Saying Goodbye

Next week, Tuesday, March 20,to be exact, I will be taking my ninth trip to South Africa. Yes, NINTH. When that trip is over, it will make over 144,000 miles I have traveled back and forth between the US and Africa (8,000 miles to SA, 8000 miles home, 16,000 per trip, multiplied by 9). How crazy is that? I went to SA for the first time in May 2002. To be honest, that trip was miserable for me. I broke down in tears about hour 8 of the eighteen hour plane flight over and was completely unable to sleep on the plane. When I finally got settled into my hotel, I managed to never even leave the hotel premises, except on group field trip excursions. I was in Africa, in a hotel. I was terribly homesick, and I was not all that thrilled. I would share a photo of me from that trip, but there are only about 3 in existence. They are all so terrible, I would never show them :-)

Now we jump forward a year, to March 2003. I head back for my second trip. This time, I swore to myself that I would actually get out and wander around a bit. I did, and I am so glad! I actually don't have any photos to share of that trip because I was still using film at the time. I have never scanned in the photos, so if you want to see those, you have to come visit. On that trip, I took a day tour and went to Cape Point; I took a boat out to Sea Island and saw the seals and the "ring of death" where Great Whites come to feed on the seals in cold weather; I went to Boulders and saw a colony of Jackass penguins, and I went up Table Mountain for the first time and experienced the amazing view of Cape Town from above. I went home from that trip with a love for South Africa fully rooted within me.
I didn't head back again for another year, but in April 2004, I was so ready to be in South Africa. As they say, third time's the charm, and boy was it! As you rea last week, I was 25 at the time and my life and head were in a whirl. I decided to set out and find out who I was. Could I meet people on my own? Could I make friends in a far off place? And honestly, I partied. A lot.

This photo was taken with a group of friends and several members of the Scorpions, South Africa's elite law enforcement agency. i think this photo was taken about 4am. Such a great time.

I did work, too, though! This is a picture of our whole staff (above).

I also spent a lot of time really getting to know our class of Fellows on their reunion trip. I have friends in this class who I still talk to on a very regular basis. Some absolutely amazing people. The next year, 2005, I went to South Africa twice. Once in the spring, once in the fall. Both of these trips were amazing great, too. In 2005, I met Judy, who has become a wonderful friend and mentor to me.

Me and Judy. YAY! And we are at Manenberg's of course - my home away from home. But Judy isn't the only one in the class I have made friends with. After the Reunion retreat for her class of fellows, several of us spent about 2.5 days in Cape Town just wandering around and enjoying the city.

This was on Camp's Bay Beach. From L to R: John, Ashley, Charles, Judy and me. The five of us had an absolutely wonderful couple of days. We had 3 hour breakfasts at this great Belgian pancake place in the waterfront. Nothing like a pancake with fruit and ice cream.

I also managed to hit the Cape Town Jazz Festival (which I will hopefully do again on this trip!)
The guy on the far left is one of the musicians from some band; Elelwani is on my left - she was rather preggers at the time!; me, Puti, Priscilla and a friend of Priscilla's. We had a great time at this absolutely amazing jazz fest.

I could go on for hours and hours showing pictures and telling stories of my adventures in Cape Town. Late night escapades, walks along the beach, trips around the mountain, beers overlooking the Cape, new friend, homesickness, and the like. South Africa changed my life. It changed who I was and what I wanted it to be. It helped me find my "moral compass" and learn that there was a lot out there in the world I knew nothing about. I learned that travel is probably one of the best ways to find out about yourself and about other people.

But here it is, trip number nine. This is possibly my last work-funded trip to South Africa. I know I will go back on my own some day, but this "twice a year guaranteed visit" is coming to an end. Due to changes in our programming, and me scheduled to finish my master's degree within the next year, a lot will change. That means on this trip, I have to say goodbye.

I don't really know where to start. In a way, I would rather just act like the trip is the same as it always is and not get overly emotional about it. But I doubt that will happen. I am debating going on a one day safari. They are expenisve, but for goodness sake, I have been to Africa eight prior times and NEVER been on Safari. I think I should splurge.

I think I will take a few long walks down the beach. I will go up Table Mountain one more time. I would love to make it out to Cape Point again, but I don't know if I will have the time. So many things to say goodbye too. It hasn't even hit me yet that I am leaving next week, so it really hasn't hit me that this whole "goodbye" thing is for real too. The people, the places. There may be some tears this trip.

Table Mountain dominating the Cape Town skyline

NOTE: Thanks to all of you who left your comments about the quarter life crisis. I have been thinking about what everyone has said, as well as reprocessed what I said myself. And you know, we may have these problems, but what better problems are there to have? It is almost as if we have too many options in life - we can do anything. We can do ANYTHING. If you twist that into a positive light, maybe we can make it more inspirational and less overwhelming. You can't do it all, but you sure can try a lot of things - we are all lucky to have that opportunity!!!!!

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