I think we should have foreseen that a journey with a dramatic start would have a dramatic end.
When we arrived at Heathrow airport on Monday afternoon, we tried to check in and couldn’t – only to discover that we were not booked on the first flight of our return journey (London – Addis Ababa). Thankfully, our aunt insisted that we arrive four hours before our scheduled flight, so we had time to troubleshoot. The helpful, polite lady at the check-in counter advised us to go to the airline counter, to see if they could locate the problem. We had to wait 30 minutes for the airline counter to open (not a long time, but 30 minutes can feel like 30 hours when you’re stranded and stressed).
Brits don’t show much emotion, which can make them seem aloof and cold. In a moment of crisis it becomes very beneficial, and I was pleasantly surprised at how their calmness composed me. Within 20 minutes, we were sorted, checked in and waiting for our flight.
On the very last, waiting for our luggage at the carousel on Cape Town International, my composure and new-found serenity was tested – one of my bags was not on the carousel. That I could deal with – what I could not deal with was the lack of urgency from the airport baggage staff (it took almost 30 minutes for them to process a missing baggage claim, as they were having a conversation in Xhosa while doing it). After travelling for 18 hours, I was tired, and therefore a little cranky and irritated. This was not the homecoming I wanted.
But I decided to do what I could, let it go and not let this reality check ruin the best holiday I’ve ever had.
I’ve rediscovered things about myself, and discovered some new things. I’ve allowed my personality to come out completely, I’ve seen it win over the most unlikely people, and become happier with myself as a result.
I’ve seen how I would like to change some of my less admirable qualities, and am determined to do so. I’ve been faced with situations that required compromise, and situations that required fortitude and steadiness – and found that I am more than capable of discerning between the two and acting accordingly.
I’ve been faced with difficulty and handled it without falling apart. And I’ve experienced every new thing in a way that is completely true to myself – with the unabashed joy and wonder of a child.
During my trip and since I came home, people have remarked on how different I look.
I look the same. But inside, instead of being uncertain, stressed and anxious, I am happy and content with myself and my place in the world.