I spent ten weeks volunteering in Masi and was seriously considering spending longer. I would have stayed if it was possible to get a visa extension. A three month visa wasn’t long enough and it’s a shame that it is hard to get another three months. I had thought a lot about what to do next. I considered going home, I considered going to another continent and then I thought about going back to Sao Paulo, given that I had a return flight. I spoke to the others in the house and it was Amy who planted the seed of exploring Africa more.
She and her mother spoke of Nomad, an adventure tour company that run numerous tours up the north east of Africa. I was both sceptical about going through Africa and about booking a tour. I hadn’t even thought about exploring Africa. I had spoken to Seema and we were going to do another trip in the foreseeable future but other than this, nothing. I researched backpacking through Africa and sure solo female travellers have managed it but Africa is a large continent and I wasn’t keen on exploring it solo. Both South East Asia and South America are entirely different, SEA is considerably smaller so easy to travel through and South America whilst larger, you still meet many backpackers every step of the way. Africa however, is not a backpacker continent. So with backpacking out of the question, I looked in Nomad.
Sure enough, Nomad offer a wide range of tours and there was one starting on the 26th of August which is ideal because it is before my visa expires. Now whilst in my head I had decided on taking the plunge and signing up to this tour, I didn’t actually physically do any more. I didn’t email them promptly or pay them to ensure I had a place. Rather, like my usual self, I left everything last minute. So of course I’m panicking and trying to make things happen. Sure, I emailed a advisor and he managed to book me on but then there was the issue of payment.
Having never booked a tour or had to make such a large payment overseas, I struggled. Now, I physically had the money sat in my bank account but it was a question of moving it over to theirs. Now the best way forward would have been to pay by card. I have a visa debit card so why not? But no, instead, I tried to make a bank transfer and it is so last minute that of course it didn’t work. My bank needed to me to go through security and apparently my mobile number was incorrect on their system so they couldn’t proceed blah blah blah. For me it was most frustrating, I had the money yet I could not transfer it over? That’s insane, I mean who do Santander think they are? I had numerous agents telling me how they understood but not one was able to resolve the matter.
In the end, of course, Seema helped. She was a star, a million miles away but a star. She managed to pay from her end and then I could pay her back. She explained a bank transfer for such an amount is never a good idea, instead the best way to pay is by card. It is safe and secure and well this whole debacle could have been avoided. Of course it could have. Was I not so last minute and better prepared, it would have gone a lot smoother. But hey ho, it worked out and I was confirmed a place on the tour – amazing.
Going back to this morning, it was the last time I would be going to Kiddies Corner. I was aware of this and so wasn’t looking forward to it. So many of the other volunteers had come and gone and so many had cried. Whilst I had been there to reassure them, there was no one to reassure me. It broke my heart saying goodbye to the youngest one who don’t really understand that you are leaving. I hugged the older ones goodbye and tried to explain that I wouldn’t be here tomorrow. And then those in the middle, those aged three and four, well again, it was hard. I couldn’t hold back my tears during story time or meal time. The gateway flooded open when they sing their thank you song to me, which they sing to all volunteers, at that moment, I could hold back no more. The truth had hit me, I would no longer be here to sing the same songs and pay the same games with these children. They were thanking me like I had done something so important or worthwhile when I hadn’t. I wanted to thank them, I wanted to hug each and everyone of them for sharing their love, time and energy with me.
I felt bad for breaking down in front of the children. Most children looked confused and upset. They couldn’t understand why I was crying so much. For them, they cry when they fall over or when someone takes their toy and hits them. None of this had happened to me so then why was I crying. The innocence of a child, so pure and golden. Too young to understand that hearts filled with love can just as easily break because love isn’t always enough. I had made a choice to leave but even if I had stayed longer, it would have been hard.
I was preparing myself to say goodbye to the children at Yandi’s however, I never made it. I spent most of the afternoon trying to book and pay for my Nomad tour so I never had the chance to go back and say goodbye. I don’t know if it was better to leave like that then to break down in tears in front of them. I was sad nonetheless, that I wasn’t able to hug or kiss them one more time before I left. Had I known that yesterday, I would have spent more time with them, told the older ones that I would be leaving. I would have prepared it better. But given that I no longer plan, the consequence was not being able to spend another afternoon with the children I love and adore. I like to think and believe that I will go back some day and these children will still be there. They will be older and sure they may not remember me but I would love to see them again.
It was my last night in this house, this town so the remaining volunteers and I spent it together. We went to a fancy restaurant down town. Had to say, I wasn’t necessarily feeling it given that today had been such a emotional roller-coaster but I wanted to leave on a happier note. We had our last supper accompanied by live, African music and it was great. The icing on the cake was, the two girls I was with, Rose and Jessica got up and danced to the music. W e all danced together and it felt so good. Music and dance a beautiful means to show emotions and to release tension. I was so sad about leaving that I hadn’t let myself feel excited about the tour, about the beginning of my next adventure. Of course it was extremely sad and hard to leave but I was able to embark on something else that would be amazing.
I spoke to Sidney once we got back. Bless, he didn’t realise that I was leaving tomorrow. He blessed me and thanked me from his and Candi’s behalf. They will miss my cooking – the paratas and the curry! He assured me that I would be welcomed back, as a volunteer or a couch surfer. He told me to never stop loving as I do. It was him that told me it was better to have my heart shattered and left in different cities then having it whole. Essentially, that’s what happens when you travel, volunteer and live in different parts of the world. Home is no longer where you come from but more “where we love is home – home that our feet may leave but not our hearts” Oliver Wendell Holmes. That is how I feel, I feel I have gained so much not just friends or family but a home where I will be welcomed in when I return.
So as I closed this chapter with a heavy heart, I tried to think about tomorrow and the start of another adventure. We can not hold onto moments or people rather we just have to move with the rhythm and follow the signs. I’m grateful for all the amazing moments I had here and even more so for the people. I could have stayed longer but it still would be hard and heart breaking to leave. So rather than leaving disappointed, I leave hopeful and believe we will meet again. Somewhere else, some other day and it will be amazing.