I was waiting to write my last blog until a few weeks after we returned from South Africa, but I realized our class ended two weeks ago from yesterday. I stayed a few extra days in Cape Town, so I have been back in the US for a little over a week. I am definitely missing Cape Town and the amazing friends and colleagues I made over there!
Leaving Cape Town 9 days ago was very bittersweet. I miss Table Mountain’s views every morning, engaging with the locals, exploring new places, and most of all, the great family that was created. I would say it has taken me a little while to get used to things back home. I returned and went to my internship for a few days. I was surprised I remembered all I needed to. My supervisor was surprised I remembered how to chart. It’s amazing how much information your brain can hold. I was able to share my experience in South Africa with many of my colleagues at the Denver Hospice who were all so excited and happy I was able to experience a life-changing event.
I was only in Denver for a few days before I made the 8-hour trek back to Nebraska to be with my family for the holidays. The first day I was home, I shared my South African journey with a few of my family members, but there are still many I have not gotten to! There is so much to share, so many great memories, experiences, life-changing views… I LOVE RETELLING MY STORY! It definitely never gets old. My dad wanted me to sit down with his boss and share my story with her, my younger brother’s teacher wanted me to come share a little bit about South Africa for his 4th grade class, I am going to share my adventure with some elders later at my mom’s job, my older brother comes home next week and I will get to share all over again. Before I left I never realized how “famous” I would be in my small hometown for being granted such a wonderful opportunity to travel. For myself, this opportunity was more than being able to travel. It was about having the opportunity to be emerged in another culture and being able to see how individuals work to create change in their communities in terms of social problems. It was way more than a vacation, that’s why it was more life changing that I have been able to explain to the individuals who have been so interested in my journey.
The first few days I was back in my own apartment, I was kind of feeling like a spoiled brat. I realized how much crap I have that I don’t even use or need. Another student and I were able to stay with one of our South African colleagues during our few extra days, which was really powerful. I thought about our experience in her home along with other locals we were able to stay with, our township tours, our Robben Island experience, the neighborhoods we seen when visiting the different agencies, and the wilderness. All of these trips and experiences gave us GSSW students a peek into what life was/is like for South Africans to some extent. One experience I wanted to gain from this course was being emerged into a new culture, and this course exceeded my expectations.
Another part of my everyday life that was shocking once I got back to Denver was the fact that I have a car, and I can drive it. I remember Noli, from Yabonga, asking if I had a car. I told her yes. She stated that she has her license, but was in an accident and she was too scared to drive again. I know that many, if not most, of the people living in the townships use public transportation to get to and from work in Cape Town. I never realized how fortunate I am to have a car that I can drive to school, work, the grocery store, and 8 hours to get back to Nebraska if I want to. Another student and I used public transportation to get to and from Cape Town during our few extra days in South Africa, and I realized how time consuming it can be. It’s hard to determine how many other individuals will be waiting to get into town as well. I have been abroad before where I walked everywhere, and it’s always a good change. It makes me realize what I have and what I should not take for granted.
I was bothered in South Africa, for a while, about that fact that we weren’t able to shower as much as many of us were used to. What I found even weirder when I got back to Denver, and these last 9 days, is that I haven’t been showering as much as I did before I went to Cape Town. I think seeing some of the living conditions that South Africans live in have made me more conscious about the choices I make now. I have noticed I try not to waste as much food as I used to and have pointed this out to my siblings as well. I have also noticed that I notice trash more since many of the townships had a terrible trash problem. I remember one day seeing a child walk out of a fast food place and throw his trash. I was in shock after seeing that. Of course America has its own trash problems, but I have not seen it like I did in Cape Town. One day I was watching my nephews outside and wanted to get a trash bad so I could pick up some trash I seen in my mom’s garden.
One thing that really drives me nuts when I tell people I just got back from Africa is when they ask, “Do you have Ebola?” It is more annoying now than before I left for Cape Town! I do kindly point out that I did not go to West Africa where Ebola is at, I went to South Africa, which is quite a bit farther away. My favorite thing for people to ask me is, “What was your favorite part of South Africa”, or “What was your favorite thing to see?” There were so many awesome aspects of our adventure that I always have to say, “Well, it was all amazingJ” before I tell them what my favorite part was. Really surprisingly, I say my favorite part of our adventure was sleeping under the stars, in the wilderness. It always shocks people, how could sleeping under the stars in the South African wilderness not! I was nervous about the wilderness and have had mixed feelings about some aspects of it, that’s why I found it surprising when it slipped out of my mouth that that was one of my favorite parts. Just today someone asked what my favorite thing to see was, and I would have to say seeing how open and honest all of the South Africans and EducoAfrica was with all of us GSSW students. The psychical beauty was ALSO stunning to see, especially in the wilderness.
UNTIL NEXT TIME CAPE TOWN!