I just realised that I forgot to post about my trip back to Larnaka...
I spent most of the day that I left in packing, wandering around slightly disconsolately, wondering what I had forgottern, sorting out other peoples stuff which they had left in the cabin, and finishing off packing stuff myself. I had already agreed to take presents back for 2 people on board to supporters or friends in Cyprus, and 2 other people brought stuff to me randomly during the day and said "would it be OK for you to take this back with you? I know this guy in Cyprus who I met while in port there and would love to send them this gift..." Anyway. I also had random things to clear up, like I took some old sunglasses up to the Creative Ministries Office, they always want more sunglasses as props and costumes, and all that. I had a childrens activies/crafts book which I had be loaned before Sabbath Week which I needed to take back, and so on and so forth. So many things to do.
The last of the STEPPERs ate together with our STEP mum for our final meal ( lunch ) on board. The 2 SP-STEPPERs, one Swiss girl, and myself. Our Albanian STEPPER had somehow managed to go on overnight, and had been gone the last 2 days or so, and none of us knew when she would actually arrive back to Doulos, or when her flight was!
Anyway, we were told what time the minibus would leave. At half an hour before that time, I had most of my stuff packed, but not all, and was slowly going about the cabin finding other random things to pack, sorting out clothes and things to take to Charlie, and so on.
Suddenly I realised that I was supposed to go to the quayside earlier than that, in order to say goodbye to people! And worse yet, I needed to go to the loo before leaving! So I quickly rushed to the loo, washed my hands, rushed out again, and picked up my bags, and found that I had forgotten to pack my washing bag, with toothbrush and all, so I collected that, and packed it, then saw on my bunk that I hadn't packed some other things, so I packed them, looked at my watch, was shocked, saw loads of things in my drawer that I needed to either pack or send to Charlie, and then heard my name being paged on the info system! So I picked up all my bags, and then thought "Oh, yeah, I'd better phone them back!" So I phoned info: "Hi, this is Daniel, I'm on my way! Sorry!" they started laughing, so I hung up the phone, and struggled out and up the stairs towards the prom deck and gangway.
Thankfully, another friendly Deckie saw me, and offered to carry my bag for me, so I could just cope with my hand-luggage, and with the weighing scales that I had borrowed from info to weigh my bags. Which reminded me, I needed to take them back to info! So I changed direction, and we headed up to info. I gave them the scales, and clambered out of the door to the other gangway.
Someone else had offered to carry my handluggage too, but it was that terrible backpack which I had just fixed with the sewing kit, and I didn't want to take it on and off my back more than I had to. I had a 30 second argument about this with him, he claiming that I would be offending his culture if I didn't let him carry it for me, which was nonsense. Well, perhaps not nonsense. His culture might be offended, but he wouldn't. He had been on Doulos so long that you'd have to punch him on the nose to offend him. And his culture wasn't there to get offended anyway. So I let him carry the scales for me. That seemed to make him happy, anyway.
So I got to the gangway, and all the others were already in the minibus, which was running and the driver wandering around looking distracted "You're late!" he shouted. "I know!" I replied.
All of my Deck team were there, and decided that now was the best time for a group hug, deckie style, which I believe is an ancient ritual inspired by snakes, boa constrictors on acid or something like that. So once I could breath again, I hugged all the other random people on the quayside, creative ministries people, friends, people I had worked with other than the deckie team, my twin (who gave me a red hand-made goodbye card with a canada pin on it), and so on.
The minibus was at the gate and honking by this time, so I took the parcels from the STEP mum for me to add to my bag, and ran over and jumped in. We zoomed out at a terrible speed, I began to wonder if the driver had forgotten that we were supposed to go the airport before lift-off, narrowly missed a container-lorry, and headed for the airport.
It's a 45 minute drive from the Doulos to the airport. I don't think it took anything like so long.
I spent about half of it in attempting to remove my keys from a strip of elastic which I was using to hold them to my belt, in order for the driver to give back to our STEP mum. I could have given the elastic too, but I needed it for a belt-buckle, the belt looking silly and flapping around without it.
I hate belts.
When we got there, my STEP sister - who was leaving half an hour before me - and I checked in, went through to the departure lounge.
While checking in, the guy who checks the passports and tickets and that had never heard of Cyprus, I think, and wanted to know if I had a visa for there. I told him that Cyprus was in Europe, in the Union. Didn't impress him much. I showed him my Alien Registration Certificate of Cyprus, from 7 or 8 years ago, before Cyprus joined, and he looked at my photo, and asked "Is this you?" I said yes. He pondered it for a while, then asked "Why did they put a picture in of when you were a baby?". He asked if I wanted to collect my luggage in Jo'Burg, or if I wanted it to go strait through. I thought strait through, and so he put some LCA tags on the bag. I was a bit worried though, if this guy didn't even know where Cyprus is, who knows where my luggage might end up!
It was odd being all alone, just 2 STEPPERs. We looked at some of the duty-free shops. Very expensive. So we sat down for a while, and talked about going back home, missing the others, and so on. I realised that I was still wearing my Doulos name badge, so took it off and put it in my belt-bag. She thought that was quite funny.
I like her a lot. When we first joined the STEP, she was very quiet, and almost withdrawn, but in the last week or so has been much more outgoing. She even punched me once, when I told a really bad joke. I would never have expected that after seeing her during the first week on board! It just takes a long time for some people to become comfortable with so many new people, I guess.
Her flight was called, so we hugged goodbye, and said "See you in Jo'burg!" and off she went.
I was sitting there, watching her go, talking to God, and feeling slightly lonely, when these two blokes came up to me, one of them in a black leather jacket, and the other one in a yellow t-shirt. They said they were airport staff doing a questionaire, and would I care to help them? I immediately went into paranoid Who-do-you-think-you-are-go-away-respect-my-privacy-mode, and said "Sure, how can I help you, Gentlemen?".
Actually, I didn't say that at all. I said "It depends" in my most non-committal voice, and moved my bag into a more secure place by my chair. I checked where all the security guards were too, and kept an eye on both of them the whole time, "Just wonderful!", I was thinking, "Get as far as the airport and then get mugged! Great!" I didn't tell them my sirname, and answered all the usual boring "how have you found service of the staff at Durban Airport?" and so on.. then he turned over the page, and the questions began to get slightly surreal.
"What have you learned during this interview?" he asked.
"Well, what have you learned from us, I guess?"
"Nothing really. You just came up and started asking me questions."
"Oh." he said. Slightly baffled.
Then he introduced himself, and his partner, and told me that I had now learned their names, and then I think he wrote down that I had learned their names, or something like that... Strange... Yellow T-shirt wandered off to get a drink or something. Then black-leather-jacket asked if I was from the Doulos. So I said yes, he brightened up and said that he knew some people from the Doulos, they had visited his church, a few weeks ago.
So we talked about church for a while, and about Doulos, and he gave me his number for if ever I am in Durban again. Then his friend came back, a bit puzzled that we were still doing the questionaire. It turned out that we had actually finished it, and he was now asking me questions from the post-interview staff-debriefing paper. That explained the strange questions! So they said goodbye, and wandered off. I sat around for a bit, and eventually my flight was called, so I got on the plane, and left Durban.
One Short Boring Flight Later...
Jo'Burg International! Very confusing airport. I got myself a muffin to eat, and some Biltong for my brother and father, in a sealed plastic container thingy with the last of my South African money, and attempted to find my way to the "International Transfers", apparently different to "International Departures". Some of the signs had it, others didn't. Eventually, the signs pointed me down a dead end.
I went up to a South African Airlines desk and asked where on earth to go. The lady said "Ah, we haven't finished building this part of the airport yet. The signs are all wrong. Just go out that door, and follow the signs for International Departures." Oh.
So I went out the door, and was now outside the airport! Taxi's went past me! This was a bit confusing, so I just followed the signs. I soon entered a large building, with hundreds of people and millions of signs pointing to all kinds of different boarding gates. I had no idea where to go at all. Then a strange man walked up to me and said "International flight?" so I said "yes" and he said "Follow me" and rushed off into the melee. So I followed him, cautiously, half expecting him to go down a small alley, and then for 30 huge men with stockings over their heads to jump out and try to steal my passport or something. Luckily, nothing like that happened, and he did lead me to the right place. It would have taken ages to find it myself. He did ask for a tip though, so I gave him one. I then went through the security checkpoint, and started heading for my gate. I then saw my STEP sister sitting reading! So I went up to her and said "Howzit?" or something like that. ( Howzit is the typical greeting in South Africa, by the way. ) She said "fine" and asked what time I was to check in. I didn't know, so asked her what time she was checking in. She said about an hour. She told me I really ought to know what time I was checking in. So I checked my ticked and told her "About half an hour."
"So you really ought to be checking in about now then?"
"I guess so."
"Well, go check in then!"
So I did.
One Long Boring Flight Later...
Dubai! Dig that ultra Mod-Arab style thing, habibi! Yeah! Texted my parents again, to say I was safe, and waited for my next flight. Duty free food is a lot cheaper in Dubai than in Jo'Burg or Durbs. I got a bottle of water and a Bounty Chocolate/Ice-Cream bar for less than a single US Dollar. Nice.
One Medium-Length Boring Flight Later...
Larnaka! Home! My luggage did arrive safely, which is a good thing.
Small Important historical aside: About 2 weeks ago, I saw this quite cool Indiana-Jones/Explorer type hat at one of the stalls down by the Durban Sea-Front. I saw it and immediately thought "That's just the sort of hat that my father would have always wanted, but never got around to buying because it is just silly and expensive and his mother would probably have disapproved." And they were quite cheap. So I bought 2. One for him, and one for me as they are rather cool.
As I pushed my trolley through the slidey doors of Larnaka airport, I looked left, and there were my family to meet me! My younger brother with his hair cut, Mum with her hair looking approximately like it did in photos of her from 20 years ago, and ...
Dad wearing one of those exact same hats!!!
Quite a strange feeling passed over me. Not sure whether to laugh or cry. I've felt like this a lot recently. So I did neither, but I did pray under my breath "OK, God. Very funny. What exactly are you teaching me this time?".
It's kind of semi-annoying, and yet quite personal and touching when God does this to me. He's been doing things like this a lot. I go to a whole load of effort and get really worked up or excited about something, or do lots of planning, and then He goes right ahead and does something clever and shows me that I needn't have gotten so worked up, or spent so much effort, and that He is in control anyway. So. There are 2 options. Either God is just having fun, and this is some kind of joke. Quite possible. I mean, we're made in God's image, and one of the elements that makes us human is humor... but it's quite a worrying thought. The other option is that He is teaching me something. In fact, I'm sure He is teaching me something.
Hope I find out what, one of these days...
I greeted them quite enthusiastically, and they took that photo of me that got posted a few days ago, and we went home. Good to see them again. And the cats again too. And all of Larnaka.
Later, I gave my dad the hat, and told him where and why I had got it. And he said that yes, he had seen his in a cheap tourist shop and had thought that those were just the sort of hat that he would have always wanted, but never got around to buying because it is just silly and expensive and yes, his mother would probably have disapproved!