The inside of the plane, a Boeing 777 looked nice. Its maroon velvety seats together with the grey carpeted floor made it look like one of the five star hotels in Nairobi. The well-mannered hostesses ushering in passengers at the plane’s door, made me feel like a VIP. I smiled at myself and walked to my seat under the wing of the plane, at the economy class.
I looked out, through the open window, beyond the serenity of the airport. Movoko hills, together with the flat area around my home in Kitengela, fused together seamlessly with the afternoon overcast sky, as the plane jetted past the clouds. I felt excited.
We ascended the skies and the distance between the plane and the earth below got greater. I could hardly see anything except the mass of clouds that blanketed the earth like a duvet. I closed the window shutter and looked around.
I had never seen so many people gathered in one place like that before. Except for me and Jackline who was seated next to me, the rest of the passengers in the plane were mostly of Caucasian descent.
Jackline came to sit with me after the passenger meant to sit next to me, a man, agreed to leave the seat for her. He had sympathised with Jackline after I told him her story. I had seen Jackline at the baggage check in area at Jomo Kenyatta Aiport in Nairobi, but we didn’t get to talk until we met at the waiting bay toilets. While washing our hands, Jackline told me that she was a refugee from Southern Sudan migrating to Australia to be with her husband whom she had married but had not lived with yet. She requested to sit next to me on the plane so that I could translate things for her. She told me that she understood and spoke little English.
As the plane buoyed in the sky, Jackline fell asleep. My mind started to wander. I thought about my children. They were home alone under the care of a house help.
Will they forgive me for what I’m doing? Will they understand why I’m risking my life to find a partner far away? I wondered quietly.
I had heard about women who had been lured into death traps by men who posed as online suitors, but with Jake, it felt real. He sounded trustworthy and true.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and held it. Out there, Australia waited for me, somewhere, with Jake. Thinking about him motivated my desire.
Faith was 12, Ivan 8 and Augustine, a son from his previous relationship was 14-years-old when Thomas died. For five years, I struggled raising the three young children alone. The grim reality of being single at the age of 36 scared me to the soles of my feet. I could hardly sleep at night. Drenched in sweat, my heart bulging up my throat, I could wake up startled, like someone had tapped me on the shoulder. I suffered memory loss and couldn’t remember places where I put things. I lost weight; people thought I was suffering from a terminal illness. I craved male company and refused to accept that Thomas was gone forever. I thought he would turn up one day, and tell me that I was just having a bad dream. Every time I saw someone approach, I thought they were him, only for them to turn out to be someone else when they got closer.
I got proposals from men, but most of them already had wives and wanted me either for a second wife or a concubine. I refused. My friends suggested that I try online. Online was full of sex peddlers and scammers.
As I was about to give up hope, I met Jake. He was charming, friendly and pleasant to chat to.
After six months of continuous chatting both on the phone and online, Jake invited me to visit him in Australia. He said we needed to meet and see if we can take our relationship to the level. The cost of traveling was too expensive for me; Jake offered to pay.
‘Adjust your seat belts, we’re experiencing turbulence.’ A female voice boomed through the speaker above my seat.
I opened my eyes. Noise from the earphones still fastened to my ears brought me back to the flickering television monitor at the back of the seat, in front of me. I realized that I had been sleeping and the Bollywood movie I had been watching had long ended. I didn’t know what the time was. The television monitor only showed time at origin and at destination.
The plane rocked from side to side, like a car moving over a rough road. I got scared and thought I was going to tumble over. I tightly gripped on to the edges of the seat. I had been accustomed to traveling in Kenya’s notorious public vehicles that were not fitted with seat belts. And if they had any, they were faulty.
At Melbourne Aiport, I got out and followed other passengers to the arrival terminal. Jackline came with me. I handed over my passport for clearance at the checkout counter. The customs officer; a plump woman with a mean face looked at my passport and asked me for a yellow fever vaccination booklet but I didn’t have any. I didn’t know that a yellow fever vaccination was a requirement to visiting Australia. The woman handed my passport to a Border Protection Police man who was standing nearby and asked me to step aside.
Jackline was cleared but she refused to go, and stayed back with me. The policeman motioned us to follow him. We went into a room next to the customs counter. I thought I was going to be deported.
In the room, Jackline said we pray. We held hands and she started to pray in a heavy Arabic accent. The police man came into the room and found us praying. We stopped and opened our eyes letting our hands loose. Noticing the fear written all over our faces, he smiled and asked us to seat then went to sit behind the table next to us.
He was a tall and slim man with sandy, neatly trimmed hair. His blue eyes portrayed a friendly face, away from his tough job.
‘Who is Caroline?’
I raised my hand up.
He looked at me and paused. I thought he was going to pronounce my deportation.
‘I’m not going to refuse you entry to Australia but I’ll place you under quarantine.’
I felt some pressure ease out of my chest. I wanted to smile.
‘Do you know what that means?’ He asked
Jackline looked at me. I shook my head.
‘All you have to do is to stay indoors for five days. In case you feel sick at any time before the five days lapsed, please take this paper with you and report to the hospital near where you will be staying while in Australia,’ he instructed, and handed me back my passport together with the piece of paper.
I got out of the arrivals to find Jake waiting for me. I saw him as soon as I stepped out of the door. His receding hairline of grey hair made him appear bald.
As soon as our eyes met, he smiled and walked to me. We hugged so tight, one could think we had known each other for ages. His embrace felt so real and secure like we were reuniting after a long separation.
Jackline too met with her husband and we took a group photo before departing for our various destinations.
We arrived at Jake’s house in Monahan’s Road at exactly midnight but we didn’t sleep until five in the morning. We talked a lot, recounting our lives to each other again like we knew each other for the first time that night.
Jake’s boys, Richard and Jacob were not home. He said they were at his ex-wife’s house. He told me that, when his wife divorced him, the court ruled that the children stayed with their mother during weekends.
For the three weeks I was in Australia, Jake treated me better than I was treated in my previous marriage. He frequently brought me breakfast in bed, cooked dinner and took me to meet his friends. We visited places in Melbourne and held hands in public, something I had never done in my life. He was so true to his word that when he finally took me to Cranbourne Shopping Centre, to buy me a white gold engagement ring with sparkling diamonds, I had long accepted to marry him before he asked me to.
Today I work and live in Australia as a permanent resident. My children have the father they never would have had. They are starting out their lives abroad with a better footing. He is my silver lining behind the dark cloud of death that almost shuttered my life.
Image: Mayur Gala
Caroline Yego was born in Kenya, East Africa. She worked in Television Production, Public Relations and now Health Care. She is an upcoming writer of memoirs and creative fiction. She lives in Cranbourne North, Melbourne, Victoria.