I’m currently sitting in the departure lounge of the airport in Tana, and it’s about 4am. I haven’t slept and I’m super sad to be leaving, so I basically feel like I want to throw up and die. I haven’t actually been alone in weeks… This is weird. A WWF driver picked me up at the hotel at 2:30am, and Ryan and Manora came out to the airport with me to say goodbye. It was a teeny bit emotional, but we were all too exhausted to be really upset. They both wrote me really lovely goodbye notes, which I just read, causing me to tear up once more. Wonderful people.
Last night… well I haven’t slept, so it doesn’t feel like “last night”… we had an aperot at SakaManga and then all of us went back up to the Grill du Rova at the top of the hill in Tana (where we ate on my first night in Tana!), to have a farewell dinner with Marlin and Sahondra. I debuted my film on Charles’ laptop, which was a hit. Dinner was so tasty, and we were all very touched when Sahondra started telling us how proud she was of our group. I’m sad to be the first one leaving, but I know it wouldn’t be any easier if I had to say goodbyes more than once. After dinner, we went back to Le Rossini for some tasty desserts (and wine, obviously), and then Ryan and I went down to Hotel de France to have a beer with some Peace Corps folks. It was already pretty late, so numbers dwindled and the waiters started sweeping the floors. We took a really roundabout cab ride back to the hotel, I did a really sloppy packing job (the only things I’m really bringing home are a few shirts, my shoes and some rice mats and lambas that I bought – I left most of my clothes and things here to be donated), and we sort of dozed off until the desk called up at 2:30, saying that my ride had arrived. Ugh.
Weird weird weiiiiiiird! I’m in a five-star hotel at the airport in Johannesburg, where my parents booked me a room for the day (as a birthday gift), so I wouldn’t have to spend twelve hours sitting on a plastic chair in the airport. It seems totally luxurious and unnecessary. But the grilled cheese from room service was superb, and I had a bubble bath, which almost made my head explode. Although, I had to put my only-marginally-clean clothes back on afterwards, which took away from it a bit.
I am nestled in an enormously cushy bed with a white duvet and a hundred pillows, watching the Olympics on a plasma screen TV. And I feel like an alien.
Heathrow is such a machine. I’m surrounded by a totally overwhelming kind of consumer pressure that’s totally different from the kind I was faced with in the markets of Madagascar. There are sterile-looking shops all around, and thousands of seemingly zombie-like people who look like they’re on conveyor belts, looping through shops filled with expensive perfume and handbags. I’m not sure I was ready for this. (Note: to be fair, I did buy a book in Johannesburg last night – Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, about her family’s mission to eat as locally as possible – so far, so good.) My confusion is certainly augmented by the fact that there are no windows or anything, so it could be midnight or noon, I’d have no indication. (It’s actually around 8am, I think.)
On the flight from Joburg, I sat next to a very friendly (but slightly awkward) girl from Kitchener, Ontario who had been volunteering at an orphanage in South Africa for the summer. We had a lot to talk about, but her stories of running water and electricity (washers and dryers!) made me feel pretty hardcore, I must say.
Now it’s only… eight hours or so until I get to see my family (minus Nick J, who’s still out working at camp in Alberta until September first) and pet the dogs and…. and what?