Sunday, July 1, 2012

here & now

      Experiencing life after studying abroad is just as important as experiencing life while abroad. Remember that. Do not merely recite it to yourself like an empty hymn whose meaning is beyond you, know it in your heart and believe it to be true. This life, this revised, rejuvenated, re-imagined life after your time abroad is precisely why you left in the first place, remember? You wanted to gain experiences to change your perspective in your every day life. You wanted to see how others lived so that you could appreciate or change your own day to day routine, your rituals, the basic ideas you held about anything and everything. Don't forget that.
      I left behind a perfect life in Cape Town. People I couldn't imagine loving more, scenery that had me lost in my own thoughts for hours, a culture that restored my waning faith in humanity. It was everything I needed at the time I needed it the most. I've been home for almost three weeks now, and honestly, it would be all too easy for me to tell you that I'm miserable. Craving so many things that are absolutely unreachable is exhausting. But, I refuse to give in to that sort of mindset. I refuse to be so entwined in the past, so full of longing and nostalgia that I have no room for appreciation of the present. It might not come naturally, or easily, but, there's just no sense in wasting this time being mentally stuck in Cape Town - especially when where I am is a sort of paradise in itself. Plus, there's a certain energy that flows through you as you immerse yourself in the memories of home. My parents still live in the house that they raised us in, and all of those years come back as a flood of positivity. Memories of laugh attacks, pillow fights that lead to broken arms, obstacle courses in the backyard and endless family meals riddled with the chaos that comes from having five very different people in one family are good for my soul and they remind me why it's not so bad to be home. Why I should be appreciative of where I am, despite what or who I am missing.
     And, there are new reasons to love home, or a new reason I should say. Caden Christopher Gaines was born just a few days after I flew home. On June 16th, after many painful hours of anticipation, Caden arrived and I fell in love instantly. It's unbelievable that not only is my brother CJ married, but now has a child of his very own to love and look after.

So, I might have left my ideal life back in South Africa. But, there is something special about every moment, no matter where you are. The challenge is finding it and truly appreciating it, no matter how awesome the rest of the world is.

Live in the moment,

Saturday, June 9, 2012

End of an Era

As most of you know, last month David and two of his brothers took to the road for an incredible journey to Juba, South Sudan. Sick of only hearing negative news about Africa, they began a project called Letters to Juba and will drive through nine countries talking to people - politicians, teachers, artists, bus drivers, activists, gardeners - gathering letters of encouragement, advice, and innovative ideas for development of the world’s newest country. When they arrive in Juba, they will aim to begin 5 grassroots organizations based off of ideas they received on the trip, and they will compile the letters and information into a formal report to show some head hanchos in Juba. It’s important that the leaders of South Sudan look to the past in order to avoid major pitfalls of corruption and poverty that have seized other African nations. 

They’ve just recently made it to Mozambique after major car trouble, but they’re posting inspiring letters and photos of their trip to their facebook page and their website. If you’re African, let them know what you think about their project, the development of South Sudan, or what innovative ideas have helped out your community the most. And if you’re not African, words of support always leave warm fuzzies!

    These are some of David's photos from the Transkei on their way out of ZA.

This project has been amazing to follow so far, and even though it meant the end of something special, I see it as a sacrifice to the bigger picture. I had been helping David with the project for so long that when it finally took flight, it was a bittersweet symbol of the end of my own trip. The overwhelming presence of final exams allowed me to avoid feeling anything for several weeks, but now that those are over, reality is all up in my grill. It’s surreal to think that I flew here 11 months ago and it’s already over. Cape Town has changed me fundamentally, structurally, and it’s difficult to think about leaving when coming back seems like a pipe dream. It’s difficult to think about leaving when I feel as though I could lose it all by flying away. It’s just difficult to think about leaving, really. This year, I’ve become the woman I have always wanted to be, and I have never been happier in my life. The prospect of losing that is terrifying.
It is this newfound happiness, however, that propels me to search for my next adventure because, I guess I just love the way the world changes you when you let it. I came here blank and empty, and I’m leaving whole, full of the ineffableness of traveling, of places and cultures that cannot be summed up neatly. Full of the images that no cameras captured and the sounds that no one listens to. 
The last few days have been a circus of last meals, final tours, goodbyes and see you later’s. Some of us are lucky enough to see these faces back on our home campuses, while others might only be remembered through photos and annual nostalgia. But either way, we all know that Cape Town has left us with more than memories. And the things that we felt as we stood here together will be the invisible threads that tie us to each other for the rest of our lives. 

Live happily,

Monday, June 4, 2012

bay day

Holly's sister was visiting for a while, so we had a good excuse to take a break from the books, thank you, rebellious teen Jesus with a patchy beard (that's how I imagine him). One day consisted of a day at the Water Front and an impromptu sailing trip just before sunset with a one legged captain and a couple of bottles of wine. The little cruise turned into drunken sailing lessons (completely open water - don't worry Ma) and I don't think it could have been better if it was raining Butterfingers and burritos. That's saying something, people! There are tons of people that will take you on a harbor cruise for practically nothing, and if you go at the right time (like us), you have the boat all to yourselves! After that, we chowed down at a Scottish pub called Mitchell's which has unbelievable honey beer, and then we headed home!

The V&A Water Front is supposed to be modeled after SF's Wharf, but besides the tourist priced food and the fleet of boats, I didn't notice many similarities. However, seeing as how it's one of the biggest tourist destinations in the city, I figured I had to check it out at least once, and I'm really glad I did. With the sun kissing your face and that salt water air, nothing's that bad, right?

One final, one week and one 30+ hour flight until I'm home! Chea!

Live wisely,