Reflections

“Be brave.  Take risks.  Nothing can substitute experience.”
–Paulo Coehlo

I have now been home for a week, and this will be my last post on this blog.  It would be impossible to articulate everything I learned and saw and experienced in my time abroad, but to end this record of my semester abroad, here are just a few things that I will miss about South Africa:

–The people I met, from the other exchange students to the local Rhodes students to everyone I met while traveling

–Going on trips and seeing new places in a beautiful country

–The friendliness of South Africans and the African custom of calling all women “sisi” and “mama,” regardless of actual familial relation

–Nights at the Rat and Sunday services in the Cathedral

–The multiculturalism of the country, such as hearing and seeing multiple languages at once

The past four and a half months were certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I want to express my gratitude and love to all who joined me on this grand adventure!

Coffee Bay & Durban

After I finished exams at Rhodes I packed my bags and spent my last week abroad in Coffee Bay and Durban.  Coffee Bay is a beautiful rural oasis beside the ocean, and my travel companion and I thoroughly enjoyed our time spent there despite having lost one of our bags on the bus trip up (thankfully we were reunited with the bag two days later!).  We hiked out to the Hole in Wall; the hostel staff assured us it was an easy-to-follow path along the coast, but we would certainly have gotten lost if a local guide had not caught up with us and led us the rest of the way.  We were also accompanied by two local dogs who bounded along beside us for the entire three hour hike, and we hitchhiked our way back to the hostel with three new Dutch friends and their guide.

Coffee Bay

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Hole in the Wall

One of our canine companions

Our trip to Durban began with perfect weather and a day on the beach with the impressive city skyline flanking the shore.  The next day I stepped out into the city for my first solo excursion and to find the Victoria Street Market, and the trip was finished with a visit to the Moses Mabhida Stadium, built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Durban

Durban

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The bus trip back to Port Elizabeth took us again through the Transkei, one of the former homelands.  We even passed Nelson Mandela’s house, but as the driver pointed out, the lack of flying flags noted that Madiba was not in residence.

Welcome to the Eastern Cape

Transkei

Transkei

Madiba's House

Arriving Home

After a surprise wake-up call at 4am on Sunday followed by 33 total hours of travel, I finally arrived at Dulles airport early on Monday morning.  Getting through customs and baggage claim was quick and painless, and after almost five months I was reunited with my parents and sister!

It was a little surreal to be back home, and automatic flush toilets, an American flag flying outside the airport, and my dogs were a bit of a thrill.  Perhaps the oddest thing was driving on the right side of the road again!  My adjustment was aided, however, by a family trip to pick out a Christmas tree and quality time spent decorating the house for my favorite holiday.

As I continue to adjust to not being in South Africa anymore, keep an eye out for an upcoming post about my last week abroad.

The End of Missing

“I like to see people reunited, maybe that’s a silly thing, but what can I say, I like to see people run into each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough, the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone.”
–Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Today is my last full day in South Africa, and that thought makes me both extremely sad to leave and incredibly excited to be home.  It’s been a wild ride, South Africa, and America–I will see you soon!

Kenton-on-Sea

Saturday dawned bright and cloudless, the perfect day for a trip to the beach.  The beach at Kenton-on-Sea was wide and empty, the ocean was bitingly chilly, and the sun was hot as we lay on the sand, climbed the dunes, and took freezing leaps into the water.  We even saw dolphins gliding through the waves and whales breaching along the horizon!  Some of the others played soccer with other Rhodes students and built sandcastles with local children, and we all applied liberally our respective sunscreens, ranging from SPF 25 to SPF 70.  Thankfully the day was hot but not as scorching as it was on Sunday, when the Rhodes homepage reported a temperature of 39 degrees Celsius, or over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  I returned to Grahamstown salty, sandy, and tired, but thoroughly relaxed from an enjoyable day by the sea.

Exchange Students’ Dinner

This past Friday night the international students gathered once again at our usual place, The Rat and Parrot, for our last “official” dinner together before we begin going our separate ways.  Whether we’re leaving Grahamstown for home or more travel in less than a week or three, it was fitting to have us all together one more time.  We’ve formed a solid group, maintaining the friendships we formed in the very first week living together in Matthews Hall, and there’s no better place than the Rat, Grahamstown’s most famous haunt, to celebrate our time at Rhodes.

 

One Month, Part Two

With just one month left until I am back on American soil, I compiled a list of some of the things I am most excited to have back in my life.

Family: When I want to cry at half hour television comedies because there was a tender familial moment, I know I’m missing them.

Friends: Skype sessions that make me feel like I’m sitting right beside them do wonderful things for my mental health.

ADPi sisters: Wearing letters by myself just isn’t the same as a pinwear Tuesday with my badge over my heart.  And now I have two Littles!

Gettysburg College: There are too many things I miss about this place, but here are a few–Servo cookies, Attic Weeknights, CAB, reenactors, Musselman Lib, Declining Dollars, the fountain, and JMR

Driving: After consulting bus schedules and cramming extra people into rented cars I will never take for granted the independence that comes with having a valid driver’s license and four working wheels.

Food: Mexican, Chinese, healthy salads: I want them all.

Also included in this list are my dogs, unlimited texting, extra pillows and blankets to curl up with, and Bethany Beach.