Striding through Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5, travelling back from Uganda, laden with heavy bags, I realise how this place suits me.
I don’t have the same energy levels I left the UK with two years ago.
Here at Terminal 5, the flooring is flat, as far as the eye can see, and there are no potholes – you can just put one foot in front of the other, safe in the certainty you will not stumble. I have proper shoes on (not silly strappy sandals) and it’s cool.
“Wow!” I exclaim out loud to no-one in particular, as our coach pulls out of Heathrow. Anyone looking at the same view would think “she’s gone nuts,” staring at the pale grey sky and the nondescript grey industrial buildings next to them. The greyness is just so uniformly drab, I’d just forgotten how grey it can be.
We turn onto the motorway and come to a standstill in traffic straightaway.
It’s weird, I expected us to motor on. Suddenly it’s like driving in Kampala – mpole, mpole -“slowly by slowly” – I tell myself, nothing to stress about it, I’m on holiday after all.
I wonder if journeys here in the UK will ever seem as long again? Nowadays I’m used to day long drives to Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park and ten minute journeys into town (that take an hour or more because of the ridiculous traffic jams).
On the train to Oxford, a man now wears latex gloves to pick up the passengers’ rubbish. I notice the posters at the railway station, asking us to “take care not to slip” and to not ride bicycles and skateboards through the station. How very considerate, and what a contrast to the dire lack of care or information in your average developing country.
It’s just so easy to telephone everyone! I get through straightaway. I can receive voicemail. I can leave messages on answerphones. I can send a number of texts at a time for virtually nothing. In Uganda, sometimes I wonder if I’m making excuses for my frustrations; back in the UK I’m consoled: I’m not imagining it, everyday life in Uganda really does wear you down.
Keeping a close eye on my expenditure in Uganda had been wearing me down again recently too. Life on a volunteer allowance can be tough.
Everything here in the UK seems so expensive to me! Two half litre bottles of water for ‘only £2.20’ – but I only want one small one! The Sun newspaper costs only 20p and I snap it up, eager to catch up on the latest gossip (I’m going to feel a bit lost otherwise over the next four weeks). The broadsheets can wait.