After what seems like an eternity, my long stint out of the office - and the country - has finally come to an end.
Although the freedom of having no deadlines was quite a relief, I must admit that I sincerely missed the people of Cape Town, and more specifically my reading community.
Walking into the office on Monday morning, in some ways it felt as if I had never been away, while in other ways it seemed like a whole lifetime ago that my colleagues sang "Leaving, on a jet plane, don't know when you'll be back again".
Over the past few months I've learnt to appreciate many of the things I took for granted before. I've seen young children with amputated limbs and valued the ability to walk and use my hands. I've learnt to appreciate my comfy bed after sleeping on the ground for five days, and understand the importance of saving our water here in South Africa after having to go to a tank every time I wanted to make tea or coffee.
On my journey in Saudi Arabia I met many interesting people. Once, sitting in the Holy Mosque in Medina, I met a young woman from Bangladesh who had an arranged marriage when she was only 16.
Her English was impeccable, considering that she had barely finished school, and we sat for hours finding out about each others lives.
I asked her all the questions I'd always wondered at, about women who have arranged marriages in the East, and discovered that our perceptions are often worse than the reality of it all.
She was happy, content in fact, to have had her parents choose a suitor for her. She was not oppressed or unhappy, as some may think, and had raised three children, including a daughter currently pursuing her tertiary studies at university.
The woman, whose name has now unfortunately slipped my memory, explained how well her husband cared for her and that she had never worked a day in her life.
This was my first travel overseas and a culturally enriching experience.
I was dismayed, to say the least, when I saw the recent local newspapers and found out about the surge in gang violence here in Cape Town and I pray we will one day also live in a country where, as is the case in Saudi Arabia, you can walk up to an ATM at 02:00 and withdraw money without the fear of being robbed.
I've heard many spooky myths about the Saudi government and its laws, but from personal experience I have to say that we could learn a lot from a country which provides free drinking water and eatables to over three million people over the Hajj period alone.
Although I sometimes wake up and wish I could go back to the Holy Land, it feels good to be back and I look forward to the year ahead. I hope it will be even better than the last and that we will share many more memorable experiences together over the coming months.
I leave you with a quote from one of my all-time favourite political figures, Martin Luther King, Jr.
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."