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Thank You, Next!

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For me, 2018 is a year that will fast fade into oblivion, or at least, I hope it does. It is one of those years I’d like to forget, for all the pain and horror it brought me.

Of course now that it has ended I realize the year never intended to be gracious to me, right from the beginning.

On the night of January 4, 2018, I had a near-death experience, a traumatizing memory that I’m still scared of confronting.

I still have the eerie, unshakable feeling that I could’ve died that night, and I probably would have if it weren’t for a neighbor who kept banging my door until I got up.

The last thing I remember was putting food on the gas cooker and going to the bedroom for a short rest while the food cooked, at around eight.

My neighbor woke me up with his heavy banging on my door four hours later, alarmed by the heavy smoke that was coming out.

The fog-like smoke was everywhere. I couldn’t see through it ,let alone breathe. The breathing difficulties persisted for the next few days, then I was fine again.

I still can’t explain what happened, like how I fell asleep and why I didn’t sense anything for over four hours. I could’ve gotten complications from smoke inhalation, or the gas could as well have exploded into a fire. Thankfully, it never came to that.

Despite the difficulties I’ve endured this year, I’m at least grateful to still be alive and healthy, and eternally grateful for having someone check on me. I’m convinced more than ever that angels do walk amongst us.

You’d think surviving a death experience would at least nudge me into making thoughtful choices, but it didn’t. If anything, it only aggravated my stupidity. I was shaken for a week or two, then resorted to my old self-destructive habits.

I made some of the most fatal mistakes of my life in 2018, but while I obviously regret them, I’m happy I made them. It is these experiences that have taught me some of the most important lessons of my life, like discovering the power of valuing, loving and forgiving myself, as well as learning to take responsibility and hold myself accountable for my actions.

On the positive side, my journalism career picked up faster than I expected it to.  I’ve grown more than I thought possible in this one year, and I couldn’t be prouder of myself.

I covered some major events, wrote some pretty big stories, including my first two (rather explosive) investigative articles, one of which was an expose that had me trolled and threatened for days. I literally didn’t leave the house for two entire days after the article was published, even though my reporting was honest.

 Yet I still feel like maybe I didn’t push myself hard enough. I worked extremely hard in my writing in the first half of the year but all I got was a series of disappointments, which has been really frustrating. By August I had pretty much given up on everything, an attitude I have maintained until now.

I plan to reignite the fire in 2019 and hopefully, the New Year is kinder to me, because I don’t have the strength nor time to face another challenging year.

Another one of my highlights was, of course, getting to travel more.

One of the best places I visited this year was Nyeri, because of the meat. My second favorite Kenyan trip was the visit to the Kenya School of Adventure and Leadership in Mount Kenya. I had been scheming on ways to get out of the trip (who likes team building trips anyway), but opted to go nevertheless.

It’s an extremely beautiful and serene establishment, the only downside being the freezing temperatures (it’s on the slopes of Mount Kenya).

As an internet addict, the four-day trip allowed me to detox. Network reception can only be found at one spot, in the entire school, often during breaks. I think I only used my phone once in the entire four days–pretty impressive if you ask me.

The only spot network reception can be found at the Kenya School of Adventure and Leadership

The only spot network reception can be found at the Kenya School of Adventure and Leadership

I also got to thoroughly exercise for the first time in years, as well as trying out intimidating physical and psychological endurance challenges. Of course I was reeling from the pain when I got back home but it was all worth it.

I have been to Mombasa a few times but in 2018 I got to visit South Coast for the first time. I’d definitely choose the South over North Coast any day–less crowded, better air, and far better beaches.

I also got to fly for the first time ever in my life, for a work event in Mombasa early on in the year (obviously I had to get receipts).

My first time on a plane (It was a big deal so I had to come through with receipts).

By mid-year I had flown a bunch of more times, to Mombasa, Ukunda, Maasai Mara, and to my first international destination, Antananarivo, Madagascar, which was pretty cool. It might not seem like a big deal travelling to a city that’s only three and a half hours from Nairobi but for me it was a super big deal (still is), mostly because it was my first time travelling out of Kenya.

I’ve come to detest small planes, like the one we used to get to Maasai Mara. It seats around ten people, has terribly stiff chairs and a very tiny door (even with all my shortness had to bend to get in). It was a bumpy ride and the lack of a runway made for an even rougher landing.

I only stayed in Antananarivo for two days and didn’t really have time to explore the city because of work but I sure made the most of my limited time there.

I was blown away by Madagascar’s topography (the water and hills) and overall beauty. It’s greater than it gets credit for.

Ivato International Airport is just next to the Indian Ocean, so the view during landing and takeoff was quite amazing. 

Even though I loved the country, the trip gave me a new appreciation for Kenya.

Antananarivo seemed like such a tiny city, with a very relaxed way of life. I don’t see how I could survive there for a month–life moves too slowly.

The infrastructure, especially roads, is massively underdeveloped and the poverty worrying. I kept seeing slums and crowds of people walking long distances after 5 p.m.. I was also struck by the outright racial and economic inequality in Madagascar. Being a severely underdeveloped country, there are many manual laborers, including cart pullers and farm workers. Nearly all of the manual workers I saw were dark-skinned, while the lighter-skinned (racially ambiguous to me) Malagasy sold in shops and ran other businesses. 

Antananarivo's rice fields

The gated serene neighborhoods were also quite in contrast to Antananarivo’s slums.

I made  memories to last a lifetime during my travels, which also made for a convenient distraction from my problems. I hope to travel more in 2019 and hopefully, document my explorations better.

I can proudly say I came out of 2018 not just older but wiser, unlike previous years.  I strongly feel that I now I have a clear sense of self. I made most of my New Year’s resolutions months ago and so far I’ve been desperate to find consistency, but have at least tried.

For now all I can say is “thank you, next” (Ariana Grande voice*) and hope 2019 is kinder to me.


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