Month: January 2007

the dissatisfaction between thinking and breathing

Four continents and eighteen planes later, I’m home.

But this doesn’t feel like mine.
It’s because you don’t belong here.
You put it so simply, and I don’t know.
There is a certain restlessness about you.
You’re right. But at the same time, there is a desperation, a yearning for belonging. And a home, denied.

While standing at the back of the 99B-line, in the leftover scents of stale beer and wet shoes, I thought to myself, I’d rather be standing in a full daladala/matatu, butt pressed against the window, hands grasping on the metal railing, digging in my pocket for two hundred shillings while the obese mama beside me shifts her weight.

Dar es Salaam
I leave the airport after bribing the KQ man for my luggage. But I think I’ve grown to appreciate the life of Tanzania.

Coming back to Nairobi was a beautiful experience because of the family that took me in as their own. While I’m packing my bags upstairs, I hear M shouting downstairs, and R laughing loudly in reply. Soon, we’re all around the small television in the living room… family, friends, the room is full. Tusker Fame, what I like to think of as the American Idol of East Africa, is playing. It’s the finale, and we engage in playful bickering, supporting different singers. I’m eating my final meal. R has made mashed potatoes, catering to my preferences. I can’t express my gratefulness. My mind flashes to my parents, sitting in their Kelowna basement with me as we watch AI intently, criticizing the singers like there’s no tomorrow. I want to tell you about this, because it’s so special. It’s revolutionarily mundane, and special. He gave me a family. I left that night.

The day before, we took a drive out to the Great Rift Valley. I was so happy that day.

tom and i, look out point

Already I’m a world away. On the flight here I sit by a young man from Hong Kong who studied in Victoria. I feel like we’re the only two on the plane. He’s wearing masaai bracelets.

I dislike Heathrow. I wait a few hours to meet my parents and brother after switching terminals. I’m in England, and it’s cold, and it’s another world, again. I’m tired when I finally see them, and a bit dry, stale, and lifeless.

Here I saw the Lion King in theatre. All we needed was patience.

The next morning we take the bus to Oxford, where we stay with family friends. It feels warm to be in a home. Oxford is quiet, ready, rich, wonderful, majestic, stunning, bold. I love it here, and feel comfortable.

the library at oxford, viewed from the church tower


Our plane is delayed for a day due to heavy fog. London reminds me of pain and stress today. We finally leave at night.

I’m so glad to be here, in the comfort of H and A’s cozy house near parliament. Northern Ireland is unique, small, and alive. We drove through rolling green hills, stopped for a billy goat crossing, talked pass castles, had the best fish-and-chips, ate a Christmas dinner at a 17th century pub, shopped downtown, visited C.S Lewis’ old school where we crashed a wedding, went to church, indulged in Irish stew, and loved the people we were with.

waiting for the ferry, northern ireland

On Christmas day, we stroll through Hyde Park, eat at Lebanese restaurants, and pass Green Park to arrive at our place for the night: Buckingham Palace.

The next day is Boxing Day, and it is a knee-aching anxious day of walking through stores the maddening crowds. I can’t think of Tanzania right now.

December 27th is not a day I’d like to remember. I missed my flight out of London, having been held up at security. Just like in the movies, I ran the 20 minute walk to my gate, only to be met by a prude little old British lady informing me of what my carelessness and lack of preparation has done. After convincing the airlines that I really only had 10 pounds with me, the $150 fine was waived, and I found myself on the next flight, re-routing through Montreal and then Vancouver.

Sigh. I arrive close to midnight instead of 4pm. My parents, my brother… I’m sorry. My luggage was not on my plane, their excuse being we didn’t have enough time to put the luggage on. I get it the next night.

I will remember the beauty of ethnicity in the Himalayas, the importance of family and friends in Bangkok. I will remember the beauty of the spirit in Mbande, the importance of love in Nairobi. I will remember the beauty of understanding misunderstandings in Northern Ireland, the importance of patience and forgiveness in England.

Nothing of significance was ever achieved without suffering.
To be honest, I’m afraid to be back.