The Inevitable Sadness

"I saw all those people at the bus stops in London waiting to go to work. I'd rather take my chance in Africa again than have to go to work every day by bus" - Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, 'The Last King of Scotland' by Giles Foden

“I saw all those people at the bus stops in London waiting to go to work. I’d rather take my chance in Africa again than have to go to work every day by bus” – Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, ‘The Last King of Scotland’ by Giles Foden

Our plane almost went down over the Sahara as we flew from Ghana to London. Just after the flight attendants had went through the cabin serving tea and coffee the aircraft experienced massive turbulence somewhere over Mali. Jolting up and down and from side to side we gripped our arm rests and held our breath. People all around us were gasping and spilling tea, throwing up into bags. Out of the hundreds of flights I had been on this was by far the most extreme turbulence. Outside looked like a sandstorm, the clouds rustic tinted from the massive desert below. Mark looked at me and said, “Is this the end?” 

“No!” I said. “How could we have made it this far only to die like this in the Sahara? That’s not how destiny works!” And with that, as if prophetic words had been uttered, the plane smoothed out, the wild shaking ceased and it was clear all the way to the U.K.

The moment we boarded the plane in Accra we knew it was over, at least for now. Here we were, somewhat dirty and sweaty, wearing shorts and T-shirts, entering a small elongated capsule of western civilization, fit with air conditioning, working toilets and comfortable seats. We were once again greeted by the almost fake smiling faces of the flight crew with their pristine blue British Airways suits. There was a deep sadness that accompanied this experience. I had felt it three times before on my return trips from Nairobi. The first time it was almost unbearable. My world had been so shaken, so turned on its head, leaving Kenya for America after all I had seen and went through seemed silly and insignificant. I remember the months that followed left me in a severe depression, but I was thankful for it.

Africa both ruined and saved my life and I couldn’t be happier for it. I knew it was the same again the day I left Ghana last month. It had already come, the heavy sighing, the feeling of loss, desperately incomplete as if one had shelved adventure. Africa makes you wonder what’s really reality. You begin to see with new eyes and realize that western civilization might be the real slavery and you’re leaving rich freedom to go back to it.

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