I have never been big on surprises, but much to the delight of an encouraging friend on board, I planned a trip home for Christmas, but only told my mum. She, of course, was delighted, yet had to keep it a secret for the following 3 months!
Fun Christmas events were happening frequently on board, wrapping me up in all the Christmas fun. I had put going home out of my mind, because that way it was much easier to pretend it wasn’t happening, otherwise i would have spoiled the surprise with my true excitement.
As I looked around the beautifully decorated ship, my home, I had such mixed emotions. I had been preparing for Christmas for months. I had bought my flights home, I had ordered gifts online, I had been sitting in my cabin for hours hand stitching presents for friends and family. All these gifts had now been wrapped and were sitting on my bed, ready for the night before I departed. I had explained to friends spread all over the ship, of the excitement I had squashed deep down inside of me, at the thought of going home to be embraced by my family members.
After many happy see-ya later’s and Merry Christmas’, and little sleep, although I tried to tell my body to enjoy the horizontal position for the last time in two days, I was up just after 4am, for final packing and disembarkation. Two sweet friends were up to send me off with hugs and goodbyes and even waves from the dock, as the Landrover drove off into the darkness.
If you’ve ever traveled far from Australia, you’d know it contains hours and hours of sitting around, whether in airports or on planes. I tried to contain myself and my excitement, because there were so many hours (42 hours altogether) I couldn’t afford to work myself up!
Adventures are always coming my way, and after making friends with some Nigerian men in the airport in Abidjan, my flight companion was more than I bargained for! Here’s what I wrote during my flight:
Sitting on the 2nd plane already, in Accra after already spending 7 hours in the airport in Abidjan, Ivory coast, I let myself begin to think about actually being home with my family after being away for exactly 365 days. As the excitement began to bubble up inside, I wondered how I would ever contain it for the next 30 or so hours sitting on planes and wandering around airports. But then, for the third time, and counting, a child, speaking a foreign language with no caregiver was placed next to me! Perhaps I look like someone wanting to baby sit for this 8 hour, overnight flight?!? He speaks French! And I know I've lived in French communities now for more than a year, but it is not a language I have picked up quickly! I should have tried harder because right now I need it! I know some words, but not enough!
How will these hours pass, with a child who looks to me to help him and asks me to draw a helicopter on his notepad, who has eaten a small box of Pringles, mars bar, half a scotch finger, a pack of aeroplane snacks and a glass of juice and won't even sit still long enough to watch a French dubbed Pixar movie! Never a dull moment!
And then FINALLY, I arrived to Brisbane airport. You may never have seen one so full of nervous energy and so impatient to wait in those custom lines! My mum was on the other side of those doors!!! And then before I knew it, there she was, and I was in her arms, ready to cry out tears of relief and pleasure.
After the drive to my home town, we pulled into the drive, Mum honking crazily on the horn. Sarah came running down the back stairs, saw me, jaw dropped slightly, yelled my name in delight and swept me into her arms hugging me tight, tears running and mouth laughing all at once! My brother and sister-in-law had just left the house, and they turned the car around, pulled into the driveway and more hugs were given.
After dumping my luggage into my bedroom and taking a much needed shower, I called Dad. He’d known that Mum was going to pick someone up from the airport. In fact all of the kids had known that mum had gone to collect someone, but they had not dared hope it was me, for fear of great disappointment.
At the sound of my voice over the phone, Dad choked up and could barely utter words. My oldest sister who was arriving in 3 days, did the same! The last family member to surprise was my younger sister. We waited for her to finish her day at work and come home, walk up the stairs, dump her bag on the table and then I was standing there, in front of her. “Hello Ruth” Her eyes widened, a high pitched, “Debbie!!!” escaped her mouth and her arms gripped me tightly, squeezing out all that anticipation I had carried for the past 3 months. I was home.
I kept the secret to my family that day and the following day after a lovely visit with a dear friend, I made some calls to unsuspecting friends, pleasantly surprising them also.
And now I am here, sitting in my parent’s house, the one that I lived in before I left for the ship. The day I arrived I wrote a list of things that I want to do while I’m home. It is full of the simplest things; things you might do every day that I never get a chance to do on the ship. But that will come later, for now it’s a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you from me and my (some-what silly) family :)