As most of you know, I have just gotten back to South Africa after travelling back to the US to interview for a Rhodes Scholarship in St. Louis just before Thanksgiving. While I sadly did not get the scholarship, I am truly grateful for the experience of meeting so many cool and interesting people at the interview and for the fact that I got to see my family for Thanksgiving. I am also incredibly grateful to the Wofford community for supporting my candidacy even while I was still in Africa. This being said, the trip back to America was surreal. Upon boarding the plane from Joburg to Atlanta on Sunday night, I had literally just swum in False Bay and climbed Table Mountain in Cape Town two days before. I had gotten use to the pace of life in the Cape, riding minibuses (packed public taxis) from downtown to where I was staying near UCT, meeting interviewees and friends for afternoon coffees at St. George’s mall, and running from the waterfront up to Signal Hill where a beautiful sunset can be seen almost every day this time of year. Cape Town was also getting hot by the time I left. This time of year is the dry season, and summer tourists were already beginning to pack its bustling streets.
In contrast, I arrived in cold, dark Atlanta at 6:10 on an autumn Monday morning. This is not to say that I wasn’t incredibly happy at being back in the states. The first sign that I was really heading back was actually a pair of camouflage shorts worn by a guy with a T-Shirt that read “Got Deer?” in the Joburg airport. I knew I was heading home. Moreover, the fall was beautiful at Wofford and throughout the Upstate. When my family eventually made the drive out to St. Louis at the end of the week, I realized how much I had missed America after being in SA for a little over two months. I had forgotten what it felt like to constantly have reliable, cheap internet, to drive my truck, and to sink my teeth into a Krystal Cheeseburger. Of course, I realize that these are things anyone can come to appreciate more by simply living out of the U.S. for a number of weeks. Yet I find significance in the fact that I was able to experience these things on top of travelling through the American heartland with the ones I loved, if only for a brief time period, in the middle of my African trek. Travelling in America during the week before the Rhodes interview allowed me to place the experiences I had had and the wonderful people I had met in South Africa in a larger context. I came to appreciate the past two months of my life much more than I would have had I never left SA.
I have therefore come back to Africa not as a disillusioned and tired traveler wishing he could get back to America as soon as possible, but as a refreshed and excited student, ready to learn what the rest of the continent beyond South Africa has to offer. I am currently writing this post in a Joburg hostel in the midst of doing some last minute planning for Botswana. Now that the SIT Cape Town program is done and I am travelling on my own, I will be able to post a lot more (at the suggestion of someone who may or may not be reading this post in the midst of his own South American adventure). I also plan to write one more post about SA before moving on to Botswana, since, believe it or not, I have had some pretty cool adventures here. Nevertheless, know that wherever I am on this huge continent, I am constantly thinking of home, but not in a manner that should make any reader of this post sad or sympathetic. Rather, know that it is the memory of friends, family, and yes, camouflage and Krystal burgers, that drives me intellectually and spiritually on this beautiful, continuing journey.