Sunday, November 6, 2011


The Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi was announced and the passengers started scrambling down the steep staircase from the departure lounge to the corridor leading to the pathway to the tarmac. The blue and silver Boeing 737 stood majestically in the bright afternoon sun. The date was 25th May 1996 and we were at Lusaka international airport in Zambia, just about to bid farewell to the country that was our home for the past twenty-eight years.
My wife and I were the last ones to leave the departure lounge. We had our bags slung from our shoulders and also one or two pieces held in hand. Once in the open, we looked back to have a last glimpse of the terminal building. We knew that our friends who had come to see us off were watching from the balcony on the first floor and waved at them even though we could not distinguish them in the crowd. Two or three hands waved back.

The Kenyan air hostess in a smart-looking uniform, on the platform at the top of the staircase, greeted us in Swahili (the language of East Africa) and directed us to our seats. In the limited space of the 737, we walked awkwardly to reach our seats. My wife took the window seat and I sat next to her after stowing our cabin baggage safely in the overhead lockers. Soon, the last passenger also got in and the door swung shut. The "No smoking" and "Fasten the seatbelt" signs stood lit up and soft music from the loud speakers had a soothing effect on us. Before long we felt the aircraft moving, leaving people and vehicles on the tarmac far behind. It moved away from the proximity of the terminal buildings to the starting point of the runway where it took a 90 degree turn and came to a halt. It stood still for a few moments as if taking a deep breath before the final onslaught. The Rolls Royce twin engines worked up to a crescendo and the aircraft started rushing forward at break-neck speed along the long stretch of the runway for the “take off”.

It was final departure for us from Zambia, the "Friendly Country" where we had spent the best part of our lives. While I watched for the last time through the double perspex window the Zambian topography falling away as the Boeing rose to new heights I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes clouded. I felt as if I were leaving behind a part of me and the thought that I would not be coming back to this beautiful country ever again made me very sad. Now that the aircraft had reached the desired altitude even above the thick canopy of waterless clouds, it hung as if motionless while moving swiftly along the dazzling blue expanse of the African sky towards its destination while my heart cried out silently the words "Good bye, Friendly country, good bye".


paud said...

well mr george i remember you quite well... i now live in ireland
paud o connor muf 1977 to 1982...some good notes and memories here i enjoyed them send me an email

Chapanga said...

Mrs George Johns was my Civics teacher. I got a distinction in civics because of her good teaching. Mr Oconnor taught me Mathis just before he left the country.

OnlyMe said...
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OnlyMe said...

In fact, I myself got a lump in my throat as I read this moving account! I could feel the sadness Mr. John and Mrs. John were feeling - 28 years is a VERY long time. So many memories, so many lives intertwined with theirs, so many encounters like ships passing in the night, so many artifacts that enriched their lives were all left behind. I sure would not envy them. It is tough, it is extremely sad.

But then again, waiting for them was beautiful Kerala, which would, possibly, make up for the heart yearning for Zambia splendidly.

Thank you for the gripping account - I felt as if I was there on that plane!