Holland: I’ve been and gone… but still the journey beforehand and the stop itself needs to be jotted down.
It only took me 6 days to get from Kayamkulam to Hulst (which is the town in Holland where my sisters live): 2 nights on a train, 1 night in a hostel, 1 night in an airport, 1 night in something of a 5 star hotel and on day 6 I arrived at the airport in Brussels, Belgium (which is only an hour from Hulst). To summarize it differently; 40 hours on a train, 36 hours in Mumbai, 12 hours at the airport, 6 hours on a plane, 22 hours in Egypt, 5 hours on a plane… and Brussels ‘suddenly’ greeted me.
The most memorable parts of this whole 6 day journey were when I had 2 separate conversations at Mumbai airport, with an Indian man and a Chinese man. With both I ended up chatting for ages about my Indian experiences, my Chinese experiences, my likes, my dislikes, together with the comparisons and annoyances that I’d come to deal with in both countries. It was the perfect way to spend my last few hours in India; summarizing the past year (almost to the exact date) - with 2 men who were native to each country. As well it was good for me to hear myself speak about the adventures. Because sometimes, most times, I wouldn’t realize just how much has happened and how much my life has changed since leaving home nearly 365 days ago.
Another highlight of the trip was on Thursday. I had a stop over in Cairo, Egypt. I expected to be waiting at the airport for 22 hours for my connecting flight to Brussels the following morning. I expected to be sleeping on bench in the waiting hall. But nope! The airline was offering a hotel for the night, to all passengers who were in transit… COMPLEMENTARY! Wouw… and what a hotel this was… it was huge, not too sure how many stars… but judging by the customers and the service that was provided… holy moly… it must have been at least 5 stars! To me, it felt to be luxury of the highest degree… (all organized by Egypt Air!!!!) I had a private room, clean sheets, double bed, en-suite bathroom (with a bathtub!!!), internet, movies and 3 meals included (a buffet serving the most delicious fresh foods…all you can eat). I was in heaven… moving onwards to Holland.
But still nobody knew of my whereabouts. I hadn’t written about my exact plan of action on my blog, as I wanted to surprise everyone. By Thursday I knew I couldn’t keep my mam in the dark any longer. She was getting worried; she knew my visa was expiring the following day. It’s only natural for her to – literally – be wondering where on earth Niamh is! So from that place, on Thursday afternoon, I decided to finally contact her and tell her I’d be seeing her in 24 hours time!
I was full of so much excitement, squealing down the laptop: ‘I’m in Egypt!’ This was quite an unexpected place for me to be (especially when I’d only been talking of travelling to Nepal or South East Asia). But once I ran through my plans and the route of my trip, things started to make sense. Cool… my mother was ecstatic, and she only told my younger brother. She kept my sisters in the dark. The following day, my mam, brother, sister and nephew, were flying from Dublin to Brussels too (coincidentally they were flying into the same airport). They were visiting my sisters in Holland for the christening of my niece. I knew this was a big celebration and it was the reason for stopping in Holland before heading onwards to Ireland. But I didn’t know the ‘brady brunch’ from Ireland would be landing in the same airport only 2 hours after my flight was to arrive. Brilliant!
The thoughts of seeing the family again, got me so excited and I couldn’t believe I was going to be returning unannounced again… The last time I came back (in July 2010), nobody knew about it either. I rocked up on the doorstep, shocking the life out of my 2 sisters in Holland. This was going to be a dejavu! Yes!
The night at the hotel was so nice, even though I had a hard time getting proper rest (so much was happening and racing through my mind - I felt it hard to contain myself). The next morning, I had the 5 hour flight and onboard I was already feeling the ease that comes when being in the west. I was hearing European languages around me, I was blending in with the crowds and was free from the stares… How nice! I landed at 2pm and had 2 hours to wait before the others would land. They (aswell as I) were being collected by my 2 brother in laws…
So I waited in excitement. I sat and had my first cappuccino in a café and was excitedly doing some writing. I was nervous too. But it wasn’t only for seeing the family again. It was for realizing that by heading to Ireland I was taking the risk I’d been so scared of actually facing. The fear of actually doing what I need; totally focussing on writing, I was facing it. But the nerves and excitement made me feel alive. I wasn’t worried at all. I knew, as I sat in that café with my cappuccino, that I was at the start of something big.