Sunday, February 24, 2013

Blast from the Past

Author Note: Kees is pronounced Case. Rhymes with bookcase and suitcase.
After all of the passport struggles of the week before, I started to doubt our Africa trip would pull through. In truth, I even started to lose interest in it. With all the setbacks and barricades in our path our plane was surely going to crash, right? I guess life isn’t always that easy to predict. If we did make it I feared going back to the area of the world which was the most testing of my entire life and the emotions I’d face. How would I feel? How would I react? Could I handle it? It’s been just over 4 years since I abandoned our family trip. Two years of which had been spent living day to day eating, sleeping and traveling with and like locals as we circumnavigated the entire African continent.
Lately I have been absorbing myself in our photos for the second book. It is hard to believe we really went through all those experiences, especially as a family. Sometimes it’s hard for me to even comprehend the extent of what we did and how we did it. Am I really capable of those things? So naturally, going back to one of the poorest countries in all of Africa, not on a safari, resort or something protected and shielded from the local lifestyle, intimidated me. After losing my passport, all the setbacks and trying to see how it could possibly be a sihpromatum, the only satisfying reason was that we were being prevented from a disaster, so the closer we came to getting on the plane the more scared I became.

We didn’t know until the last hours before our departure if we were actually going to make it. My temporary passport had miraculously processed in record time, and I had it in my hands the day before. At 3:30 a.m. Kieta and a friend drove us to Belgium so we could be on the doorsteps of the Guinean Embassy the moment it opened. Halfway to Brussels I realized I’d forgotten my visa photos for the application, making me even more certain some kind of “force” was preventing our departure. Expecting the embassy to open at 8a.m. we started to stress when 9a.m. rolled by and the embassy still hadn’t opened; our plane only 4 hours now from takeoff. Luckily at 9:15 the officials arrived with us following them in on their heels. Luck on our side, after playing stupid, I was simply told to bring visa photos next time and ten minutes later Kees, Keita and I were in the car driving to Brussels International Airport. Going through customs I got a few strange looks and hesitant glares as they observed my white “TEMPORARY PASSPORT” with only 8 pages. I’m completely disappointed that once I return from this trip I am not allowed to keep it as a souvenir!

8.5 hours later, including a 1.5 hour stopover in Banjul, The Gambia, we landed in the black night of Africa. Keita’s brother met us and took our luggage in his car while we caught a taxi to his sister’s house.
Though I’ve been to Guinea before, this was my first time in the capital city, Conakry, and the atmosphere here was no different than I’d experienced hundreds of times before.I was completely overwhelmed the instant I set foot outside. Wow. No number of words, metaphors or descriptions can express the emotions that flooded in. The so familiar, yet forgotten scents and flavors of African pollution, burning street fires and kerosene in the hot night air hit me. It was like finding a familiar yet lost piece of my childhood.
Driving in the pitch black without street lights, the honking horns, smoke and dodging other cars, I had to hold back the tears. Not because of fear, discomfort or anything of that sort, but coming back to a place that was so much a part of my life and my history. I was transported into the past but my world had changed so drastically not having my family by my side and the dirty backpacks in the trunk.
“But I’m your family too, sweet,” Kees said, his strong arm around me. Before arriving I thought I would never again experience that pure shock of a first timer. I did not have the shock that would normally come from such a drastic change in scenery and culture. These surroundings felt comfortable, like I had just discovered an old tree house I’d made as a child and I instantly adapted.
For me, Africa never truly felt like a holiday or vacation, it was simply a part of my growing up. I spent almost my entire teenage years living as a nomad exploring from place to place. I was transported back to a place and time that was both incredible and terrible, where I discovered the pains and joys of heartbreak and falling in love. I’d been challenged and rewarded with the ups and the downs of life. I don’t think any amount of words can bring these emotions to life for my readers, but I can tell you it was one of my most meditating, wowing moments that brought tears to my eyes.
It amazes me how much has changed in my life in the past 4 years and to see how it all worked out. Last time I was in Guinea, 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to wish for a more perfect future. If I could only have told myself what lay ahead when I was struggling so much, I wonder how much of a difference it would have made or if I’d even have believed it.
I have a wonderful guy who surprises me and makes me laugh every day. I get to continue exploring the globe with my sweetheart who shares the same passion for travel as I do. He takes such good care of me and makes me feel like a real princess. After years together it’s still hard to look at him because his face gives me butterflies. The book I dreamed of for years truly exists and the support and success I feel with that is a dream come true. Life is full of potential and opportunities and I’m so excited to see what the future will bring.


At 1:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Savannah!!!
Best Blog yet!!!
Love you so much!
Bree Bree

At 10:22 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That must have been an incredible feeling..
Love you!



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