After six months and 25% of our placement completed, we are off back to the UK to enjoy Easter with our family - and to cool off! It seemed strange packing bags and getting a lift to the airport to head back to a country where we belong but have no home of our own. And now that our journey is underway, I feel as though we are sort of leaving our home in Ilorin behind - which is comforting in a way, in as much as it will make the return more bearable in three weeks time. The emotional wrenches associated with our VSO jobs are difficult - on both sides, especially where the grandkids are concerned and we have only been able to cope with this by thinking in terms of short 'phases' rather than the entire two year absence. Our next 'phase' is only twelve weeks long after which we will be back again for Katie's wedding. I don't mind the flying hours; in fact I'm one of those people who rather enjoy airports - once you have passed through all the scans, body searches and checks, boarding card in hand and having checked the departure board to verify that your flight is recognised and on time! This in spite of our near in-flight disaster on returning from Jerusalem a couple of years ago; those memories have thankfully faded though there is still a small tingle of anxiety somewhere in the background. But in essence you are embarking on another adventure - or may be returning from one - full of anticipation of the places, people and experiences that lie ahead., or reflecting on those you have enjoyed, now looking forward to being reunited with loved ones.
Another check of the departure board shows your flight steadily moving up the list - still on time. Perhaps this is just me but I read the other destinations and imagine where else you could be going in the future and the images these places conjour - Quito, Katmandu, Buenos Aires, Cairns, Osaka, Havana, Yellowknife, work well for me. Then you refocus on your own destination and the reason for going. The excitement of anticipation rises as your flight time approaches, to the extent that you do not baulk at the exorbitant prices in the duty free shops and cafes. As you try to make your hot chocolate and blueberry muffin last, you do some people-watching - all these people whose paths are crossing, the mingling of nationalities, languages, races, religions, fashions - who, in a few hours time will be dispersed across the planet - wow!
Finally, your flight is called, the gate open and you join the final queue, walking confidently down the jetty into the body of your Boeing jet - quietly hoping you have not been seated next to that man with the streaming cold, or the screaming baby or the hyperactive infant that has just stumbled over the rucksack containing your laptop. All in all you are feeling good as you settle into your window seat, watching the activity on the tarmac below, bustling on your behalf - trying to spot your own luggage on the baggage train as it trundles past, looking at the tail fin designs of the other aircraft and airlines - Lufthansa, Qantas, Malaysian Airlines, Amerisan - and letting your mental map unfold, but there is also the stomach clenching feeling of regret for those you have just said goodbye to and who are even now heading back home after dropping you off outside the terminal building.
Your mind flits between euphoria and sadness so you try to stabilise emotions by flicking through the in-flight magazine, watching fellow passengers stuggling to cram their surely oversized hand luggage into the already full overhead locker. Then you take out your half-read novel set in the land or city that is your destination, that will become your own notebook or blank canvas on which to illustrate and record your new experiences.
And as the taxiing slows and the engines roar, your adventure has begun - magic!