Making friends is not always easy. At first there is a feeling of uncertainty and hesitation with regards to this venture. People will sometimes watch each other keenly before approaching and even when they do, there is that big elephant in as each looks for words to keep the conversation running. The idea of making friends away from home in a foreign continent, presents a greater uncertainty. At least you know who your people are and how they behave. How about those of another country? One can only pray that the encounter will be pleasant and workable. This is the stereotype i always had until i met Frank, Jamal and Saitoti.
As i sat in the Amsterdam Airport lounge, i could not help but wonder who would be my friends for the next couple of weeks. Would they be friendly? Would they be good company? Would we relate well? Would we understand each other? Would they be good people? Would they be adventurous? I had not finished asking myself these questions when a voice and a hand on my shoulder disrupted my questioning. I looked up and saw a man who kindly asked me if my destination was as Seattle in the United States of America and that we were being called to board if so .I stood up hurriedly and promised myself to continue my train of thought en route to Seattle. This was never to be so. This man looked familiar and i could not help but wonder if he was not one of the people we would be with for the fellowship. I asked whether he was and true to my suspicion it was. He introduced himself as Saitoti.
We started talking immediately and my million questions were erased as my new train of thought became, how easy it was talking to him and how it seemed we had been friends for ages. This became evident when the security asked us how long we had known each other and if we were travelling together, to which we both burst out laughing and said we just met and awkwardly proceeded to explain, how we had just met however going to the same place when the look on their faces said they meant business. Throughout the journey we kept talking and when we got tired, took turns in watching the clock as the other slept on the cold seats of the Seattle Airport waiting for our next flight to Oregon. An instant friendship had been created as easy as drinking water.
Upon arrival, we were received by our dear host,Maggie who drove us to the place that would be our home for the next couple of weeks. We inquired about the other East Africa fellows who were supposed to have arrived ahead of us. She told us how one had been waiting for us and had even said would not have dinner until we arrived. What a kind thought i said to myself. It reminded me of how at home i will not eat until my twin sister arrives. It always makes the dining more pleasant while without her it seems so dull. I looked forward to meet this man. Upon arriving, i dropped my bags and left my room immediately for us to go look for something to eat.
I knocked on the door to let them know i was ready to go for a diner. An unknown person to me opened the door and said “Hello, Ruthy i am Jamal”. I smiled as i introduced myself. It was interesting how my name sounded different when he said it. He proceeded to tell us about his journey and other stories as we went to the restaurant. This would end up being my travel and photo buddy as we both delighted in them. We also were to present at the same panel at a later date. None of us knew where we were going but that didn’t matter as none of us worried about getting lost, we had each other after all. This marked my second friendship.
We were all tired from the long journey, needed to sleep but none of us wanted to sleep before meeting the last fellow. We hoped by the time we came back we would find him. We enquired from the front desk whether he had arrived and they were kind enough to tell us his room number. As we approached his door we debated on who would knock the door, with an intention to make our introduction dramatic.
I was pushed forward as i was the only lady and that a lady on his front door would be more dramatic than a man. I knocked the door lightly as the rest hid in the corridor. He opened the door and was at first silent as he looked at me. As i introduced myself, the wondering look was replaced with one of oh you are Ruth, as the rest came out of their hiding places laughing and introducing themselves. My third friend, Frank told us of his dramatic trip and eight hour wait at the Portland Airport as we took him out to get diner. Frank as his name was,was very frank and would be one who would listen to me talk for hours on end.
The final day was not as simple as it was coming. By now, bonds had been created and fondness evident amongst all of us. I could not bring myself to say goodbye and preferred to remain silent as we parted ways. These friends had been my family away from home. The stay had been wonderful, because of their presence. I did not lack anything and always had them.
All this while it was never apparent that we were a different people and from different countries. All that was clear was our instant connection and the great friendship created. Ties that reached far beyond borders crushed the idea of our difference. Right now i no longer view their countries as foreign to me but as yet other homes where my beloved friends’ are. I have never had brothers before and always wondered how it would be to have one. I got to at least experience this with my dear friends and yet for another greater than that. Not all encounters are pleasant and not all connections made last forever. I am glad to say that my encounter was one of the most pleasant and hope this is just the beginning of an even greater friendship for years to come.
A tribute, to my dear friends Frank Tumusiime, Saitoti Parmelo and Jamal Juma.