Waithera headed home to Nairobi for the COVID lockdown.

20h30 March 23, 2020. I remember my joy as I peeped at the flight that was going to take me home. In exactly 8 hours and 15 mins I would finally be partaking in the delight of home food – goat head soup and chapati with lentil stew. However, almost immediately, I noticed the airport lobby was deserted and desolate, I was overcome with a sense of fear, found myself scrambling for the small hand sanitizer I had attached to my jeans and frantically lathering my hands. I kept reassuring myself, observe the thoughts but do not engage with them.

This was what trying to get back to Nairobi amid the pandemic felt like, an eerie world.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol enroute Nairobi

As I sat on the flight back to Kenya, I grappled with the thought of what would happen to me on landing home. I recalled a YouTube clip of an overzealous Minister reiterating; ‘Every Kenyan coming into the country will have to go into forced quarantine.’ To keep the river of thoughts at bay,  I reached for the two books recommended by our IMD professors. These should surely help calm my nerves.

However, these efforts were futile, hence I played a memory game to recall my key takeaways from Module 1, ahead of the upcoming exams.

… this too was not working

A couple of hours later, through the intercom was the sweet sound of a familiar language ‘Karibu katika uwanja wa ndege wa Kimataifa wa Jomo Kenyatta’. I was home! And in exactly 20 minutes (or so I thought), I would be reunited with my family. Hopeful, I walked up to the passport control desk and was met by an unamused gentleman, his eyes glassed over with age, watery but clearly avoiding eye contact. ‘Could I have your exact village location details?’ his voice was taut. I knew something was amiss.

I recalled two phone conversations I had had with colleagues prior to departure and chuckled. One so timely reminded me, “You said you want to be challenged this year and be out of your comfort zone, so remember, whatever challenge you face on arrival in Kenya, motion is movement, don’t let any circumstance break your spirit, rather, strive for recovery and discovery.”

The other one, more soft spoken had reiterated, “Keep the clutter out of your mind, remember we have exams in 2 weeks, keep energized and let us remain connected despite the distance.”

As I walked out of the airport, I remember reflecting on how my 3 months on campus had been so far, a true journey of self-reflection surrounded by colleagues and staff who challenged all 89 of us with our expectations and helped crystallize our principles and goals. Every one of my classmates were a gift, and each of their thoughts and ideas were gifts too.

I glanced up and was met by this bus. This very bus was going to take me to my next 19 days of forced quarantine.


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