I write this from the desert sands of Namibia, far removed from the last time I blogged in Tanzania. Since then, I’ve transitioned to the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa. It’s been five full weeks of change, exploration, and reflection.
I flew to Cape Town on July 30th. For two days, I explored Cape Town with my parents before starting my study about programs at the University of Cape Town. My parents were here because they had just finished a two-week tour of South Africa. During their visit, they went to Cape Town, so they helped show me around as we explored the Waterfront area that we stayed at and the city itself. After these two days, they dropped me off for my study abroad program before they left to go back home. What was fascinating about seeing my parents before leaving them for four months was that it caused my third bout of homesickness. After traveling for two months, I learned that every change of scenery brings with it a longing for the comfort of “home,” whatever that “home” may be. Traveling as much as I have hasn’t made leaving each place any easier, it’s just taught me that leaving can have its benefits.
With the departure of my parents came a transition not only in scenery but also in mindset. They dropped me off at my apartment in Rondebosch, a suburb of close to the University of Cape Town, where I faced the reality that this would be my home for the next four months. My apartment, which is the closest thing to a “home” I have had since leaving America, is a 3-bedroom flat with a kitchen and two bathrooms. At first, I had a roommate, and our three flatmates were two students who lived together and one RA who lived alone. Since then, our RA has moved out, and my roommate took over his room, making my living arrangement a single-room in a four-person flat. We live on a floor of strictly Americans in the same study abroad program, along with two other floors of Americans within the five-floor apartment. This apartment style makes socializing easy and, hence, I have made a ton of American friends who, at the very least, share a desire to come to Cape Town to experience a place very unlike home.
Every fall, as summer ends and school begins, I’ve always felt some amount of dread towards going back to school. This semester was no different, but with a schedule that contains African Drumming, I can safely say my small feeling of dread was met with a greater sense of excitement and enthusiasm. African Drumming is, not surprisingly, my favorite class and the most exciting. It consists of a dancing portion and a drumming portion, each an hour long on Monday, making my jam-packed Mondays only that much better. My other classes aren’t nearly as fun, but they are all interesting in different ways. As an American, raised through an education system that focused on American and European history, I’m particularly excited about the South African history class. And, with the luxury of pass-fail classes, I’ve never been in college taking classes with less stress than I am now.
Since arriving in Cape Town, I’ve been all over the place, exploring new places and new experiences. During orientation week, all international students went on a Cape Peninsula tour, visiting the Cape of Good Hope, Oceanview, and Camps Bay. During the same week, most of the Americans in my study abroad group went on a wine tour in Stellenbosch, the famous South African wine country. I’ve also been to a rugby game, where I watched the local Western Province team lose narrowly to the Durban Sharks. I’ve also explored Cape Town from incredible vantage points, having hiked Lion’s Head twice and Table Mountain once. It is from these views that I am most impressed by the amazing contrast between the ocean, the city, and the mountains.
All of these experiences have been great, but sometimes you can’t have it all, and my shark diving experience has taught me this, twice. Even though it is great white shark season, I have gone shark diving twice and seen a total of zero sharks. Add in the fact that other students have seen sharks in the very same place I went, even on the same day that I went, and it becomes a frustrating and grounding experience. But, as I reflected on in an earlier blog, I’ve been confronted with dealing with failure and doing so has been one of the better lessons of my travels so far. It’s especially easy to deal with those small failures from the Namib Desert.
Last Thursday, I flew to Namibia with nine other study abroad students to explore Namibia for a weekend. After getting in late on Thursday, we spent the night in a backpackers and woke up early Friday to start our tour through the desert of Namibia. On Friday, we drove for close to seven hours, stopping in a small village for lunch. In the afternoon, we arrived at Sossusvlei campsite and hiked a nearby dune to watch the sunset. The next morning, we woke up at 4:30 to watch the sunrise on the desert dunes, then hiked the Big Daddy dune for an incredible view of the Namib Desert. On Sunday, I had one of the most fun days of my entire trip. We quad biked and sand boarded in the desert for over two hours.
So far, Cape Town is has been incredible, and I know my time here will not only be fantastic but also go by way too fast. I’m trying my best to stop and smell the roses, while also learning about myself and those around me. During all of this time traveling, I have invariably reflected. I’ve been asking the hard questions, wondered about who I am and who I want to be, and considered what this trip means to me. But, because I waited for way too long to write this blog, I’ll have to include these thoughts in a later blog.
Until next time…