It’s time. One last hug. One last “We’ll stay in cantact”. One last whispered “I’ll miss you.”. One last look. Goodbye two months of volunteerwork. Two months of challenges. Of new and good friends. Of animals you’ll never forget.
Missy-Jo, I’ll miss your purr in the mornings.
You’ve been saying goodbye for a week. It’s easier to ease into it. You’ve walked around taking pictures, spent time outside of work with the animals – and now the day is here, the day to leave. In one way, you can’t stop smiling, because everyone knows that after a long trip – coming home is always nice. However, in another way, your heart is breaking. You’re massaging the back of your right wrist; the tiny scars from a baboonattack that now seems so long ago. That was such a long day. You learned so much from it.
Remember my struggle with them?
The Baboon Bullies
Always be ready for a fight – one of the things I learned
If you had a bad day
And that it gets better.
The reality of volunteering
“Do you think you’ll ever come back?” Your roomie looks over at you from behind the white bus that’s going to take you away. You shake your head “probably not. This has been an amazing experience, and I’ve learned enough to write an entire book, but… This isn’t a come-back-to-place for me. It’s more of a once in a lifetime thing. One you in the end will only remember the good memories from.”
This crazy group of friends I will always remember.
The coordinator hands out your certificates.
Notice the word “Survival” anyone?
People hug again (there can never be enough hugs). The group leaving enters the bus. All of your heads are turned. You stare at what you leave behind until you can’t. Some are crying. You reach out and take your roomie’s hand. Going home now would have been ten times worse if she wasn’t leaving at the same time.
At the airport you all sit down and get milkshakes.
They still exist! Good heavens, you’ll have to have another one. Chocolate of course. You wander around afterwards, Windhoek airport isn’t big. “See ya when I see ya,” you say to your Danish friend, and he waves. “It was nice meeting you,” the german couple smile and nod, “you too.” And then there’s you and your roomie, your best friend, left. You’re on the same flight to Johannesburg.
Take off. Holding on tight. She’s leaving someone special behind. She cries silently. Both are leaving a great time. A time where you matured. Fought baboons. Walked cheethas. Cared for an injured caracal. Cleaned waterholes and dug graves in 50 degrees. Friends you don’t know if you’ll see again. You watch the straight roads. The white cars becoming smaller and smaller.
In Johannesburg you buy Amarula, promising to think of each other when drinking it.
Promising to tell your stories if drinking with others. It’s emotional, but neither says anything. The last goodbye is right around the corner. At gate A00. You’re going to Norway. Your flight leaves first, so she has acompanied you to your gate. You watch her like you watched your camp when she walks away. Not turning back. A short woman. 27. Poledancer and jewelery-maker. Direct and honest. Funnier than most. The French dialect in every word she says. You will see each other again. Life won’t get in the way. Not this time.
Up, up, above the clouds.
Africa under you. Africa behind you. Africa coming home with you. You fold your hands in your lap. Close your eyes and lean your head against the cold window. Your heart beats faster and your breath threathens to choke you. Pictures run through your head.
“Thanks for everything. Dankie,” you whisper.