Last night I went to bed late. When I woke up at 7:30am, I had only slept for two and a half hours. I
started to get ready for the day and, as I was finishing up brushing my teeth, I started to get very anxious
about going to see my mother and everyone else.
After a quick breakfast we rushed back to our rooms, packed our bags and hurried to the lobby to check
out of The Regency Hotel by 11am. Our driver arrived shortly thereafter and took us over to our new
hotel, The Sarova Stanley, where we’d be staying for the remainder of our trip.
After some difficulties checking into our reserved rooms (and more time passing!) we got in, dropped
off our luggage and met as a team to talk about the best way to approach the reunion (not only for
me, personally, but for the film crew to optimally capture the experience on video). I told them that I
wanted us to go to my mother’s house rather than to have her come to our hotel; Amy and Alex seemed
surprised by this suggestion and were concerned because they hadn’t prepared for it. I felt it was
the best thing so I really pushed to make it happen. They finally agreed and the film team went off to
prepare their equipment.
I knew everyone was doing their best to get all the equipment ready and that there was nothing I could
do to speed things up, but we were taking much longer than I wanted. I was feeling more and more
impatient. I almost felt like exploding. My level of anxiety was growing exponentially because the day
was almost half over and we still weren’t on our way to my mother’s house.
When we finally left our hotel, the midday traffic was as bad as ever in Nairobi. It was stop and go for
blocks. We saw storks in the trees as we drove through downtown. On the outer limits of the city the tall
buildings started to disappear and the quality of living was visibly much lower.
During the drive I gave a short interview for the film about finally going back to see my mom after 20
years. We also talked about some of the technical aspects of our arrival: Amy reminded me that when
we pulled up at her house the filmmakers needed about 30 seconds to get out first and prepare their
cameras to capture the moment.
As we pulled up, my brother, Garang ran out to the car. I waited for what felt like forever, and then got
out with him and went inside the courtyard where my mom and other family and friends were waiting
outside. I went to her right away and gave her a hug. I was so happy to see her again.
I walked from person to person, greeting them as they greeted me, shaking their hands and hugging
them. It was one of the best moments of my life. I was filled with so much joy and happiness, more than
I have ever felt before.
A few minutes later, I heard them spontaneously break into a song. They started as only a few but within
seconds every one of them was singing. I went to join them as they sang a Dinka hymn of homecoming.
My eyes welled up with tears. It was an overwhelming moment.
After the welcome song, my mother and cousins gave short speeches, telling us all how proud they are
and how good it was for me to be home with them. My brother read a letter that had been written to
my mother by Deneece Huftalin, and one of my cousins translated to Dinka. The letter was a gift from
one mother to another. Everyone was inspired by the message and expressed gratitude to all of us for
coming and gratefulness for all the good we are trying to do.
We went inside the house and sat together as they brought out sodas they had bought for us. I couldn’t
believe the warm welcome they had given us. It was so wonderful to be back with so many people that I
love and who I haven’t seen for a very long time.
Tomorrow we will meet Deng, one of the students S.O.A.P is sponsoring. The day after that I’ll return to
my old home at Kakuma Refugee Camp…