But I knew I would have to eventually.
I have only good things to report. After three ridiculous plane rides (Joburg to Dubai: 8 hours, Dubai to Los Angeles: 16 hours, Los Angeles to Montreal: 6 hours), I’m safely settled with my family on the lovely Lake Titus in upstate New York.
The only bad news of course is that Africa is over.
I’m in that weird post-fantastic adventure phase where all these little occurrences—songs, foods, a glance at the Mozambican bracelets still adorning my wrists—remind me of the past three months. The recent memories surge forward only to hit a wall. I’m in a completely different place with different people dealing with different concerns, about to start another semester that demands all energies and attentions be focused towards the here and now in Los Angeles. There is seemingly no place for South Africa.
But I know the people I met and the experiences I had in and around Cape Town have changed me, shaped me, in some ways subtly, in other ways more obvious. In the words of Cynthia from Dazed and Confused, “I’d like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor, insignificant preamble to somethin’ else.” Africa wasn’t a preamble to something else, it was my life for three months, and it didn’t happen in a vacuum.
I’m more patient now. Arriving in the Montreal airport and being greeted with the longest customs line I’ve ever seen, I could feel the anger and the impatience of the people around me building. The woman behind me in line kept physically pushing on my backpack, as if propelling me into the people in front of me would make the line move faster. I stood my ground, turned around, and gave her the most saccharine smile I could muster. I know I’ll eventually transition out of “Africa time,” but for the moment, I’m still OK with being slow.
I can’t click fast enough to keep up with American internet. Pictures load faster than my brain can process the images. I finally have the unlimited access to the web I had been craving, but it’s a paltry prize I’d trade in an instant for one more leisurely afternoon in Cape Town. Social media is a bore (no offense pregnant friends, I LOVE reading about the details of your morning sickness). News sites are frustrating. London is burning and it’s an epic task to find any coverage on the reasons why, Rick Perry, the man who fast tracked horribly debasing abortion laws in Texas announced his presidential run to no apparent signs of outrage, and the only clear explanation I’ve come across of the debt ceiling fiasco is one that hardly anyone will read because it requires, well, a good five whole minutes of uninterrupted reading.
In frustration, I closed my laptop and picked up a book. The relief was instant. I could never had predicted that re-falling in love with novels would be a consequence of going to Africa, but it’s one of the many I’m happy to embrace and hope continues.
And I’m blessed to have a couple days surrounded by the protective layers of the Adirondack mountains. Lake Titus is a place that moves on it’s own time table, a sense of urgency almost entirely absent. This is good. I need a few more days before LA where the biggest decision of the day is whether we should cook green beans or asparagus for dinner, or whether we’ll hike Mt. Immortelle or Elephant’s Head (epic sounding names for mountains that are little more than glorified hills). There’s a full moon tonight, and people are meeting on the lake at 9pm for a moonlight canoe. I think I’ll join them. And paddling around, making small talk and trying not to spill a thermos of buchu tea with lemon and brown sugar, my thoughts will be with my Capetonian friends who hours earlier, no doubt made the full moon hike up Lion’s Head.