As emotional as it is to write about my last couple of weeks in South Africa with Outward Bound, I think it might help me to get closure and move on from the life I had to the life I’m moving into at home. (England home, that is.) So here you are.
A seven-day program in Potchefstroom with St Benedicts College for Boys was my last course instructing with Outward Bound South Africa and spending the week abseiling, hiking, camping and rafting with a group of high school kids confirmed my fears that leaving Outward Bound once the course was over wasn’t going to be easy.
Despite my best efforts, I did shed a tear or two after my last ever closing circle when St Benedicts were leaving; it hit me that theirs was going to be the last school bus I’d be waving away and that the next time I left base myself I wouldn’t be coming back. The course went really well and at the end of it I actually felt that I’d done a decent job, which was a nice feeling and I was grateful to end my OBSA career on such a high note.
Even once I’d gotten over saying goodbye to my last group, nothing could have prepared me for the ordeal of leaving Outward Bound behind me to go to Johannesburg on August 12th. Packing my life back into my backpack was the most depressing act I’ve ever undertaken and getting dropped at the bus stop by Joe, Themba and Bizo (some of my closest friends at OB) made my emotional display even worse – from the fuss I was making I think people on the bus were genuinely speculating my mental stability. Outward Bound has been my family for the past year – we live together, move together, work together and play together and are more than a few screws loose between us, but that’s what makes us who we are and gives us the bond that we share. Getting on the bus was horrible, but once we’d pulled away I started trying to make myself accept that this year had to come to an end sometime and think about what an amazing experience I’ve been lucky enough to have.
After a melancholy and boozy debrief in Johannesburg with the other returned Project Trust volunteers (it was our last night in South Africa, after all) the time came to start our pilgrimage across oceans and hemispheres to return to England. With the state we were all in about having to leave our beloved projects, none of us had really given much thought to what would be waiting for us in Nairobi given that the airport had suffered a huge and very damaging fire the week before. We gave a lot of thought to it however when we disembarked to see a gargantuan wedding marquee tent pitched on the runway in the pouring rain – which was to act as the holding area/ departure lounge for every single passenger passing through the airport. The cherry on the cake was that the emergency food station wouldn’t accept South African currency, so we spent a very hungry few hours shivering on chairs or on the floor in the cramped communal space.
After a five hour wait we finally boarded our last connecting flight to Heathrow and landed at 8am this morning. I hadn’t really had time to speculate on what my reaction to seeing my parents would be, but as soon as I’d grabbed my bags from the conveyor belt I was hurrying everyone along to the arrivals gate and true to my socially inept persona I screamed like a banshee when I glimpsed my Dad at the gate.
Coming back to my house and being reunited with my bedroom and my dog has been pretty awesome, and I’m sure the next few days will be the same with emotional reunions with friends and family that I’ve been missing from my life all year, but after I’ve settled back into my home life (and got my Mancunian accent back) I know I’ll start to feel the little part of me that I left in South Africa.
The Outward Bounder in me, though, I’ll carry with me always.