The following post was written by Gap Year Fellow Georgia Morgan.
Traveling solo is definitely one of the universe’s biggest ways of teaching people that life will follow its own course of action regardless of one’s plans. It also teaches us that if you truly manifest something, then you shall be presented with opportunities to receive it in one way or another.
The day before leaving for South Africa, I felt so ready. “Bring it on!” I said. “I’m ready to be challenged!” Well, after a heartwarming weekend of family and friend time, tear- filled and sweet goodbyes and one more slobbery dog kiss, I was left on my own for my grand adventure. And let me just say, the universe did not waste any time in beginning my lessons!
After a beautiful day spent in Paris with an old friend, I returned to the airport to discover that my next flight had been delayed by 13 hours. This, in turn, threw off the rest of my travel plans getting to Cape Town. I then spent the next several hours finding a hotel for the night and a hotel and driver for the next night in Johannesburg since I would now be arriving there at midnight with a ten-hour layover. Once that was settled, I arrived in Jo berg only to find out that my luggage had been lost. So, after another couple hours, I finally found my driver and made it to my hotel for the next five hours. Getting into a car with a stranger at 2am in a strange city and country that I’d never traveled to was quite definitely against my instincts, but I had to trust! I needed a safe place to stay and I was exhausted. I could hardly sleep during that short time in the hotel because I had a feeling that my troubles weren’t over; I couldn’t feel relieved until I got to Cape Town. The next morning at the Johannesburg airport proved to be my biggest challenge. Once I finally found the right place to check in, the desk employees declared that I was not in the system or registered for this flight to Cape Town. I explained to them my situation and showed them my confirmations of my rescheduled flight due to the delay, but it was no use. I then spent the next couple of hours frantically running around the airport trying to get help from one desk or another whom kept sending me back to previous desks. My flight was supposed to be at 10am, and as time went on I made the hard-fast decision to just buy another ticket to Cape Town on the flight I was supposed to be on. At this point, that was all I wanted. Running on little sleep and wearing the same clothes for the past three days, I walked with glazed eyes through security and to my gate. I was emotionally and mentally exhausted.
But here I am now, in Cape Town, South Africa, and all is well! I am so grateful to finally be here safely, and my luggage has finally arrived! As I drove into the city for the first time, I was in awe over the beautiful mountains that shoot out of the Earth and the colorful shacks and glistening buildings that litter the bowl of the city. Table Mountain looms over the city at all times, always in sight. I will never get over it. Lions Head mountain is visible from my room; it’s all so surreal and I feel so small.
I also feel so incredibly grateful to have found an internship placement with Scalabrini. The work that this organization does is absolutely amazing and the people here are even more wonderful! I’ve received so many warm welcomes, great advice and helping hands. I’m so excited to learn more about the refugee and migrant situation here in Cape Town and do my best to help these people meet their needs. This month I will primarily be working with the English School and the UNITE Programme (a leadership and development program for South African youth). I got to help out with the UNITE Programme this past Friday and it was such a blast! Some of the kids are very close to, if not, my age, and it was very interesting to interact with and learn about who they are. I’ve also been helping out in the English school with administrative tasks, teaching lessons and helping organize class materials. Next month I will be helping out with the employment access program, the women’s platform and the design of the UNITE curriculum for next year.
Each day brings a new challenge and “wow” moment. It’s hard to believe I’m here doing this on my own. Just a few months ago I was a high school dependent living with my parents, and now I really am on my own, having to budget, buy groceries, make myself three meals a day, find my own transportation and housing and put myself out there to make new friends. It’s really hard at times, and it’s easy to feel small and insignificant in a big city surrounded by such stunning features. However, amongst the challenges, I’ve already learned so much about myself in terms of what I really value and appreciate as well as things that I don’t like so much. I’ve discovered a newfound and overflowing sense of appreciation and gratitude for my home, loving family and freedom. In addition, I’ve also learned a lot more about South African history and the challenges that this country still faces today, especially with refugees and migrants coming into Cape Town.
I know these next several months will continue to bring many challenges as well as life changing experiences. I’m excited to dive deeper into the programs here at Scalabrini and continue to form new relationships with my coworkers. I am grateful for this opportunity to work with a non-profit directly focused on helping those that are working hard to create better lives for themselves; it’s so inspiring! Similar to these refugees, I must find my place in this foreign city so far from home and do my best to ground myself and find opportunities.