Goodbye Africa

I have been having most paradoxical feelings for a couple of days. At the same time that I’m tremendously happy to go home and see my family and friends and to experience the delicate, slow spring of Finland after spending eight months in eternal summer my heart is weeping for everything I had to leave behind…

I started saying goodbyes in Awassa after the last children’s Aikido class I gave. All the children were clinging onto me, shaking hands, hugging, asking me when I’ll be back. It was tough to walk away… Then I said goodbye to all the good friends I’ve made there during my two stays and the next day driving in a car from Awassa to Addis Ababa I said goodbye to this beautiful country and its magnificent landscapes. African sky truly is huge…

Next morning flying from Addis to Dar I saw from the plane window the turquoise beaches of Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar and for a moment I had to hold back tears thinking that I might never see them again… So many good moments spent there…

Actually, I started saying goodbyes already two months ago when I moved from Mtwara to Dar. That wasn’t so hard then since I still had the time left on this awesome continent. Even when I left Dar – which was already waaaaaaaaaaay harder because of the wonderful students at Azikiwe Aikido Club I still didn’t have this feeling of finality which is now making my heart so solemn.

In Dar es Salaam taking a taxi – even the taxi driver! I’ve been using the same trustworthy taxi driver every time I needed one in Dar and we both felt already kind of friendship towards each other – through the city to pick up the rest of my luggage from Anoek’s place and going back to the airport for my evening flight to Nairobi I felt the hectic rhythm of the city in my blood and was thinking what a fool I was to leave all this… Arriving at Anoek’s place I was greeted by a family that keeps shop on the basement of the building and had to explain to them with my broken Swahili (even more broken now after hearing just Amharic around me for a month and having tried to pick up as many words as possible of that tremendously difficult language – I used to think Swahili is a difficult language but it’s nothing compared to Amharic; even simple Thank you is a long and hard to pronounce word which is written totally different from pronouncing; Ameseginalehugn, pronounced something like Amesegenallo) why I had to leave almost at the same moment I showed back up and when I would possibly return… Explaining my travels and things I have experienced in these two different countries to these people would be a challenge even in English… To the common Tanzanians or Ethiopians these almost neighbouring countries could as well be as far as Finland (or outer space for that matter); they never get to travel anywhere so they have no perception of how foreign countries are.

So blended to these feelings of joy going back home to my loved ones and sorrow of having to leave so many new friends here seeps in a feeling of gratitude; how tremendously lucky and priviledged person I am being able to experience all this; being able to travel to places on Earth, seeing different landscapes, habits, ways of life, meeting people – widening my perspectives, deepening my understanding…

In the British Airlines plane from Nairobi to London I got first waves of shock when I entered the bathroom. There were tons of toilet paper – not something you would meet in the African ‘bathrooms’ – but also – besides that there was tissues for wiping the toilet seat… and tissues to wipe your hands… even separate tissues for wiping your face! And an abundance of liquid soap and hot water! And after I had used all these commodities the airline politely wished me to ‘wipe the wash basin for the next customer’… The level of hygiene and of luxury that is so commonplace in the west just seems absurd for somebody coming from Africa…

The next shock came when I was flying from London to Helsinki. Watching Europe from the air made me feel somehow cramped since everything is so small; all those small patches of cultivated fields, small lakes, even small sea (the Baltic)! And over Finland all you can see is forest, forest, forest… There is no sign anywhere of the huge spaciousness of Africa; the vast plains, the never ending mountain sites, the dry yellow and brown earth that just continues as far as the eye can see…

Now I am at home surrounded by my family and friends, I am happy to feel so much love but at the same time contemplating when will I be able to return to Africa… Today I also had a total medical check up to make sure I didn’t bring back any unwanted life forms inside myself but I’m afraid this one bug – this ‘I want to go back to Africa’ -bug – is incurable; it will stay in my blood forever…

There is no way to show with photographs the Africa that is in my heart so this writing I will not end with any photos.

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4 Responses to Goodbye Africa

  1. Tintti says:

    Welcome back. You are rich.

    • tainanystrom says:

      Kiitos Tarja, tiedetään… Oon niin tosi onnellinen, että tein tämän jutun; yksi elämäni parhaita päätöksiä! Nähdään syksyllä kun palaan töihin!Hyvää kesääääääääääääääääääääääääääääääää!

  2. Bärbel says:

    Dear Taina!
    even though you are already 1 month back i wanna say “welcome back in europe”!
    I wish you have had and probably have a warm and joyful “hello sweetie” from your family and friends!
    The experiences of Africa will always accompany you and make your life colourful in more than one way – for ever.

    Hugs and Hugs from,


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