Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Is This Real Life?

You know, I think this might actually be happening. I've told YASC that I'm committed. I've warned my parents to start booking their flights to South Africa now. And of course, facebook has been warned. And let me tell you, the reaction has been overwhelming. The moment I posted my plans on facebook, the likes and comments and messages started pouring in. I'm so grateful for every last bit of support I have gotten and will continue to get over the next 15 months, but I'm already nervous and scared and I need to be realistic about what I'm leaving behind.

So here it is. Everything that I'm scared of in one little blog post. Or at least everything I can think to write in the next couple minutes before I go to a meeting with my advisor about finally declaring my Gender Studies Minor.

1) I am scared that being away from my family and friends for an entire year may just be the hardest thing I'll ever have to do. When I made my facebook announcement, I started to get extremely sad thinking of all the people I wouldn't see for such a long period of time. I rely so heavily on my connections with my friends and family, so I'll need to come up with some great connections in Cape Town in order to stop myself from trying to run away to the comforts of people I know.

2) As much as I know about race and gender problems in the United States, that knowledge tells me nothing about race and gender in South Africa. As much as I learned about Apartheid in my history classes in high school, I barely know anything about race relations in South Africa. Until I've experienced it, I will be consistently wondering how my race plays into every interaction I have. I wonder if my whiteness will get in my way as I'm trying to connect. I wonder if white privilege will follow me wherever I go or if I'll somehow manage to leave it behind in order to be fully immersed in every aspect of South African culture.

3) What if I suck at communications work? So far, they've assigned me to work for HOPE Africa, The Social Development Programme of the Anglican Church of South Africa. What if my writing voice is too colloquial and conversational and I'll never be able to find a hint of professionalism? My experience does not lie in communications, and I know I may be able to learn how, but that doesn't stop me feeling extremely unprepared for my purpose.

4) What if I've grown up with too good of a lifestyle and I won't be able to make mine in Cape Town work? What if the culture shock is just too shocking? I hate to imagine that I've been too privileged to live anywhere else, but what if that's what this country and our culture does to people? What if I rely so much on my lifestyle that I break down trying to live in a brand new place?

Clearly my problems aren't easily solved with a pep talk, but I do have faith that I'll be ok even if every one of these issues comes to fruition. But I can tell you now that with the YASC support system, I will not lose hope. I know that with the help of my peers and my spiritual guides, I will have an incredible life-changing year. I will struggle but I can persevere. And I will.

I know this post was a little bluer than you probably hoped, but it ended positively, right? Right? Well, maybe a little. But I do have another surprise for you. See this picture?
Cape Town, South Africa

So you'll be coming to visit me, right? Great, see you there!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Stay With Me Here...

So let's give this blogging thing a try shall we? I'll be honest, although I've started perhaps 10 blogs before in my life and countless journals on top of that, I've never been one for follow-through. Those who know me wouldn't necessarily call me flighty, but they would certainly speak to the countless places my mind flows and the dedication I have to my personal projects. However, this project is different in so many ways. But wait, I'm already jumping the gun here. Let me back up.

In February of 2013, I took Amtrak down to New York City for an interview for the Young Adult Service Corps. After a fantastic afternoon with many laughs and a few tears (by me, of course. You know me, people!), I took the train right back up to Saratoga Springs, NY to finish my Senior Year of college. I reflected, I prayed, and I contacted every loved one I have to get their thoughts on my potential future. About two days later, I knew I wanted to keep going with the process.

And so, I accepted my fate, emailed YASC, and began filling out paperwork for filing for a new passport. (Note to self: make an appointment with the Post Office if you want to travel anywhere any time soon.) I continued to discuss with my friends and family what it might be like to be in a foreign place for a year doing work for a community that I may not fit in with. And although apprehension followed every conversation, I have still not decided to step out of the process!

About a month after my interview in the city, I received an email from the YASC office with a possible placement for me! As soon as I'd begun to settle into the idea of being gone for a year, I suddenly had a place to imagine myself. And that place? Well it was Cape Town, South Africa, of course!

Now first and foremost, I called my mom. She immediately began googling every detail she could find and we quickly learned that Cape Town is a beautiful coastal city in South Africa where a teensy bit more than half of the population speaks English. (Although I was ready for a challenging new language, I must admit, I was relieved to not have the language burden.) Soon after I called my dad and my brother and told my housemates at college and soon after, I began to believe that I was going to be in South Africa next year.

Now although I haven't finalized my placement with YASC itself, this first blog is a way for me to realistically live with that fact for a little while. Now, if I do end up somewhere else, this post may just find itself stuck in the internet, never to be found again. But if South Africa is where I am meant to go, this will be a story that I'll be telling my friends and family for as long as I live. That, I am sure of.

Ok, so how's that for Post #1? I'll admit, it's a pretty long one. And I do apologize for lack of pictures and fun new culture stories. All of that will change the moment I land in my new home. As of now, I'm be off to write my thesis so that I can graduate and be really prepared for whatever is coming next.

Peace be with you