I woke up.

Yes, I do realise this how most people start their day. But I had woken to more than another Monday. I opened my eyes as the sun rose over Pretoria, and it dawned on me that it was the last time I’d be seeing an African morning (excuse the pun, I just couldn’t resist). I have no idea when I’ll be returning to my homeland; the thought is a sobering one.

I was distracted by all the ins and outs of preparing to leave – I had yet to pack, I had no cellphone, and no bankcard. I think it’s possible that my subconscious left those so dangerously last minute to protect me from processing too many emotions at once. My friends think it happened because I’m scatterbrained. Hmmm… Either way, I suggest NOT leaving everything you require for your travels until the 23rd hour. Especially if you are also going to be held prison in your flat by a forgetful housemate. When you need to leave ASAP and find out the door is locked with no keys to be found, even the 3 story drop from the window begins to look enticing.

With the help of patient friends who wouldn’t let me get distracted by anything shiny, I got to the airport with everything I needed in time. My heart felt like it wasn’t there, just a strange, airy emptiness. My chest closed up a little. I think I was on the verge of a panic attack. Fortunately, my best friend grabbed my hand and told me it would all be OK – I tend to believe him when he says that. My sister had me sorted for travel tissues. I held it together… at least that’s how I’m telling it.

A few goodbyes. Lots of hugs. Lots of kisses. More goodbyes… and then I was gone. Through security. Into boarding. Within 15 minutes I’d met a Reverend Buddhist monk, Andy the South African studying in Taiwan, and come face to face with the ridiculous prices at OR Tambo Duty Free. I mean, REALLY?

And there my adventure began,