…I picked up my bags at baggage claim and proceeded to exit the building. I tried to work my phone but for some reason, the calls could not connect. Then I decided to book an Uber but that wasn’t working either so I moved on to plan “C”. I walk up to the information desk and pick up a few pamphlets advertising taxi rides and make a selection. I picked one and proceeded to use the desk phone provided to make the call. The voice on the other end said she’ll pull up at the B Gate on level 2. At first I was going to argue and tell her to come to where I was because I was too exhausted to start find her location especially since I have a degree in getting lost but then I looked up to figure out what gate I was standing at, and I realized that I was exactly where she had mentioned “Thank God” I said under my breathe. She pulled up a few minutes later and we proceeded home. I wanted to take a nap but I couldn’t so I decided instead to make a list of things to do. I knew what the first thing on the list should be but I couldn’t bring myself to write it down. I closed the book and just looked out the window and started to play the “car tag” game. So basically the game is about looking for tags outside the current state I’m in. For some very interesting reason best known to God, I get excited seeing cars from out of town and then I try to figure out if it’s a rental or if they owned the car and had driven from there, calculating the number of hours to if they were on a family trip and basically every unimportant bit relating to the tag. After a couple of hours, I get home and my nerves awaken and I’m not sure what the reception is going to be like. I really don’t want anything emotional. I just want to see everyone, be happy and just move on to enjoying my trip. But as soon as I see my siblings and my mom, everything else didn’t matter. I was truly excited and relieved to see them. My brothers took my luggage up to my room and I sat with my mom in the living room talking about everything but my father which at first was great but then became the elephant in the room. Then out of the blue, she just said “I’m sure you will like to visit his grave, Tarvi can take you there whenever you want”. I was still trying to figure out how to answer when she called my brother “Tarvi” and told him he was taking me to our father’s grave site the next day. He looked at me trying to confirm the date and words seem stuck in my throat so all I could do was nod in agreement. I didn’t think I will be visiting him so quick but I guess tomorrow will be as good a time as any other.
There was a knock on my door and I already knew who it was. My mom came in and she asked if I was okay with going to visit my father and when I looked up to answer her, tears just rolled down my face. She came and sat on my bed so she could give me a hug. She didn’t say anything which is very unusual for my mom. I was expecting her to try to calm me down or try to say something nice but she didn’t. After a few minutes, I was calm enough to speak and I asked why she was so quiet and shes said “Sometimes, a hug is all you need” and she was totally right. I just needed to cry. I didn’t need any words of hope or faith or assurance. I just wanted to be allowed to feel the pain and just let it out. I didn’t need someone to make me feel like “falling apart” meant that I was losing my faith or that I was “losing it”. We talked a little more about the events before and after my father’s death and she tried to mimic my father which she failed terribly. My eldest brother Kerhaq is the only one who could nail mimicking my father but it was nice to be able to talk about him with her and even find laughter in the tragedy. My mother apologized for forcing my hand to go visit my father without giving me a chance to make the decision myself but I insisted that it was okay and though I would have appreciated if I was allowed to make a choice myself, I’m glad she spoke up for me. I think the conversation with her made it “okay” to go see him. By that time my brother Tarvi was ready and I went downstairs to join him in the car. Tarvi was concerned that our mother was pushing me to do something I wasn’t ready for and I assured him it wasn’t the case. Anyone listening to our conversation would think he was the elder of us two. It felt good to have such great support from my family. This family support is exactly what I needed when I first got the news. This is why I hated so much that I was far away. I know that there’s nothing that anyone could have said or done to change the situation but having someone who was going through the same thing as me sure would have helped a lot. Tarvi and I talked more about our father and we laughed, I cried, he pretended something got in his eye of course and it was great. I was super happy. In about 24hours, I had experienced all kinds of emotions you can imagine, from one end of the spectrum to the other. When I first hatched the idea to come home, I thought it would weigh heavy with so much emotion that I would had to shut down so as not to “feel” but I must say, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m very prepared to visit my father’s grave and I couldn’t have picked a better partner to come along than my baby brother Tarvi.
…..On our way from visiting my father, I was lost in thought when Tarvi brought me back to reality. I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to pry but he still was concerned about me. I told him what I was thinking about. When I was at the grave site, I kept thinking about conversations daddy and I had had. He always wanted me be successful but not at the expense of experiencing life. He always told me that time goes by very quickly and if you are not careful, you realize that for the most part, you have been chasing shadows. He used that phrase a lot “chasing shadows”. So that made me think hard on what I really wanted out of life and I was hoping to find lots of meaning on my trip. First, I would like to find some orphanages and shelters and the likes. Tarvi didn’t seem very convinced at first but I try to assure him that I had put a lot of thought towards it and visiting daddy’s grave was just extra motivation that I very much needed. I told him that I believed it was something our father would want me to do. If he could speak to me, he would say “You have to go after what you want, fight for yourself because no one else will”.
By the time we got home, it was about evening time. Dinner was ready but I was really pumped to get my research going. I went to my room to do just that but didn’t find much. I really didn’t want a mainstream orphanage, I wanted something ‘off the grid”, a shelter or whatever but a place that doesn’t get as much help as it needed. I decided to continue my research the next day and went down to get dinner after which I worked on some of my online classes. Two weeks after I had arrived, a friend told me of a trip that a couple of our other friends were planning. It was going to be a four day trip and it was free. I decided to join them because she had me at “free”. The trip was definitely something that I was excited about because I hadn’t been to that town before and it would be fun exploring with friends.
By Tuesday the following week, we were on a bus on our way to the town. The energy on the bus was so positive that I was super pumped too. I had just completed and gotten certifications for two of my online classes so that also gave me some positive vibes. I still hadn’t found an orphanage or shelter or even a charity that I could help. Everybody only knew the mainstream ones and I wanted one that was low key but effective. We finally arrived our destination after about 8hours on the road. Despite our exhaustion, we still hit the town that night, we wanted to experience the nightlife outside a city and boy was it exciting. The people were friendly, the food was great and the prices were ridiculously lower in comparison to what we were accustomed to. We ended up tipping a lot since we had a lot to make up for. We met another group who were from another city and they told us that they had a tour guide who had planned for them to visit a village that was known to have a cave that was basically a makeshift Jacuzzi. He said the water was from a waterfall which was cold but then by the time it got to the cave, it was hot enough to steam but not too hot to get in. We were pretty excited to experience this and made plans to meet up the next morning. It was about 3hours outside the town we were in so we decided to leave at 08:00 so we could have enough time to explore the locale.
To my surprise, we left just 10 minutes behind schedule and there began our trip to the “Steaming cave” as it was called. About 2hrs into the trip, you could see the difference in the environment. The tarred roads disappeared, there were no buildings just huts and just the general sense of a rural lifestyle. I saw people riding bicycles or walking with what I guessed to be harvests from the farm or maybe not, maybe on their way to the markets but what intrigued me was the quantity of produce they carried. I would definitely pass out attempting such. We finally reached our destination and there was a lot of activity in the area. The moment the little children saw our bus approaching, they ran towards it, singing and overly excited. Our tour guide- Ali told us they were excited to see us because they hoped we would give them some money or even food. I wished that I had known we would meet the children because then I would have cooked something, bought some items or even gotten some clothes to give them. I wondered where they lived, if they had parents, if they went to school, well I assume some of them did attend some kind of school because they communicated well in English language. There was a food stand beside the bus station so I gave the owner some money and asked her to give the children some food. I didn’t think giving them the money was a good idea but I hoped that a good meal will go a long way. I thought to myself that if only I knew who to talk to or where to go to figure out a way to help the children but our tour guide couldn’t help with my questions. All 17 of us including the tour guide began our hike to head to the “Steaming cave”. The party we met last night were 9 and we were 7 so we decided to split our groups into sets of twos so we could know the other team better instead of just walking with whom we already knew. I thought it was a great idea but because we were outnumbered by two, a team had to have three, two from the other team and one from my team. I volunteered myself to be that one and I was in a team with two boys. We could hear the water falls and that was really amazing because it meant we were getting close to the cave. We finally got to the top of the waterfall and the view was breathtaking. We spent some time there taking pictures and just taking in the view. The cave was at the bottom of the waterfall and we had to begin our descent to the cave. Someone decided to make it a competition to see who could get to the cave first. A couple of us protested but we were in the minority so the majority won. It was going to be a race downhill. I thought to myself to stick with the tour guide but he was nowhere to be seen, and I was immediately convinced that it was a terrible idea. Before I could protest one more time, everyone was racing downhill including my fellow protesters. I decided to go at a steady pace behind them, picking a few people to watch so I wouldn’t get lost.
Boy did I know what I was in for…..