, there’s no guarantee you’ll be back. Of course you plan on returning, but there’s no guarantee as to when in the future you’ll come back.
I’ll never forget the way my chest felt like it was being pried open when drove away from a group of 30 friends of mine out in front of my last host famiy’s house in Argentina (2005-2006). Tears in everyone’s eyes, multiple hugs, fearing the next one was the last one, knowing how much we would miss each other the minute we were apart. But I was going home. That’s what soothed the pain. It still hurt, and I forever miss these lovely souls. Within a month of leaving Argentina, I’d planned a return trip for the following year.
The next long stint trip I went away on, was a one way ticket to Australia in October, 2012. I came back to Canada in February, 2015. This length of time meant I’d established a life, a circle of friends, employment, new habits, and had acquired some silly twangs when I spoke. But I was going home. That’s what soothed the pain. I was going home to new twin nieces, a grandma that’d beat breast cancer for the second time and had lost a breast. Parents that were turning 50 & 60 years old, and getting ready to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. Friends were in new relationships, with people I hadn’t met yet. Although I haven’t purchased a plane ticket, I’m aiming to be back in Australia within a year, to see the ones I miss so much! One of my best friends is having a baby! I was the emcee at her wedding in 2014, and even with the distance apart and the time zones to deal with, Lucy and I remain very close. She’s 20 weeks along now, and I can’t wait to meet her little baby during my next visit to Australia!!
I spent eight weeks in New Zealand between my two years in Australia, and even leaving the friends I’d met there was difficult, but we’ve agreed that any time I’m flying over NZ, I’ll stop in and say hi – and have done so once since, for a five day visit. I’m so lucky to have my diving friends!
My six weeks in Africa have been incredible. I was welcomed into a home and a family, cared for as a friend, daughter, and granddaughter. I’ve seen things that have given me a renewed gratitude for the life I have in Canada; my health, my education, my job, my community, my safety, my home, my family. The ability to find a reputable job, have a warm and dry place to sleep and bathe, and the freedom to do respectfully as I please. We are SO lucky to have what we do. The fact that you’re reading this on the internet, whether off of a phone or a nice new laptop screen… both devices could feed and clothe a poor family here for months.
I get on a plane tomorrow, and head back to Canada. I’m going to cry, and my heart will sink as I leave this place I’ve falling in love with. My throat swells up with emotion and my eyes water up thinking about giving hugs to people that I may not see again, and with the gratitude that I’ve had to meet them and spend time with them making memories. Oddly enough, I have this intuitive feeling that I’ll be back here sooner than I think, but there’s no guarantee. I’m so lucky and grateful for my six weeks in Africa, and will never forget them.
I get to see my family in a matter of days, and I can’t wait. Even though I always know I can go home, the closer it gets to my departure to head home, the more excited I get to embrace the people I’m so fortunate to call my own. This is the most beautiful form of a feeling we call “bitter sweet.”
Africa, I love you, and I’ll be back.
Canada, I love you, and I’ll see you “just now.”