On this day exactly four months ago I landed in a rainy Cape Town, South Africa. I had just started a journey of a lifetime, something that 99.9% of the world’s population could never even dream of doing. Shortly before leaving, I decided to create this blog as a means to share my experiences with those who wished to follow. Rather than just writing summaries of my days, I put a lot of thought in trying to capture the emotions and context of what I was going through. Many people came along for the journey with me, which I am very grateful for. When talking to people about my experiences, the conversations with those who read this flow much better because rather than having to explain who, for instance, Bongi is, I can just say his name and they know the importance he had on my time in Cape Town.
Being home has been great; reuniting with my friends, family, and girlfriend was as special as I hoped it would be, but it doesn’t mean I don’t miss Cape Town. Probably the hardest part of being home is not being able to support my student like I could when I was abroad. I can’t give him money so he can buy himself food or soap or new clothes like I used to, but I can still call him and talk to him about things that are going on. I have been fortunate enough to do that twice, though it usually takes a few calls until I reach him. Going forward I’ve told him that I’ll contact him each week to check in and see how things are going, conversations I know both of us will really look forward to. My professor, who arguably has the biggest heart in the world, is still in Cape Town and travels back there every spring semester. She has met him and done what she can to help as well, the biggest of which was to connect him to a local community leader who is originally from the Congo. With his help, I can only hope that my student will establish a local network of support for the years to come. If I ever make it back to Cape Town, he and Bongi will be what pull me there.
One of the many things that I took away from Cape Town is an appreciation that “stuff” is, well, just “stuff.” Our society is so focused on seeking happiness from material items, always needing the latest and greatest, while most of the world struggles just to get by. This came into play right before I left, when my student asked for my authentic, found-it-on-clearance, wear-to-every-basketball-game, FAVORITE UConn basketball sweatshirt. At first I said no, after all, this was the only piece of clothing my girlfriend wasn’t even allowed to borrow, I wasn’t about to just give it away. Then I thought about it; to me this is just a sweatshirt, I have others (not to mention other warm jackets) and if I really wanted to I could buy a new one, but to him it would be the difference between being cold at night or not, his only other warm clothes was a thin track jacket. When I gave it to him he gave me a big hug and I cried. I had such an attachment to the stupid sweatshirt, but in the end “its just stuff” and giving it away brought me more satisfaction than wearing it to a basketball game ever could.
This is my last post for this blog. Thank you to all of you who have spent the last four months with me. Cape Town will forever influence how I live my life and I can only hope my experiences and what I learned from them will open doors for me wherever I go. This summer I will be applying to Teach For America, with the hope that what I learned at City Mission Educational Services will make me a standout candidate for acceptance to the prestigious program. Beyond that, I hope to find a career working in youth development, whether it be through teaching or some other non-profit work. My time in Cape Town will help me give back to the countless people in this world who need it most, which is all I want to do in life.