Stories to Share

I have been home for a week, and although I am missing Cape Town desperately, it is definitely great to be back.
When I stepped off the plane at the Newark airport (after stepping on and off planes for the past 22 hours in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Dakar, and D.C.), I was welcomed home by my wonderful parents, my smiling sister, and a gigantic sign reading “Welcome home Sarah!”
After eating a New Jersey bagel (boy, I missed those!), getting some Starbucks into my system (don’t worry, barely-caffeinated South African instant coffee – you still have a place in my heart), eating the delicious lemon chicken my mom made for dinner (and almost falling asleep on my plate, thank you 7-hour time difference), I began to share stories.
As I attempt to process my study abroad experience, some of the amazingly perfect moments that I experienced do not feel real. The memories feel like they happened in a dream – in a different world. And quite frankly – my experience was not only ‘out of this world,’ but other-worldly. Harnessing that other world – the Cape Town streets I came to call home, along with the people, my friends, my students – it is next to impossible. Trying to convey the precise feelings I had while living in that country of contrasts is so difficult.
But what I have discovered is that stories help keep my memories alive, and make my experiences real and tangible to me again.
I visited The (Wonderful) University of Scranton last weekend. It was so refreshing to catch up with my Scranton fam again. I loved hearing their semester-tales, and I loved sharing my South African stories with them. As I told my Scranton friends about the friends I made abroad, the silly jokes we played on each other, my mid-semester trip, my time teaching at Hlengisa, hiking, and all of the other aspects which encompassed my time in Cape Town, I felt my study abroad experience come alive again.
I look forward to going back to school next semester, ready to make new memories with my Scranton fam, with my Cape Town memories always in my back pocket.  :)

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Happy Thanksgiving! Until next week!

Sarah  :)

Home Sweet Cape Town

Leaving: A word so awful that my friends and I banned its use for our last week in Cape Town.

When you have experienced five months of life in a beautiful place with interesting people and countless adventures, packing up and leaving is the last thing you want to do.
The past five months that I have spent in Cape Town have been some of the most outrageously fun months of my life. I fell in love with the people and the city, with the ocean and the mountains, with the suburbs and the townships. Cape Town has captured my heart, and I feel so incredibly blessed to have had this experience.
The fact that I am leaving tomorrow has not hit me yet. How could I be leaving this crazy, chaotic, beautiful, energetic city – where the three peaks sneak their way into every skyline, where contrasting city, suburbs and townships all somehow unite to exist in one place? I’ve said it before – Cape Town is a place of contrasts. Beautiful, heartbreaking, intense contrasts. And I love all of them.

So here’s to Cape Town. To the laughs, the smiles. To K-House (K-Love/K-Fam). To Hlengisa, where I spent 14 hours a week teaching. To The University of Western Cape where I spent a bit more time than I wanted to. To relying on Cocoa Cha Chi’s Coffee Crushes to make it through the day. To Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, and Lion’s Head – the three peaks that helped me conquer my fear of heights and taught me about perseverance and harnessing inner-strength. To bungee jumping off a 700ft bridge. To sunset Safaris. To exploring the Wild Coast. To the Hout Bay Market and Old Biscuit Mill, markets where I spent many Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. To funny K-House memories like meeting Desmond Tutu (finally) after the Tutu-fake-out when his office stood us up. To afternoons at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. To Stellenbosch. To Kolbe mass (with a Jesuit priest!) To full moon hikes up Lion’s Head. To beach days at Clifton. To surfing attempts at Muizenburg. To sunsets at Camps Bay and Glenn Beach. Essentially, to the “TIA” (this is Africa) attitude, automatically replying “it’s not a problem” when your plans go awry, or when you find yourself at a place you’ve never been before.

Quite a list, right?

They say home is where the heart is, and I can proudly say that after studying abroad, I now have three homes to love, miss, and cherish. I have my home in New Jersey, my home at The University of Scranton, and my new home in Cape Town, South Africa. Although these homes are separate and although I am unable to be present in all three homes at once, I feel so blessed to have each of them. These homes – these places made of people – each hold a third of my heart. I feel lucky that I have three homes to be welcomed into, three homes to miss, and three homes full of people to love. Leaving my new home in Cape Town will be insanely difficult. But jumping back into my homes in New Jersey and at The U will be easy. It is hard to always have people and places to miss, but I am glad that I do. It shows that those amazing people, beautiful places, and life-changing experiences, all of which comprise my homes, mean something to me. And they do. They really do.

My housemates and I went on our last hike in Cape Town this morning :). Here’s a picture of it:

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Next time you here from me, I’ll be back in the US! So – Until next week!

Sarah :)

Taxi Tales

Cape Town taxi drivers have always tugged at my interest. They come from everywhere, will drive you anywhere, and usually have a good story or two to share. Taxis come in three forms here: marked taxis, unmarked taxis and mini-busses, or as the locals call them – Kombis. You can call marked taxis to come pick you up, they will run their meter, and you will pay a fair price to get wherever you are going. Unmarked taxis are the ones you find on a main road and haggle with until you get to a price you want. Then you have the Kombis, which are 12-seat vans that drive up and down the main roads. Riding in Kombis are like riding in a party bus. They blast music as the drivers yell out the window to potential customers, shouting where they are going. A huge perk is that Kombis are considerably cheaper than taxis. They they will take you anywhere – even into the city – for 7 Rand (70 cents USD). Kombis are a lot of fun to ride with friends, but most of the interesting conversations happen with the taxi drivers.
I arrived in Cape Town exactly four months ago (can you believe it has already been four months?!), and I still remember my first taxi ride, purely because of the man in the driver’s seat. He asked my friends and I to call him “Mr. Africa” (still unsure of whether that is actually his name), and he spent the entire drive to the V&A Waterfront telling us about Cape Town, about his life before he moved from the DRC to Cape Town, and providing important insight on how to stay safe while living here.
Since Mr. Africa, I have met countless taxi drivers, some of whom openly share their stories of struggle during the Apartheid, of their lives prior to moving to South Africa, of their families who still live in the DRC, Zimbabwe, or Congo – or in other South African cities like Durban or Johannesburg. Others are less talkative – groggy from their early morning start at 6am or simply just less willing to play twenty questions with a tourist. But I have learned that the taxi drivers who do have something to say are definitely worth listening to.
Often times it begins with my question: “Why did you move to Cape Town?” or “What made you stay?” Sometimes they will ask me where I am from, and my answer that I am from The States sparks a discussion about that. Many taxi drivers like to give their opinions on politics, and the trip turns into a taxi-ride-long rant. When that happens, I have learned just to nod my head and smile. But more often than not, I enjoy learning about their lives, and listening to their opinions.
A few weekends ago, my boyfriend and I were on our way to Camps Bay Beach. As we drove past Bo Kapp, a part of downtown Cape Town with colorful houses, our taxi driver launched into an explanation of his heritage, and how he was impacted by the Apartheid. He spoke about reconciliation, about moving forward, and about being dragged back into the past. He explained that a taxi driver is not his profession of choice, with 24-hour shifts and low pay. But even though the Apartheid ended, his job choices are limited. This man’s story and insight were fascinating. I feel like taxi drivers provide such a valuable look into true South African culture. I feel fortunate to have had such meaningful conversations with the different taxi drivers I have met, as they have really developed and enriched my perspective of South African life. :)

Here’s an artsy picture of the marked taxi company I usually call with the scenic Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head mountains in the background (courtesy of google):

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Until next week!

Sarah :)