Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about leaving Cape Town to head back to my routine life in the States. Hearing everyone’s sad feelings about leaving and happy ones of returning to friends and family really made me reflect on my own. Right now, with seven days left until the end of our program, I feel devastated that the time of three and a half months flew by like it was nothing and that many of us are so eager to get home. What’s most saddening is that I know the post-trip depression for me is going to be much worse than any feelings I have or had of missing home, and once I’m there, I’ll be wishing that it was Jan. 12 again when we all met at JFK airport and departed for an experience of a lifetime together. I can specifically recall feelings of uncertainty among us the day we arrived of not knowing what to expect, how living with one another was going to work out, and how our internships were going to be. Now I can say that we are all very accustomed to life here and that this program has surpassed every expectation we had from stories told to us.
Although my time in South Africa is not up yet, as I wait for the rest of my family to arrive on May 11 so that we can explore the country together until the 27, I still feel a sense of pre-departure depression because staying here will be much different after bidding farewell to the majority of the group on Monday. The bond formed between us is similar to a bond between siblings. We are all unique and come from different backgrounds and disciplines in which many of us would not have met without coming to Cape Town. While conflicts were bound to happen between us, we are constantly reminded through our studies and why we are here to respect and accept each other for who we are and our differences. A quote that Marita uses in class seemed to sum up an important lesson that I have learned through communal living: “It’s not our differences that separate us, but our failure to accept and appreciate them.” It is this sense of unity that will make it so difficult for me to say goodbye on April 30 and for me to continue as I watch my peer-educators leave for home.
What will also be difficult is saying goodbye to all of the people met and friendships formed here. From saying farewell to the Tafelsig Clinic staff I work with, to Vernon Rose who has coordinated our amazing internships, this will be one of the hardest parts due to the fact that I do not know when I will be able to return and meet again. I got a taste of this last Wednesday when I had to say goodbye to Sister Shervon at Lentegeur Clinic, who has helped me out a lot with my activist project by taking me on home visits. I plan on savoring every last minute of this week anticipating the final banquet dinner on Wednesday evening to say thank you to all of our internship hosts and supervisors, final classes, and the Cape Town Ajax vs. Orlando Pirates game on Friday to conclude our program. Yesterday, Dan, MK, and I hiked up Devil’s Peak to strike it off as last on our list of things to do. At the top, we realized that there was nothing left to do but to reflect. We took a few videos at the peak speaking briefly about what the program meant to us, and came to a conclusion that we made the best of our time here and that being in Cape Town has easily been the best experience of our lives.
It’s been an incredible experience that I know none of us will forget, but for me it has really become a part of my future life. Cape Town is somewhere I can truly see myself living someday. I have already begun looking into returning to the University of Cape Town to study for a post-graduate degree, and will return home with the goal of coming back as soon as possible.