Friday, September 23, 2011

Sunny Perfection

Birds chirping. Bugs. Grass. Dirt. Trees. Roads with sky and earth as far as the eye can see. Beaches where you have space to breathe and people actually swimming. Avocados. Speaking English. Blue cloudless skies. Sun that radiates heat. People saying "Sorry" and "Excuse me". A cup of coffee for less than $2. Bike rides where your only company is sky, sun, grass, and cows. Showing my collar bone and not feeling self conscience. A huge real oven. Hiking without traffic jams. Clean air.

I'm not dead folks, I'm just zoned out in a world where I'm acutely aware of everything I lacked in Korea. You really can't appreciate everyday simplicities until they are stripped from your life for a year. After two glorious weeks in South Africa, I am safely situated outside by my dad's pool soaking up sunshine. My last two weeks in Korea were a blur of packing, routine, and closing out my life for a year. Thankfully it never felt like I was leaving and thankfully I have not missed anything about my life in Korea besides the friends that I made. It was a good run, full of wonderful people, learning, and traveling but I'm finished (or pinishee as my old students would say). Being back in the continent of Africa, temporary as it is, has made me Rachel again, and reminded me of what really completes me.

My time in South Africa was spent an hour north of Durban reunited with friends, hiking up a chain ladder on a sheer cliff to the second highest waterfall in the world (Tugela Falls), beach time, running where I have space to breathe, exploring Cape Town, surfing, hiking Table Mountain, crafting and catching up with old friends. Before I visited South Africa I knew I would love it: beautiful beaches, mountains, good weather, and the simple fact that it is in the continent of Africa. South Africa did not disappoint but it still surprised me. For the majority of the trip I did not feel that I was in the continent of Africa. My first trips to Africa were in rural poverty stricken areas where I was certainly a minority. Poor roads, lack of infrastructure, but beautiful and rich culture and geography made up the trips. In South Africa I could blend in as long as I didn't talk much and expose my American accent. I could have all the comforts of life in the US: hot showers, semi-familiar foods, good roads (well actually better roads than Michigan), safe drinking water, cute coffee shops and boutique stores, and the pleasure of effortlessly communicating in English. I felt as though one could live in South Africa without any knowledge of the other side of the country. Aside of the beautiful homes that filled many rich suburbs of Cape Town, and the fancy buildings of "downtown" Cape Town, most of the population actually lives in poverty. Whereas other African countries I visited the poverty and simplicity of life is right in your face, in South Africa it seems it would be easy to completely ignore the darker side of South Africa. I can see why tourists flock to South Africa to get their "Africa experience": it is actually a developed country, just one with a big gap between rich and poor.

Analysis aside, South Africa temporarily quenched my growing surfing addiction, and allowed me to enjoy vacation time before facing figuring out my "future". And for those that are asking: I will for sure be in northwestern US at the end of November for my big brother's wedding. So if you're anywhere near Seattle or Portland I would love to see you! In the meantime, I'm waiting waiting for Peace Corps, filling out lots of applications, mountain biking with my dad, baking, and trying to do some volunteer work. I owe many of you personal e-mails. I promise I haven't forgotten. I'm just trying to sort my life out (no excuse, I know). And in case anyone is confused about my exact location in the world, I am in Gaborone, Botswana living with my dearest father. Well, back to tanning and application duty!