Since returning from Cape Town, it seems like a lot has happened. Anna took her senior pictures! My family spent a couple days poolside at French Lick Casino and we successfully moved some furniture into the townhouse that I will call home for the next year in Lexington. For the first few days after returning home, I felt like I was living in a dream. I felt like one morning I would wake up and be back in South Africa. Like maybe I would go back to working for BEEP, eating at Obz Café and shopping at Kwik Spar. This may or may not have been due to crazy illness I was battling. The illness was later named “the Swahili” (explanation to come later). Yah, it was intense enough to get a name.
The trip home was not exactly fun. First and foremost, I had a fever the entire flight from Cape Town to London. If it was not for a blessed man named Charlie, I don’t know if I would have survived. Charlie was a British teacher/rugby coach. His accent cheered me up. We had a nice conversation. He asked me why I was playing with my food during dinner. I was stuck in the middle row. He obviously noticed I was sick, but informed me that (say this in a British accent in your head please) I could “wake him at any time to get up”. Once I reached London my flight to Chicago was cancelled. They moved me onto a flight to Washington, D.C. That flight was supposed to leave around 11 AM. It was delayed until 4 PM. So I sat in the airport from 6 AM until 3 PM.
Now, imagine me sprinting through Duelles to make my connection flight to Louisville (because my previous flight had been delayed). Keep in mind that I have the Swahili. And that this is a huge airport. I almost kicked a man for trying to fit a BABY STROLLER through one of those tiny x-ray machine thingies. I was not a happy camper at this point. But alas, I made the connection flight. And got more sleep on the flight from D.C. to Louisville than on either the Cape Town or London flight.
When the pilot announced that we were descending, about 50 million emotions flood over me. I know it probably sounds really cheesy, but I saw the Watterson Expressway from the plane and just wanted to cry. The Watterson Expressway is not even that great of a highway people. I guess that is what happens to you when you live halfway around the world for a couple months and experience a lot of new things.
I basically powerwalked through the airport and saw my family waiting for me. I’m not going to lie: I cried. I successfully made spectating strangers cry too! What was most shocking were my 20 other family members standing off to the side. I swear I did not even see them! My mom had to turn me around. At this point it was really hard for me to express emotion, but I have never been so excited to see a group of people in my life. If my game night cousins are reading, I hope they know how much I love them and appreciate their support. These are the people that skyped me when I was halfway around the world for over 2 hours. Technically, they aren’t all my cousins, but they might as well be.
Jennifer then went on to name my sickness “the Swahili”. Someone then asked, “Isn’t that a language?” She said that it was also an African illness. They all chanted and cheered me to baggage claim with their creative signs. Neither of my bags made it to Louisville, but I didn’t even care. I had finally made it and I had my 25 closest friends and family members with me.
Now that I have been home for a while, I have to admit that I still miss Cape Town…a lot. Everyone keeps asking me, “What did you miss most about home?” Obviously I missed my family. But besides that, I can never give them a very good answer. Country music? Driving down Highway 42? My dog? (Seriously, these are the only legitimate responses I have.) I am much better at answering the question, “What do you miss about Cape Town?”
As I reflect back on my time in South Africa, I am truly amazed by how many things I did. I think it is definitely best represented by pictures.
First and foremost, I hiked some really beautiful mountains. I knew I was going to do this as a part of my work with BEEP. I had no idea how breathtaking Cape Town was going to be. I did some google image searching before I went, but you really cannot put into words what this city looks like. Even at night at the top of Signal Hill it is amazing.
I met some really amazing kids while working for BEEP. This internship really was a perfect fit for me. I never had to sit inside an office. We were constantly on the move. A normal work day might involve meeting with donors in the morning, checking up on the food gardens and then attending a workshop with the kids. I find myself thinking about the BEEP kids alot. They brought so much joy into my life in such a short amount of time. I wish I could have somhow done more for them, but I don’t know what that would have been. Most days, I felt like they were doing more for me than I was doing for them. BEEP is giving them the individual attention that they don’t receive at school (the class sizes are close to 40 or 50) or at home (parents often don’t come home until 7 or 8 o’clock). I know that they are in good hands, but leaving them was one of the saddest things I have had to do. Just look at these sweet faces!
I did see some African wildlife! I even stroked a cheetah named Joseph.
I went to the beach. Even though it was winter there. Before I went on the trip people kept telling me to bring sunscreen…because I was going to Africa. Trust me, I didn’t need sunscreen. I actually wish I had brought a warmer coat.
I made some amazing friends. I don’t know how I would have made it through the trip without my 12 Ivy Road roommates. It is really shocking how quickly you get to know people when you are living halfway across the world together and trying to understand a new culture. Also, killing rodents together really bonds people.
And while I miss Cape Town everyday, I think I learned that I am eager to see the rest of the world. It is such a big place full of beautiful things. I was put in a lot of uncomfortable, different situations during this trip and I think I handled them pretty well. South Africa was my first test. And in my own mind, I passed!
Even though I was feeling a lot like death on that 12 hour flight from Cape Town to London, I couldn’t help but smile when I was talking to Charlie. Here I was, coughing my Swahili germs all over this poor man and he was still being so polite and nice to me. When I went to the bathroom once I decided to walk around the plane because I didn’t want to go back to my seat right away. I was probably gone for a solid 10 minutes. When I finally returned Charlie asked with a concerned look on his face, “Are you alright Caitlin?” It just makes you think, the human race is generally good. That is why I want to learn every language I can and travel as much as possible. So I can meet more of it: the human race that is.