A lot of the lessons we learn in life are obvious ones. They are reminders of simple principles, echoed in sentiments we’ve read before. There is no novelty in the words “with every ending comes a new beginning,” because they have been unfortunately and permanently damned into the world of clichés. Instead, the novelty is in how we arrive at these words. It is the promising beginnings, the uncertain middles, and the nearly heartbreaking endings that remind us of lessons we swore we learned already. It isn’t until we are carrying out our own unique stories do we truly appreciate the inevitability of painful endings dissolving into beautiful beginnings. Even though I can write these words so eloquently, I’m having trouble accepting them in the same fashion. The days in November climb higher and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to face the remainder of my time here with a positive attitude.
The most popular topic of conversation in Penrose right now, other than updating each other on the all consuming traumas and victories of our social lives, is how quickly everything is passing by and how soon we will be returning home. I’m in denial every time someone brings it up, often wanting to shove my fingers in my ears like a child and yell “I’m not listening” until the harsh pains of reality are numbed into a manageable murmur. Yes, I’m being very dramatic about leaving because yes, I am very dramatic about endings. Continue reading “endings are hard but beginnings are beautiful.”
“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” – David Mitchell
In some ways, I expected studying abroad to change me automatically. Any prospects of hard work would be bypassed and a better adjusted human would be deposited at the JFK airport come November. The experience on its own seemed like it would be enough of a catalyst for change. During the first half of this semester, I spent a lot of time changing how I see the world, inviting it into my life as a playground for exploration and an endless well of opportunities. I saw many incredible sights, met the most carefree of friends, and discovered a new direction for not only my future career but also my personal lifestyle. All good things.
However, I was looking outward this whole time hoping that I would find something in South Africa that could sustain my happiness and the initial euphoria of this semester in perpetuity. For the last two months, the thought of leaving Cape Town behind scared me because I didn’t think I would ever find what I was feeling ever again. Every spare moment we crammed with activities, in hopes that the feelings of freedom and exhilaration would continue. When they didn’t, it was as if the whole of Cape Town had let me down. I took it personally.
When it was announced that classes were suspended due to student protests, I didn’t expect to spend 2 weeks lying low (read: sleeping) and thinking in near constant rotation. I figured I’d be out on adventures, finding pieces of my soul scattered all over Africa because that’s apparently what you do when you travel. Instead of picking up the pieces, I took a break to see that I was never broken to begin with. Continue reading “on my own”
There are days when I never want to leave South Africa.
It occurs to me each time I stare wistfully out the car window at passing scenery that my time in this city is limited. In just a few short months my life in Cape Town will slowly slip away into the blurry folds of my memory, along with my new favorite South African snacks that are not made available in the United States. Some of the lingo I’ve picked up in the last few weeks I plan to carry over as a memory, understood only by those who have lived in Cape Town. With each passing day, my fear of never making it home transitions into one of going home too soon. To put it in the most cliche of ways, I’ve fallen madly in love with the city of Cape Town. Continue reading “to feel at home”
I never thought I would learn half of what I have in the three weeks since I landed in South Africa. Every experience, every encounter has led me to points of clarity about humanity and social struggle. I guess I should have expected it, coming to a country with such a painful history of colonialism and racial injustice. But I didn’t. I came here thinking, “all of my friends go to Europe and I want to go on a safari.”
I realize now, looking back on who I was almost three weeks ago, that my thinking was shortsighted and poorly informed. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know much about apartheid or Nelson Mandela (or really South Africa in general) prior to coming here. My experience with this country was limited to Candice Swanepoel and Candice Pool, both lovely ladies who have inspired me in countless ways but who could have never prepared me for the South Africa I have encountered. Even the pages of my guidebook had fallen short on filling in all the blanks, as there were (and still are) many. Continue reading “Why South Africa?”
My little corner of the world. My bedroom, a claimed space. Tiny portions of the universe that we have called our own. These spaces, though, are not strictly occupants of land. If we strip away the iron, the steel, the wood, and every last brick, the places we can occupy and have occupied for years, sort of float and are part of the sky. It is obvious that the spatial possibilities for our bodies extend above and beyond the horizon. So smart are we, to have created dwelling spaces out of essentially thin air, to have revolutionized how we can occupy the land on which we live. We have built modern mountains; we have raised high tech tree houses. When we leave those corners, no matter at what level they may be, and emerge into the world, we are enveloped by infinitely enlightening beauty. On my way to class yesterday, I stared in awe at the sheer clarity of the world and the ever changing delicacies of the seemingly monotonous. Moments of appreciation for the beauty of life and the power of human intelligence help keep me motivated and uplift my spirits. Continue reading “Motivation, Humanity, and Flight Control”
On my way home from class today, I got entirely too excited about perfectly shaped snowflakes falling onto my windshield. Literally, perfectly shaped snowflake clusters with 6 points and everything. I can now say that well proportioned snowflakes are real in all their glittering perfection. More importantly, the event was an instance of everyday magic, or that’s what I like to call it. A phenomenon I’m quite fond of, everyday magic is a celebration of the mundane in a new and exciting way. Of course I know that snowflakes have six points and no two are alike, but I never took the time to actually notice it “in the flesh.” As the six sided figures hit my car, I was finding novelty in a commonality I have been experiencing my whole life: snowfall. Continue reading “The Fresh Prince and Snowflakes”
I think part of the reason why I’m drawn to New York is ancestral. In 1902, my great great grandmother immigrated from Ireland to Ellis Island. Parts of my extended family, of many I do not know, still live in the state of New York. Aside from my genetics “calling me” home, I’m a natural fast paced walker (definitely something I picked up from my mom after trying to keep up with her for the first half of my life) who walks with immense purpose. The energy of New York City screams purpose. No matter what district or neighborhood you’re in, that vitality is directional. And just like the towering buildings glittering with glassy exteriors, the energy goes upwards. Unlike the stagnant, horizontal energy of suburban American life, New York City is not confined to white picket fences. Continue reading “An Apple a Day: NYC”