Well, we have packed our suitcases once again! Our flights are booked and we are preparing to head back to the States the first week of June. (!!!)
If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to, you can probably imagine…packing, planning and adjusting to our new temporary home (we are staying with friends in Joburg until we leave). And…Ice Skating. Yes, the Floridian and the South African have taken up ice skating. We’ve been to the local ice skating rink three times in the last two weeks. Not saying I’m good, but I’m not necessarily bad either. We laugh a lot. It’s kind of the perfect thing for us right now.
Other than that we’ve been hanging out with friends and watching movies at Montecasino, playing the occasional rousing game of air hockey and betting on roulette. We’ve recently seen Spiderman 2, Captain America and Noah. Hey, I never said life in another country was always glamorous!
So I was sitting at the kitchen table today, browsing the internet, doing important things, like looking at pictures of cute puppies on Pinterest, when the internet refused to obey my command once again. Loading…Loading…Loading. Frustration ensues as I get up to hit the reset button on our wireless router for the 5th time today.
All of which got me thinking: 1.) Just how ridiculous it was to be so annoyed over bad internet connectivity 2.) How many times have you wished you could just hit the reset button and start all over again? Not necessarily because things are that bad but just to have a fresh start?
I can think of a lot of things that South Africa has given me in the past 8 months. But the biggest gift? Perspective.
I’ve lived in Florida my whole life, so when friends would complain about the government, traffic, weather, gas prices, whatever, I usually tended to agree with them. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t have anything to compare it to. But the beauty of travel is it opens your eyes.
Here in South Africa I’ve seen A LOT. In my opinion, some of it was better than home. I’ve seen the most beautiful sunsets (yes some, prettier than Florida!), elephants, giraffes and leopards in Kruger, and experienced a laid back lifestyle that would give my hometown a run for its money. If you have a well-paying job in South Africa, most people will say that life is pretty good. But I’ve also seen the dark side of South Africa: heart-wrenching poverty, horrendous traffic, power outages, a corrupt government, and while I haven’t experienced crime firsthand, it certainly exists.
Any given day, you can walk down the streets of Joburg and find people digging through trash bins, building houses made of scrap metal, begging in the street medians and buying nothing but maize meal at the grocery store because that’s all they can afford. Despite all of this, South Africans are, for the most part, a friendly nation. And here I am typing on my MacBook, complaining about resetting my wireless router and drinking a cappuccino? The only real difference between myself and them? It really boils down to the fact that I was privileged to be born in America to a middle class family. Talk about perspective.
I know there are plenty of less fortunate people in the states, but here in South Africa, where there is a 36% unemployment rate, you can’t NOT see it. There are no food stamps, GoodWills, or loads of non-profits just waiting to help the needy. They fend for themselves here. Unfortunately, with the current election, I can’t see the economy getting much better. I hope I’m wrong. I’d love to return to a beautiful AND economically prosperous South Africa and bring my children here for years to come.
All of this perspective has made me realize how truly lucky I am and how thankful I am for my situation. I can act like I’m stressed about finding a job and a place to live when I get back to Florida, but the fact is I’ll find somewhere to work. I have a great education, experience and family to lean on. And I won’t find myself homeless, making my bed on the side of the highway. For this I feel humbled, fortunate and if I am being honest, a little guilty. What have a done to deserve to be able to live for nearly a year abroad and then go back to my cozy little place in the world I call home, worry free?
In a way I see our return home as the equivalent of a wireless router’s “reset button.” Which is pretty awesome. We are literally getting the chance to rebuild our lives. Live where we want, get the jobs we want, spend time with the people we want. We are obligation free.
I’ve decided I want to spend time doing what makes me happy, what energizes me (maybe take up our iceskating hobby back home?!) I plan on complaining a lot less and appreciating a lot more. I plan to have braais and spend time with people I care about. To do things I’ve always wanted to do but have been too scared to try. To volunteer. To stop making excuses and live for today.
Thank you, South Africa, for the amazing gift.