Monday, September 17, 2007

"10 years ago in Arusha"

It was laundry time yesterday. We have a laundry room in our apartment building that you can use for free. We always book for early Sunday morning. Boyfriend started the tradition as he didn't want the whole day to get interrupted by laundry at noon or in the evening. I gladly let him take care of the laundry for a long time but lately I've started doing it every other week so he can sleep in some. And then every other week I get to sleep in!

In between running up and down with laundry, I checked one of the email addresses I keep alive just for the sake of it. I have a couple of those. Sometimes I wonder why I insist on keeping them. Yesterday I found out why. I got a very short email - just a question about whether I still used that adress or not - and it made me smile from ear to ear.

About a decade ago, I spent two months in East Africa. My two travel companions and I wanted to go on a safari while being there so we bought seats in a jeep that we shared with a driver, a chef, and two other tourists. One was English and at that time he worked for a company in Uganda. I've forgotten what kind of company it was. The other one was from Namibia and he was travelling through Africa and Europe to start a new life in Germany (where his parents came from and where he had lots of relatives).

I ended up spending a lot of time with the Namibian guy. We often sat on the roof of the jeep looking out over the plains, the lakes, the hordes of gnus and zebras, while talking about the world. I found his life to be very fascinating. And the journey he was out on was amazing. He had a travel budget of US$5 a day...

We kept in touch over email for a couple of years. And then it faded. He got married. Became a father of two. Moved to the Middle East. My life moved forward (after a couple of backwards...) and when I finally finished that project last fall - the project that I needed to get my University degree - I wanted him to know. In the emails we sent each other over the years we wrote lots about studying and he told me about his difficulties finishing his degree. How he hated his project. How exhausted he was working in an office during the days only to come home to hours of working on his project. While handling a family. He pushed me to work on the project I had started back then. He was almost parental when telling me how important it would be for me to actually graduate with a diploma. How I just needed to "stick to it". I tried. And fell. Hurt myself badly in the fall and it took years for me to work up the courage to start another project. The old one was too contaminated with negativity for me to ever touch it again...

So last year when I was working on my project, sitting at the kitchen table at night with boyfriend coaching me, I thought about my Namibian coach... And I tried contacting him to tell him about my progress. How I "stuck to it". How I did it in the end. Finished my project. And about how proud I was of myself.

I failed to get in touch with him. My emails kept bouncing back to me. I tried snail-mailing him a card to the last address I had, but it came back with ink stamps all over it.

Yesterday I told him. In an email. After he contacted me. It's funny how relieved I feel. It's like I can cross something really important off from the list of things to do. Just because I keep hanging on to old email addresses.

3 comments:

essjay said...

How wonderful to reconnect with such a good friend from the past. Clearly he was a strong motivator for you & I hope you can keep in touch with one another!

Geek Knitter said...

Isn't it amazing how some people have such a huge influence on us, and we carry this hope that at some point we'll be able to tell them. I'm so happy for you that your friend got in touch... makes me realized why *I'm* holding on to an old email...

Stine said...

That's really awesome!

I won't let my hotmail account die. I've had it since 1997 or 1998, and loads of people have that as my email...not sure that all of them know about my gmail account. And since I don't use it for "real" mail anymore, it's good for registering for websites, too.

But it's always nice to hear from someone out of the blue!