Feeling: LIKE TOTO
I love airports. Like, I fucking LOVE airports. Three reasons why:
1. Planes. Holy shit I love planes. I could spend hours upon hours just watching those things run up and then run back down the, um, runway. I purposely take a long stopover when I go on an adventure so I can sit at an airport and indulge in pure, delicious plane watching. I honestly don’t know when it started – as a kid I wasn’t aircraft-inclined at all; I feel like it’s only a thing that’s developed in the past decade or so. Exploring that a bit more, I reckon it’s the (sorry, this will sound insanely cringey) the promise they hold of taking you away to anywhere in the world. It’s also the wonder they instil – how the actual F does a solid metal bird remain airbourne with hundreds of people aboard? And as well, I think I have an emotional connection to them because they remind me of my Bampga – Mummy Dee Dub always used to tell us of how he would take them out to Wellington Airport to have fish’n’chips upon a hilltop and watch planes fly and land when she was little. So yes, airports are ideal to get me giddy.
2. The intense organisation of it all. I mean, think about it. Flights constantly in and out, gate changes, lane traffic jams, herding long lanes of pushy people to seat and belt up to leave on the dot of 8.15am. It’s an extremely well oiled machine and should a cog move out of place, it disrupts a whole long line. I used to sympathise for the admin staff at high school for having to play tetras to make school timetables work – imagine the masterminds at play at Dubai Airport.
3. And my absolute favourite: the people.
This is more so the case at one of the major connecting players, like Singapore or Doha Hamad; throngs and throngs of so many different cultures wandering around, on their own journeys to all different places. All kinds of ethnicities with so many different looks and cultural “rules” and taboos – isn’t it incredible how the human form takes the same, um, form, in the way of a torso, limbs, head, yet within that people can look so different? Facial structure, proportion of arms and legs, eye shape – sometimes my mind can’t even fathom it. And I love it, because an airport is a collective space where everyone has the right to be.
Also, I love the acceptance that is a good 99.9/100 that many of the people you have casual yarns with you’ll never ever see again. You converse about where you’re going, what you’re doing, and then part to catch different flights or get spilt up in the customs line. And it’s fine. There doesn’t need to be polite exchanging of email addresses or adding on FB – your relationship takes the form of chatting on the bus from the terminal to the nucleas inside, and that’s that. No more, and it doesn’t have to be.
I went to see a sort of medicine man a little while ago, and he told me I see people as people, regardless of age, gender or culture. Since telling me so, I’ve realised it’s true; I genuinely don’t categorise people on socio factors. Rather, my whole thing is personality and how one conducts oneself – I either really like and connect to a person, or I don’t, regardless of any of the other external stuff. People are people and that other crap doesn’t matter – it’s what’s at the core that counts.
I feel like the last six months or so I’ve really calmed down. Yes, there are still the bursts of nerves and angst when there is something I need to do that I’m worried about, but for the most part I feel I’ve really mellowed out.
At first I was sad. I really like the sense of feeling excited, elated, burbingly happy. Of course, the lows that come on the other side aren’t so favourable, but the moments of glee make up for them. But now it’s like my steady line has ebbs and flows slightly above and below, instead of bounding skyward then shooting to the floor. And it’s really nice to have a pause before reaction, and not respond with heightened emotion. Rather, take a breath and keep it calm.
My new mantra I’m trying to abide by? The only thing you should Rush is to Slow. The. Fuck. Dooooooown. So often we live in a constant motion of hurryhurryhurry, we start to shortchange our lives and miss out on living.
I also feel like I’m starting to embrace my age. When someone asks me how old I am, I don’t hesitate like I used to – straight away, I say I’m 27. I feel like in the past I was almost embarrassed to say my age because I felt I hadn’t done enough, or those around me were younger and would see me differently, whereas now I’m content with where I am, what I’m doing. I’ve noticed that in the last wee while, I’m starting to get smile lines around my eyes and instead of wanting to find a way to erase them I accept them – I smile lots, so of course I’m going to get crinkly.
Why dwell on what you can’t change? (Well, unless you hustle Botox which – you do you if you’re into it – I’m not overly keen on for myself). It is how it is – embrace it that way and continue.
Anyway, enough of that spiel; here I am, making like Toto and blessing the rains down in Africa. (Smashed after almost 40 hours of travel and no shower).
Tomorrow I start a safari of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater. Then it’s climbing up Kilimanjaro, all 5895m of it. From then it’s onto Egypt to meet my mate Stacey, followed by a few days in Jordan before the haul home.
When people have asked me about this trip and how long I’m away for, I always respond, “Only a month this time.” I sort of get the sarcastic, “Oh! Only a month!”, but I’m not meaning to be boastful or anything like that; it’s just that I’ve always gone for longer stints up until last year and a month seems quite short to me still.
But it’s funny; a month is enough. I have a lot more to come home to now. Otto is getting older. There’s little nephew Hendrik (sorry, “big boy” – he hates being called little), new little niece Lila and of course, The Pedaller. We live together now and have got a German Shepherd due in September/October. Mate, I got medical insurance. While I’m still my silly self, I’m getting a bit more adult about things. I’ll never stop the roaming, but now I think it’ll be a month or so twice a year, rather than the six plus in one go.
As we descended in Nairobi of course I listened to Africa by Toto. I was looking out the window at all the clouds dotted about when through the little gap in front, I could see this stunning African woman gazing out the window. It’s weird; you always read in those rom books about seeing love in someone’s eyes, but it’s usually in the case of for a person – this lady’s eyes were melting as she looked out at her country. I don’t know, it really struck me and I found myself watching her rather than the runway (shit I sound like a creep).
I always tune in when I step out into the fresh air of a place to how I’m feeling; anxious? A little bewildered? Excited? Making my way out of Nairobi, the sensation is clear:
Certainty that I’m meant to be here.
(Found my man with the sign with my name and he said he had to wait for a few others to transfer to the hotel; was sitting astride the Purple Monster – aka my bag, nothing obscene – when I was approached by a lady. And what a lady! Mid 70s, coral-coloured jumper, perfectly applied blue eyeshadow and a highly refined English accent. Her name was Caroline, and she was waiting for a friend from England. We had a good yarn – she came to Kenya on a holiday 50 years ago with her husband, and never left. He passed away last year and she’s deciding whether to stay or go back to England. She thinks I should do what she did and teach yoga in Nairobi – “There’s a calling for it in Kenya”. Then she gave me her number and email in case I get stuck or if it aligns and I want to pop over to her house for some tea. Age, culture, whatever; when you look beyond the external, you get to the heart and the best stories).