I'm in that space between leaving home and getting home again. I left Zambia yesterday in the early afternoon and spent the evening hours in Johannesburg airport in South Africa. Throughout the afternoon, I was in wonder that I was just a two hour flight from the northern copper belt of Zambia. Ndola airport is a far cry from O. R. Tambo Airport. Ndola is filled with boozy miners and large handed men that operate heavy machinery. It's really a quonset with a small shed attached. In the shed, there operates a bar that liberally distributes Mosi and Castle beers and even the occasional Fanta in a glass bottle. Sitting in the waiting area, it has the feeling of a boozy reception at a mining convention. Around me the accents of Afrikaans and Chinese, Zambian and South African, blend into a hypnotic white noise. I sit myself by the open window, looking over the pitted tarmac and watch the men pull the carts of luggage, by hand, out to the waiting plane. Our plane sits just a few hundred metres out on the tarmac yet they send a bus to pick us up - much in the same fashion as larger more international airports. I wait at the bottom of the steps as the Zambian sky opens up once more, and soak up the rain and gulp deep breaths, my last of Zambia for a while.
Leaving Zambia feels a lot like leaving home. At the farm, I leave a family - like Liz and Weston, Adam, Lynn, Levy and Alicia, Tawonga, Prag, Norris and girls. I say goodbye with the feeling on both sides that it's not forever. Sukai and James are to meet me at the airport and drop off cards that Sukai wants me to deliver for her.
I jump out of Rahni's van, say goodbyes to her and Joshua, and head to the departures building. I wait outside and debate the merits of buying a souvenir at the small craft stand. A hippo beckons me and I go back and forth on the K70,00 ($14) price tag and figure if all else, it's worth it for the insurance against regret. I've eyed these hand carved hippos since my first trip but never wanted to carry it through transit. Now, with said hippo safely tucked in my bag, Sukai arrives and brings me the "mail". Whenever someone from Canada travels to Zambia, we come bearing letters and cards from our Hands at Work family here for our Hands at Work family there. It's the same on the way back. Small slips of paper, envelopes and cards, pictures drawn and photos taken weave their way over the ocean back and forth in the backpacks, carry ons and pockets of those in transit. It's time to go, so Sukai and I say our goodbyes. It's never easy but we are getting better, less tears, more laughter, knowing our friendship withstands time and distance. We always fall back into our friendship right where we left it and we both value our time together, both of us wishing it was longer.
I head through the security booth, without a hitch, even with a litre of water in my bag. On the other side, I stand in line and wait to check in at a counter that is not identified with my airline, but another. Despite the confusion, it proves to be the right line and I stand and wait. I see James has arrived and then in a moment of conflict, whether to go back out or stand in place, he waves me off with his huge smile and thumbs up…and he and Sukai are off. I could easily dissolve but I focus on smiling and just internally voicing thanks for their beautiful lives, their amazing examples of selflessness and servanthood and our friendship.
Somewhere over the Atlantic, I wake in a darkened plane, lift the window shade just a little and see that outside it's daylight, and it will be for the next eight hours or so until I reach Saskatoon. It's there, somewhere in the middle, that I find myself balanced between home and home.