31 months is quite a long time. The world has changed; to give you some idea, when I arrived in South Africa, Hurricane Katrina hadn't even hit and New Orleans was just another city. It was the summer of 2005, and I was twenty-four years old. Now, at twenty-seven, I'm returning home to the spring of 2008. I will be returning to a different place than the country I left, and I will also be returning a different man than the person who left.
There's no way that I can summarize my experiences in South Africa and beyond into a few closing paragraphs. Even the entirety of this blog is just a rough outline of what has happened these past 2 1/2 years. I'm curious to see what happens when I get home. How will I adjust? In some ways, returning home will be the most daunting thing I've had to do since I left. It will definitely require the most drastic readjustment. I've heard stories from other long-term travelers and volunteers who have returned home after long, life-changing periods away. And after a few brief questions from friends and family (like, "What was it like?" or "What did you do?" ---- I don't even know how I would begin to answer questions like that), the curiosity disappears and everyone returns to talking about their own lives and what's been going on in their world. And the travelers, having returned home, realize that they have changed and home has changed and there's this vast chasm separating the two. And they have nothing to talk about, nobody who can relate. Will that be me? I have no idea.
My experiences have profoundly changed me. And while I'd love to include some insightful quote from one of the many books I've read in Africa, what keeps running through my head are some verses from the song "Wanderlust" by Bjork---a song about leaving home and setting off for the great unknown:
Was it something like this I wished for?
Or will I want more?"
To answer her questions: No, No, and Yes. I'm not sure exactly what I expected when I left New York and flew to Johannesburg in August 2005. I'm also not sure exactly what I expected, two years later, when I left Pretoria and started my long overland trip to Kampala. I know for a fact I didn't imagine things would turn out the way they did. But I'm happy that they did. Our experiences make us who we are, and if I could do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.
And so, I'm leaving Africa, but I know in my heart that it will only be temporary---I will be back, one day, hopefully sooner rather than later. The places I've been and the people I've met have had too much of an impact to just leave it all behind and return to the life I knew.
Since I am leaving Africa, that means that this blog must come to an end. It's called "Omar In Africa", not "Omar's Life". So, to those of you who have been reading along and following me on my travels, and especially to those who have been following this blog since I started it in 2005, thank you.