Welcome to Kenya
Part 5: Kwaheri
2019-10-09 00:00:00 -0500

Although our last day in Kenya was chaotic, it was also saddening. We had all gotten so close to the people in our van, to our other travelers with us (even the people not in our van), and to our driver. One of the stops we made on our way to the airport was at a gas station ⛽️. Although our intention was to gather all of the trucks, we also used the opportunity to say goodbye to our drivers.

The day we met our drivers, they all stood in a line, and we got to hear their names and a tiny bit about them. Now, for the last time, we’d get to see our drivers once more stand in a line to say their goodbyes. I’m sure they’re used to saying goodbye to tourists like us; their schedules are full of various travel companies and tourists. But, no matter how many times I say goodbye to someone in this situation, I’m always sad.

We hurriedly gave the last of our Kenya Shilling cash to our drivers as tips 💰 and gave all of the drivers hugs goodbye—we were running late and didn’t want to be any later. And with that, we filed back into our trucks for the last time (except that one time at the airport through the security station). Even now, it’s strange for me to think that there’s new tourists having an adventure in the same seats in the same truck that we were in before.

When we got to the airport, our trip leaders were right; it was busy. We didn’t have time to hug our drivers one last time, so instead, we pushed our way to the long lines that awaited us inside the airport doors. Kwaheri, Kenya 👋🏼.

The above picture is of our van on our last day. In it we have Abdi (our driver), Impreet, Myra, Kristen, Andrew, and Jesse as our “photographer.” Even over a month later, there’s still a part of me that misses them 😢.

Even though the plane ride was long, I don’t remember a lot of it. I watched some movies and I slept 😴… I guess that’s all the important stuff. But I do remember that after we landed, all 40 of us travelers were swept up in the hustle and bustle of customs. We all separated into different lines based on Global Entry, Mobile Passport, and the normal line. Some of us stopped in the restroom and others didn’t. Briefly, we ran into a few people from our trip while waiting to get our luggage, but most of us were eager to find our connecting flight and move on to the next terminal.

We said goodbye to our trip leader after collecting our luggage. Similar to the drivers, I’m sure our leader was used to being with people one moment, and then not see them again. For me, it was bittersweet, saying goodbye to everyone. To pretty much everyone else, it seemed, it felt completely normal.

If I’m completely honest, I don’t even remember the rest of the journey home. Maybe it’s because I’m writing this a month later, and maybe it’s because all of the exciting parts of the trip were done. All I know is that after we finally landed in MSP, my partner took a long nap while I put laundry in, washed some of the backpacks, and tidied up, just like it was before. Welcome home 🏠.

One month later, all 40 of us still have a Facebook page together. We occasionally tag each other in posts, and we sometimes share articles we read that relate to the animals we saw or to Kenya. Just today I shared a funny post about how dangerous hippos are (see this Twitter post from @NomeDaBarbarian). But in general, most of our lives have continued on as normal. We all go back to our normal jobs, we post our normal pictures, and life goes on. I’m sure our trip leader is off on their next tour, and I bet Abdi is driving around the savanna with a new crew of adventurers in his truck. But, I won’t forget the last thing Abdi said to us before we left: “Don’t forget, you’ll always have a friend in Kenya 🇰🇪. If you ever come back, just give us a call 📞.”