author:Maarten De Boeck
On Sunday December 15th 2002, I set off on a journey. It would become my first real journey in my life. I was leaving my home, my town, my country, my continent, crossing a sea and embarking on another continent: Africa.
A bit less than six months before I had finished my secondary school. While closing the school gate behind me I had a great plan in mind: I would go to Africa, and no one or nothing would stop me. Differently from most students, I wasn’t planning to join any high school or university. I first wanted to do something else. I wanted to live out the restlessness I had felt during those often boring years at school.
Yes, Africa was definitely my plan!
I needed some money to realize my plan. So the months before my departure I spent working in factories. Initially I worked in a factory processing animal fodder. I remember one very funny moment during my time there.
At a given moment I had told my colleagues that I was planning to travel to Ethiopia, to which one of them replied in his coarse Flemish dialect ”you poor lad, you will be the fattest over there!” It was a spontaneous and humorous reaction that brought about a lot of great merriment. During my long stay in Africa I often remembered that quote.
Later I worked in a pork factory, a very unpleasant job, but I was only interested in the money. The evening I quit, a colleague was teasing me about me missing the factory soon and weeping because of homesickness. It made me laugh heartily. I couldn’t imagine that I would miss a factory or that I would miss Belgium.
The days and weeks and months went by. Finally there was that Sunday the 15th of December, the day of departure, an emotional goodbye for my parents and myself at the airport. That day I took a plane. My destination was Nairobi. It was the very beginning of my one-year journey in Africa.
Now, more then one year later I have returned to my home, my town, my country and to my continent. I don’t know yet how much this journey will have changed my life. I don’t know yet how much it has changed me.
But I do know I will never ever regret it. Not even a fraction of a second. I will always cherish my memories and they will be always a part of me.
Deep in my heart I wish I were still there. I hope it won’t run away, Africa. If all is well…one day I will go back.