It turns out that after living somewhere for four and a half months, it can feel very nearly like home. In Cape Town, this was certainly the case. I grew close with other IES Abroad and UCT students and finally figured out how to situate myself based on where I saw the three mountain peaks. Tasks became habits and the warm weather in November became, dare I say, normal. Our whole house dreaded leaving, and even joked we should start a coin jar for anytime anyone brought it up. The day of departure arrived nonetheless, and after tearful goodbyes, my IES Abroad semester concluded.
However, my case was slightly unique. Instead of heading straight home, my family joined me in Cape Town for a trip to Namibia and then a few days in the Mother City. This time, I would be a tourist. Staying in an Airbnb kilometers away from my previous home near UCT, we planned a jam-packed two days of sightseeing. While I love Cape Town, I was nervous to return as an outsider. Would it be hard to drive past my favorite restaurants, shops, coffee shops? Of course, these memories are happy, but a trip so soon after everyone left felt nostalgic already.
But getting to see Cape Town in this way really only made me appreciate the experience I had more. It was nice to be able to view the city without having to worry about finding time to study or fit it all in. Further, getting to show my parents my experience was so much more rewarding than I had realized. I gained insight into what I was really going to take away from my experience. For instance, taking my parents through UCT, the waterfront, and up Lionshead sparked many smaller stories. The moments that I recounted weren’t always momentous at the time, but I realized I most likely would not have thought to share them over the dinner table back in the U.S. I could laugh about the time I wiped out going up Lionshead and show them the spot I would sit for lunch each day on campus.
Our last night we even returned to Mzanzi, a restaurant in the township of Langa for Thanksgiving, where IES Abroad had taken us during orientation. The owner cooks a fabulous meal and tells her inspiring life story for her guests. The second time around, although I knew I was leaving the next day, I felt much less like a tourist than I had in my first week. I had gained a context surrounding her story in my classes at UCT and through my experience of South African culture. Despite not celebrating with mashed potatoes and turkey, I was reminded how incredibly thankful I am for the depth of my experience in Cape Town.
I’ve now been home for a couple of weeks, and though the continual stream of emails from Pick n Pay grocery store and Uber South Africa is bittersweet, I think I’ll keep my rewards accounts for now – hey, just in case! Like I said in my last blog, Cape Town was not just a checked box on my travel agenda, but a place I know I will return to – preferably soon, of course…
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<p>Hi! I'm junior at Wake Forest University studying economics and sociology. I spent the first seven years of my life in Africa, so it was a no-brainer that I wanted to study there in college. Home is right outside of DC, where I embrace the opportunity to act like a tourist in my own city. For me, a perfect day would entail a trip to the beach, true crime dramas, and roasted brussels sprouts.</p>