As time drifted on and more “lasts” were had – last trip to the market, last day in the community, last night spent in the flat – the reality of the fact that the trip was coming to an end began to really sink in. Despite the fact that during the 12 weeks I think we’d all had moments where we wanted to go home – mostly fleetingly, accompanied by thoughts such as “I just really want a cheese toastie” or “I could murder a bacon sarnie” (not that our lives revolved around food or anything); as the timeline began to run out it really hit me that actually, home was always going to be there but this was finite; I was never going to get this experience again.

It’s safe to say that I wasn’t exactly happy to be on the train to Delhi at 6 in the morning, leaving Jaipur station for the last time. I did perk up a bit though when I heard the heroic but hilarious story of Amardeep’s near miss: she only managed to get one of her two enormous suitcases onto the train before it began to move off, and made the split second decision that the abandoned suitcase on the platform was worth diving, movie-style, out of the open door for, even as the train gained momentum – whereupon luckily Rakhi pulled the emergency stop handle and the train slowed to a halt (thank God for Rakhi’s presence of mind).

That slight mishap aside we managed to make it to Delhi without any problems, and checked in, surprise surprise, to another unnecessarily upmarket hotel.

It was a bit of a strange atmosphere at debrief; I think everyone could feel the proximity of home, and nobody was quite ready for it to end yet. I’d been really looking forward to seeing and catching up with the other teams – and it was definitely nice to see them – but everyone sort of ended up sticking to their groups a bit; everyone wanted to spend these last few days with their national volunteers, who none of us could quite believe we would be leaving behind.

The debrief itself was a bit disappointing; after ICO being hosted by Sunny and Vim we all had quite high expectations, which just weren’t met by the new hosts who didn’t seem to have any real idea of the work we’d actually been doing (they made us do an icebreaker exercise at the beginning… even though we all knew each other already), and were way too focused on time management rather than the content of what we were actually doing.

Complaints aside, it was quite nice to have the time just to relax and spend time in each other’s company; we all explored Delhi a bit more (Sabah and Becky and I almost got lost attempting to find our way back from the metro) and some people took the opportunity to shop and spend their remaining rupees – whereas we didn’t really have any remaining rupees.

On the last night there was a bit of a party; everyone got dressed up in dresses and saris and nice kurtas and there was a DJ and a dancefloor (even I danced a bit). It was very strange having a DJ mixing Hindi songs with songs like Justin Bieber’s classic “Baby,” but quite enjoyable nonetheless. We stayed up late and had some beers and went to bed trying not to think about the next day, which was upon us all too soon.

The morning arrived and we all checked out and there was a lot of slightly awkward waiting around, knowing that soon we would be gone but that we couldn’t say goodbye quite yet because we weren’t quite going yet; but eventually the minibuses pulled up and we all did the rounds of hugs and “I’ll miss you”s and there was a wonderful period of time where I thought I was going to make it without crying.

We all clambered onto the minibuses (some of us having the added worry of luggage being strapped to the roof; luckily I wasn’t one of them) and we began to pull away and waved to everyone and then, inevitably, it struck me that I might not see them ever again, and I saw Rakhi’s face already streaked with tears, and I was gone. It was an awful awful kind of sadness, and everyone felt it; by the time we got to the airport pretty much everybody had tear-strained faces and just wanted to get home already.

We weren’t there yet though; we still had to navigate passport control and whatnot, and of course VSO had forgotten to print out our tickets so half of us weren’t immediately allowed into the airport. We did all eventually manage to get in, and we spent the time wandering the airport finding food and souvenirs and the like – and Mitch had a bit of a panic when he came across a gate suggesting that a flight to London Heathrow had just left (which it had, but it wasn’t our flight). Check in time soon came around and before we knew it we were on the plane, ready to go, and very much enjoying the free drinks policy (something which I don’t think I’ve experienced before; you get drunk very quickly at 30,000 feet).

By this time pretty much everyone was eager to be home – I was amazed how quickly I switched from “No don’t make me go” to “Get me home and make me a cheese sandwich,” but I guess that’s life – and 9 hours later that’s where we were: London, Heathrow, England – home. We got through baggage control relatively quickly (despite everyone’s assurances to the contrary) and most people’s parents were there waiting for them at the arrivals’ gate. Sod’s law had it that mum was the last to arrive, so I said goodbye to everyone who was catching trains or getting a lift, and waited around hoping that mum hadn’t just forgotten that I was coming home that day.

She hadn’t.