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!


  1. 1) remember that they'll be right where you left them once you get back, and look forward to all the new connections you're going to make. and you are going to make them

    2) have zero expectations. go in with your heart wide open, and you'll find that you are not the race or gender problem. you'll learn about those problems as they already exist in cape town, but you will not BE the problem. best advice here is honestly not to think about it beforehand. the best way to learn that stuff is to live it. you have all the tools to interpret your world around. wait to interpret it until it actually is around you.

    3) i'm skipping this one. you're great.

    4) you'll be amazed at how easy it is to adapt. it's hard to think about or try living that way when everyone else around you is still living the american lifestyle, but once you don't have the option of netflix and la-z-boys, it becomes shockingly easy.

    5) my own addition. it's totally fine to be apprehensive and nervous, but don't let those emotions consume you. remind yourself how exciting this opportunity is, too.

  2. I just know that you will have the most wonderful, exciting, spiritual experience of your life. I have a close friend who recently returned from a similar adventure in Dubai, India. He says that it was the best decision he ever made. Jose' said much the same as your friend above said about how amazingly simple it was to adapt.


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