My friend Sam called when I was inside the airport, sipping my Java House coffee, waiting for the inevitable to strike. I spoke all the Swahili I could muster, still trying to hold fast. Still trying to prove myself to the plethera of wazungu surrounding me that I did, in fact, belong here.
“I’ll be home soon.” I said, as the tingle of a lie floated across my tongue.
“Home” I thought. “But isn’t that where I’m going?”
I love America. Not for the smooth roads or fancy vehicles that roam it’s vast expanse. Not for the improvements in sustainable energy or our attempts at fighting for justice both there and abroad. Not for our conveniences or streamlined systems. Not for our founding fathers who believed and fought for the truths that united our states into one. Or for our legal system.
No. None of these appeal to me. None of these make me proud.
I love America for the people within her borders. For the homeless who will tell their story to anyone with half an ear left to listen. For the illegal immigrants who risked everything to give their families a better future. For the veterans and active duty military who risk and give their lives everyday. For the high school students who have yet to learn about the world outside their own.
I love America for the people. For the 1st Bikers Church of Texarkana. For my friends who have stuck by me. For my family who has waded the murky and often cement waters to help me become the person I am today. For people like Sara’s mom, who saw past all the exterior chaos I could throw at her and still looked on me as her own.
I love my America. The one I’ve found there.
Somewhere between Khartoum and Juba. Between war and peace. Between the epitome of infringement on human rights and the will to overcome all odds. I wept for Africa. I wept because I knew I needed to leave. I wept for the child I was leaving behind. It was time she found peace too.
Amsterdam laid out like an early 19th century postcard under my feet. Snow blanketed the ground leaving only black lines and rooftops for display. It was stunning. And morbidly sad. Europe, the ever great in-between.
I made it quickly to my connecting flight which was conveniently delayed for an hour. Fine. Until the woman next to me pulled out her fashion catalog. I begged myself not to look, but a quick glance at the prices sent me over the edge. I started to cry an incredibly annoying public cry. The one where you have to catch every tear before it trickles down your eyelashes. The one that has the power to forsake all sense of composure you were trying to keep.
I shifted my gaze to the window facing the runway in an attempt to collect myself. There, across the asphalt, shinning in all it’s dismal glory, was the plane we flew in on. The giant “K” for Kenya Airways plastered on it’s tail. For a moment I devised the master plan to march right back over there and tell them I made a mistake.
“I’m sorry,” I would say, “There seems to be a misunderstanding. You see I’m just not ready for this. Not ready for America. Not ready to have to redefine home all over again. I’m 24, you know? And it’s really quite embarrassing to not know who you are or where you come from. So I just need a lift back to Kenya and we can pretend this whole quarter-life-crisis isn’t happening. Okay? Great. Thanks.”
The powers at be, very comically on que, closed the electronic blinds, and I watched my last hope of staving off the upcoming train wreck disappear behind technology.
But there was a new adventure waiting for me, something that stirred the low, resonating notes in my bones.