(the last hours of January 2017)
The Hamad International Airport greets me with the same aloof arms I’ve come to love. Doha embraces me from below, a cluster of lights growing larger and larger as my plane bumps to the ground. Overhead, only a faint lingering of an Arabian sunset hovers in jewel-tones over the hemisphere.
I stride purposefully through alcoves of shops and Duty-Frees, past glassy windows of gourmet delicacies and shiny, metallic corridors. The passengers from Nairobi disperse, each of us going our separate ways. I already feel a part of myself left behind in the airplane, the part that was cocooned by the safeness of a country I knew and the people touched by it. The big openness of this new-age, exotic airport excites me.
Though the world expanded astronomically after I stepped out of the plane, I am reminded by how small it still is. I see an old family friend by chance, happening to be in the same place at the same time. I hadn’t seen her for at least four years, and we both had no idea that our next encounter would be under the metallic dome of Hamad Airport. We take a rushed selfie, then I wave goodbye to her as she prepares to board her plane.
I wait out the remainder of my layover with seasoned experience. The time comes for me to stand in line, passport in hand. I step into the covered jetway, suddenly overcome by the enormity of my trip. Am I really doing this? the thought turns over and over in my mind like the inside of a washing machine, churning anxiety into a flurry of butterflies in my gut.
Then I hear a familiar, strangely comforting sound. A troop of elderly British couples appears around the corner, laughing with each other, teasing sarcastically and hooting in only the way old Brits can. They remind me so much of their contemporaries on the Kenyan coast, bantering about the best beaches and what drinks to buy, wearing faded vacation clothes. I feel a smile tug at the corners of my lips. It’s very hard to be afraid in the midst of easygoing, rusty Britons on their way to the tropics.
So it is with a lighter heart that I take off, heading to unchartered waters, the sound of cackling British accents bouncing across the plane. I am going to an ashram, in India, where I will hopefully have some sort of spiritual voyage. I am finally getting away from Kenya. I am finally doing something that I have wanted to do for years. When I go home in three months, I will be a certified yoga teacher. With these reassuring thoughts, I drift in and out of sleep.
The landing is smooth, immigration even smoother. After some hours, I find myself stepping outside into the dark, delicate, humid hours of the early morning. Cars waft by as I wait for my taxi, sparks of excitement gusting through my exhaustion.
I’m in India. I’m actually here.