I guess I’ll start this blog post out with an apology??? I’ve had tons of people asking me for a blog post from my beloved Cape Town and I keep replying with: “I’m posting one this weekend!!!” And then the weekend comes around, and I start to write one, and I simply cannot find the right words to say. I kid you not, I have over 20 drafts that I can’t seem to finish because they all seem to ramble and make no sense. You’ve won, Cape Town, you’ve left me speechless.
So here is my 20-something attempt at this thing. Who knows if this one will make it out into the public sphere, but we’ll give it a whirl just in case. I’ve been here for over 2 months and it’s flown by but at the same time it feels like I’ve been here for an eternity–see I’m on the 2nd paragraph and I’m already making no sense. But, any-who, I can say with the utmost confidence that I have made the right decision in coming here.
I’m unsure of how to really preface this blog post, usually all of my posts have some type of overarching theme attached to them providing some type of life lesson. But, with this one I’m going to attempt to answer a question that everyone seemed to be asking me prior to my departure-“Why on Earth are you going to Cape Town??”
We have all have things in life that make us feel whole. Things that make us realize that life is so much more than simply waking up every morning, doing the same routine. Life can be monotonous at points, which is why we are always in search of some type of meaning to it all. We don’t want to life to drag us along for the ride, we want the exact opposite actually. We want to be in control life, grabbing it by the neck and seizing every opportunity that will give us some type of satisfaction. Unfortunately, we don’t always do that. If controlling life was so easy, I think we would have it all figured out at this point.
How do you control your life? Well, simply put, you don’t. The better question is, do you want to control every aspect of your life? Life wasn’t meant to be “controlled,” life is meant to challenge you and annoy you and make you feel like you’ve reached your limit. Life is meant to force to you find things that make you overcome your breaking point. That right there is what you have control over. That leads to the question, how the hell do you do that? My answer to that is to find things that make you feel alive. Find things that gives your life more meaning. Find things you can look to to help overcome life’s terrible obstacles. Oscar Wilde once said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” So, live. Don’t just exist.
Cape Town has made me feel like I’m living. I live in a pretty poverty stricken area, the WiFi is pretty shitty at times, and I have to watch my back when I’m walking alone, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. All of the the things that are different about Cape Town is what I love about it. Not only is the physical landscape beautiful, but so are the people. I have met the most amazing people since I’ve been here. I’ve have developed relationships with people from all over the world, all coming from different socioeconomic backgrounds, yet I’ve been finding myself totally looking past those differences and focusing on the glue that binds us together-our desire for exploration.
On my third day here, my realtor took myself and few of my roommates on a personal tour of Cape Town. I was still in the “euphoria” stage of a study abroad student-super fascinated by every little thing that surrounds me. He showed us different areas of the city and drove on the cliffs that overlooked the oceans. We got lunch at a local seafood place and sat on this random patch of grass on a cliff next to the water. I had never been in such awe. I thought to myself- “This is my home.” He began to ask us why we chose South Africa to study and I answered the same way that I always have-I wanted to do something different and this is the time to do it. He looked at me and said, “That’s what life is all about. You guys are so young and you have your whole life ahead of you. Do something while you can.”
I find myself always replaying that quote over and over in my head- “Do something while you can.” Too often we let opportunities slip through our fingers because we think we have the rest of our lives to do it. That type of thinking gets you nowhere. Any opportunity that comes your way you have to grab it, because you never know when it’ll come again, or if it will ever come again. What I love best about Cape Town is how it really feels like home now. I wouldn’t say I’m completely assimilated into the culture, for that would take longer than a semester, but the people of this country have made me feel like I belong here. I rarely get treated like an ignorant foreigner- although I have gotten made fun of from time to time for being American (I blame George Bush). People have made me feel like I belong here.
I recently retweeted something from Lululemon that said “Travel does the heart good.” It’s a pretty cliche quote, but I don’t think I understood the value of it until I lived in another country. Not only has my compassion for human life increased, but my whole perspective on life has been broadened. I never realized how little I knew about the world. People here have more to worry about than short-lived iPhone batteries and restaurant food taking too long to come out of the kitchen. People here do what they can to put food on the table, even if it means sitting outside of the grocery store fixing shoes with their bare hands all day. I will say that Cape Town is very westernized in many ways, and when you picture “Africa” the setting of Cape Town is probably not be what comes to mind. It’s a whole different culture, but so is every other country in Africa. Last week I traveled to Tanzania for my semester break, and I can say that it was the first time I really experienced culture shock. Tanzania is a lot less modernized than Cape Town, and we weren’t surrounded by a bunch of abroad kids who are just as ignorant as we were.
We had no plans on this trip-no hostiles booked, no set schedule. We had a vague idea of what parts we wanted to visit in Zanzibar (an island off of Tanzania), but we just kind of went with the flow. We lived on a study abroad student budget, hopping from hostle to hostle, exploring the country. The beaches were beautiful, and the people couldn’t have been more friendly or accommodating if they tried. All in all, it was an amazing trip and traveling throughout this third world country made me realize how good we had it in Cape Town. WiFi was hard to find, credit card machines were scarce, and people’s English was pretty poor. What do you mean??! Not EVERYBODY speaks English?? Internet isn’t readily available in every country????!!? YOU CAN LIVE WITHOUT WIFI?! My Common White Girl mind had a rude awakening. It made me realize how good I had it in Cape Town, however, I was happy that I got to see and experience this kind of lifestyle. I probably heard the phrase “Hakuna Matata” over 500 times in the course of 9 days, but when they said it, they really meant it. I had an amazing trip traveling around Tanzania-minus the 85 bug bites on my legs-but by the end, I missed home. And no, not my Boston home, my Cape Town home. That’s the beauty of studying abroad, feeling like you’re at home even when you are thousands of miles away.
What’s been the biggest change in Africa is how laid back everyone is. It has been hard for me to get used to this slow-paced lifestyle, and it drives me crazy at times, but it’s important to not always be on the go. If you’re always rushing, you may miss out on something that could change your life forever. So, take a break sometimes. Stay at a restaurant for more than 45 minutes, take a long walk when you can, and explore what else is out there. There are a thousand things I’d like to do here that I’ve been holding off because I kept telling myself I have months to do everything, but now I’m down to two months and it’s freaking me out. Life really flies by, so when you want to do something, make it happen. Don’t sit around and let life pass you by.
I could go on and on about how much I’ve learned since I’ve been here but I think the biggest thing is realizing how powerful exploring the world is. I wouldn’t change my life in Boston for anything, but it’s so small. Look on a map and see what a small part of the world you occupy. I’m quickly approaching my senior year of college, so I’d like to think I’ve learned the ropes by now. If I was asked to give a single piece of college advice to someone it would be to study abroad. There is so much out there to see, and if you hold back from doing things and justify it by saying you have the rest of your life to do it, you’re wrong. Your life is now. Most of you reading this are probably in high school or college, and this is the time in our life we get to be selfish. Take advantage of that and do things that make you feel like you do more than just exist. Get out there and see what the world has to offer. Remember-the only limits on life are ones that you put there yourself. Challenge your limits and you may be surprised how much it can leave a lasting mark on you. Do something that makes you feel alive.
My time here is quickly coming to an end, and although I’m excited to see all of my friends and family back at home, I already know how much I’ll miss this place. Cape Town has shown me how much life has to offer and how important it is to challenge yourself. Life is awesome and life is short, so make your story worth reading. Thank you Cape Town for being the abs0lute shit.
So, why did I choose Cape Town? If you don’t know the answer to that by this point, maybe you should come to Cape Town and see for yourself.
(I hope this post was worth 2.5 months of waiting)