Saturday 27th October - goin' back home

Like a David Carradine monk we gripped the red hot coals of the barbecue kettles and carried them across the field, in and out of thatched picnic shelters and around hillocks and trenches.  Tipped onto the pyre of crackling timber it sparked into a raging beacon of warmth and light.  We gathered round.  The children gathered round to stretch out the final day and strummed and sang.

The Germans called time and the children withdrew.  We lingered and warmed ourselves in the cool last night air.  But it was early.  We settled down with our friends once again, restocked and ready to prolong the evening and put off the parting.  Again we built friendships even further, the Dutch volunteers, David the incomparable, the builders, the footballers and the concert party.  We were sung to, danced at and partied with. We arranged and exchanged, we distributed our surpluses and bargained for yet more contact in the morning.  We could not bear them leaving us and we could not bear to leave them. The great sadness of our departure dawned as the sun rose.

Morning.  The young zulu warriors came back to watch over us.  We packed and sorted and tidied and divvied up the spoils of a fortnight of excess.  In one final spontaneous moment they said goodbye with their talent and their faith.  A beautiful, haunting, moving and unforgettable scene.  And yes, maybe there is no-one like Jesus.  Cue Colin’s video IMG_1098.

We packed up and drove over to the GGA compound to drop off the keys and say goodbye to anyone that was there.  No discrete slipping away.  Everyone was there, except Heather.  The children had been gathered in the dining hall and slowly and sadly sauntered up the slight slope to our cars.  We hugged and cried.  They sang.  We left defeated and emotionally devastated.

In one final act of defiance of the divide between us we delivered Auntie Coco to the Spar and Gugulethu Mshengu to the Durban Mall.  No one else was going to.

The silver car and the blue car had a race.  The blue car got lost.  The silver car took a turn round a street market.  King Shaka airport marked the first milestone on the journey home.  Brave faces but sad hearts.  At the start of that 24 hours of travel I don’t think any of us realised how bad it would get as we all reluctantly drifted away to our own worlds after so intensely living in each others.

Next stop Oliver Tambo airport.  Shakes, beers and shared meals distracted us from the real issue; it was over.  We browsed, shopped and moved through the bustling surrounds of a departure lounge and onto the flight.  Carefully planned seating kept us close but the emotional and physical exhaustion of the journey left us only with false smiles.  Heathrow, all cleared, and a split one by one to our many separate lives.  Thank you every one for a lifetime of experience, intense and intoxicating, unforgettable and unrepeatable.  Good time?  The best.

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