Thursday, January 3, 2013

Getting back on the plane

After a lovely Christmas at home, I left my house in Navan at 3am on New Years Day to drive with my Mum and Dad to the airport. In many ways the last wave goodbye as I headed through security was even harder, more sad, than the one exchanged last November. That day, although I had been so sad to say goodbye to my family and friends, the sadness was balanced with the giddy excitement at the thought of the new adventure. Of a new life in Kenya. Of all of the potential that lay ahead.

Those feelings were absent on Tuesday morning. That is not to say that I was dreading going back to Kenya. I am really happy in Nairobi. I enjoy the work that I do, I have a great bunch of friends. My lifestyle overall is great, I have a good work life balance, a naff-sounding but important thing. I have enough time to run in the mornings and have dinners and drinks in the evenings. However the over-riding sense was not one of what lay ahead, but of what I left behind. 17 days of snatched coffees dates and rushed conversations (in many cases I literally sped up the speed at which I talked to cram in as much information as possible) with friends and family. Catching up, in many cases, only in the most superficial way. Throughout my time at home I felt as if time had simultaneously stood still, with many moments of feeling as if I had barely left, and, contrastingly, as if in the 14 months that I had been away, so much had changed. I met new boyfriends, admired the growth spurts that had taken place in young cousins, marvelled at new grown-up sounding jobs. I watched two wonderful people commit to each other forever, another sign of my, and my friends, having become grown up? Where did I fit in amongst this? Was I the same person who left in November 2011, or a wholly new character? I felt a little different, but then a year older makes us all feel different. How can you measure, or simply identify the differences?

I spent the entire plane journey in a reflective, if slightly melancholic, mood. Actually melancholic is the wrong word, more like philosophical. Yes, let's say that (sounds much better). Despite, having stayed up the night before in the hopes of sleeping on the 8 and a half hour journey from London to Nairobi I remained awake throughout - my inability to sleep a combination of physical and mental jittery-ness. I read chunks of three different books, watched a mediocre film (The Sapphires - its main redeeming feature being Chris O'Dowd) and then wrote. I have never been one to keep a diary regularly. I've never had the discipline, so I only tend to write in one every few months, when something of significance - for good or ill - has occurred. And yet on the plane I wrote and wrote and wrote. Pages and pages about my trip at home. I wrote about all that I had done, who I had seen, how I had felt. I wrote feverishly, quickly, meaning much of the script is now, if not quite indecipherable, then certainly a challenge, to read. I wrote for such an extended period of time with this zeal that I am sure I freaked out the mild-mannered American lay missionary beside me. But it did, in some ways make me feel better.

However, it was the leaving of the airport, the meeting with a familiar taxi driver, the drive through streets whose name I knew, that made me feel better. The drive assuaged my fears. I was indeed, where I needed to be. And as I drove my phone chirped (literally, I have no idea how to change the sound) signalling a new email. From myself. Sent on January 2nd last year.

I have been doing this for years. Thanks to the wonders of I send myself an email at the beginning of the year, to be delivered on January 1st the following year. What I write changes year on year but it's usually a retrospective of the previous year, a look forward to the upcoming year, with some goals/resolutions that I would like to accomplish by the time I receive the email. The goals have varied from the specific and sensible (pass my driving test, apply for Masters programmes), the broad and aspirational (do things you've always talked about doing) to the random (applying to be a quizshow contestant). The timing of the receipt of this year's email could not have been better, nor the content more re-assuring. It reminded me of where I was at this time last year and how far I have come in many ways. It accurately predicted some things that would happen in 2012, and yet was way off on a couple too. But overall, past Andrea wrote a lovely email to present Andrea and when I sit down to write this year's email in the next day or two, I will be excited about the promise of the New Year that lies ahead.

I have yet to make resolutions for 2013. To set out the list of things I would like to accomplish, get done, change this year. I will do this at the weekend, once I've had more time to process things. And also sleep. I will need lots of that before I can begin plotting the year ahead. But I am delighted that I am starting this year the same way I started last year, in Kenya.

And to finish, here are a couple of photos from a lovely Christmas spent at home. Thanks to everyone who made it a wonderful 17 days.

One of the signs that greeted me at the Arrivals Hall.

With my Mam...

...and one of her epic Full Irish Breakfasts.

It's not Christmas, without the 12 Pubs of
Christmas, and the obligatory naff jumpers!

The table of cakes at the Welcome Home party that
my Dad and  Mary (my granny) organised for me.

Christmas dinner with the college crew, one
of my absolute favourite Christmas traditions.
Tension as the family gathers together to watch the darts.

A blurry picture of the beautiful bride.

Pints in The Oak after Gillian and Barry's wedding.

Siblings, enjoying each other's company
(I think that's more darts in the background)

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