Chapter 3 – “Change” (July 7th)

Peninsula tour!

I would finally go back to Cape Point, after 6 years! Needless to say I was super excited, since it was at this very spot where I had fallen head over heels for this beautiful country in 2007.

Back then, we had 35°, no clouds. Now – quite different: 12°, rain, clouds, Table Mountain completely devoured by fog (silly me thinking the Misty Mountain in Lord of the Rings was in New Zealand :P). I don’t wanna write too much about this tour, since the pictures speak for themselves, and albeit misty, cold and rainy, we experienced a truly beautiful and magical atmosphere there.

The one thing I realized though after we walked up to the lighthouse to enjoy a 360° view of the Cape was that this place hadn’t changed at all. It was still the same it had been 6 years ago, the only thing that has indeed changed is…well…ME! I looked back on the past 6 years, reflecting on what I have accomplished, what the path looks like I have taken and decisions I have made. And to be honest, when standing up there, having this beautiful view and contemplating these things, I had a very simple but very beautiful feeling – peace of mind!

Chapter 2 – “No, I’m not American” (July 5th/6th)

What a peculiar moment!

It felt like, at the same time, I was both at the very end of my journey and at the very beginning. It felt really good to be welcomed by people from UCT at the airport – finally, I didn’t have to take care of things anymore! I met a couple other international students at the airport. Weirdly enough, I met two Swiss girls who would stay in the same house as me, and an Australian girl who would be accommodated just down the road from where I would be living.

All the international students stayed on campus for the first night and we were then brought to the separate houses in the morning. The first thing I learned about this exchange program is that probably two-thirds of all students came from the United States! They are simply everywhere! And 95% of them talk the same, look the same, live together in all-American houses…crazy! Now, since I obviously don’t have a British, Australian or South African accent, people frequently approached me by asking: “Are you American? Are you from the States?” – these were the moments where I decided I should pick up a South African accent as soon as possible!! 🙂

That’s why I am so happy with the house I am living in, for we’re truly international: Two Norwegian girls, two Swiss girls, one Danish girl, two American boys, an American engaged couple and myself – 5 nationalities! I really can’t stress enough how grateful I am for this! But this isn’t the only upside of where I live. We are not living in an apartment, we have a house! With a huge living room and kitchen, and a backyard with, yes, a fireplace for braai (South African barbecue)! The neighborhood is really good and safe, and we have an amazing view on Table Mountain.

When I moved into my room, it hit me – you’re a Capetonian now!

Chapter 1 – “Take the plunge” (July 4th)

There it was. Finally – or inevitably? I have waited almost a year for this day to come.

July 11th 2012: That’s when we had to hand in our applications for the South Africa exchange program.

July 4th 2013: Lufthansa LH 572 – Airbus A 380 – departure time 10:05pm.

Was I excited? Hell yeah! Was I happy? …..

When these big moments in your life come closer and closer, you usually don’t even have time to reflect on this. You have heaps of paperwork to do, for your home university, the university abroad, your flight, your housing, your courses and, the big one, your visa! Now it goes without saying that your visa arriving *2* days before your flight goes isn’t relaxing in ANY sense of the word. I really don’t wanna go into detail about this, let’s just say that whenever possible, avoid the South African embassy in Munich, since these people seem to have combined South African laissez-faire work with an irritatingly unfriendly German attitude – LETHAL!

Even regardless of that, there’s too much to do, too many people you’d like to say goodbye to before you go, but simply not enough time. You can only stay an hour when really you wanna stay for lunch, and a cup of tea, and some more time after that. The only consolation is that I will see all these people again – and they will (hopefully :P) still be my friends. But how do you say goodbye to people you might NEVER see again, be it because they are old or because they are very sick? It’s a peculiar feeling for certain. I got reminded that life indeed is a once in a lifetime experience. When you’re young, you think that there will always be time to do everything, anything, and do it again, whenever you like, so it’s weird to feel that some things might be final. And there’s no real consolation for that, apart maybe from the vague idea that some things are meant to be the way they are – but right now I don’t even know what that means exactly. Whether it’s true or rather a camouflage, opium in Marx’ sense, to make it easier to let go. I tried to make sense of that while I was sitting on the plane, with no result whatsoever, but I decided that it’s probably one of those odd things people talk about when they say “oh, that’s part of growing up”.

Anyway, as I was sitting in my seat (window btw 😀 ), I realized that that’s really it. Nothing more for me to do. For some reason I thought of this as a round in a BP tournament, where 15 minutes of preparation can never ever be enough to deliver an excellent speech. As soon as you start to get a first idea of what this all might be about, prep time’s up! On the other hand, you can never be fully prepared, so at some point you just have to take the plunge. And that’s what I did.

The Journey of Good Hope

My dear friends,

These are the baby steps of my first very own blog. I created it to keep you all updated, to give you an insight into my life even though I will be very far away for a considerable amount of time. But my motives are not entirely altruistic. Partly, I will be writing this blog for myself, since it helps to reflect on experiences that imprint on you. Surely, I will mature as a person, as well as in the field of academics.

As you all know, it has been my dream for years to return to Cape Town, which I sincerely consider to be the most beautiful place on earth. However, God doesn’t give with both hands. South Africa is facing severe and profound issues:

12% of the population is HIV positive, which is no less than 5.7 million people in absolute numbers! Approximately 50 people are murdered each day. It is estimated that about 500,000 women are raped each year, what makes South Africa the “rape capital of the world”. 25% of the people are unemployed.

Nonetheless, I chose this country to be my host and my home for the coming months. When I visited South Africa, I didn’t feel like a stranger or a tourist. It felt like coming home. Never before have I encountered such haunting beauty, such overwhelming friendliness, such a deeply touching history and heritage.

In 1990, (the year of my birth), Nelson Mandela was released from prison, after 27 year of incarceration during the Apartheid regime. It would have been easy, and somewhat understandable, for him to take revenge. To choose the path of violence and leading this beautiful country into death, destruction and misery that comes with civil war. But he chose the path of forgiveness, reconciliation and hope.

Therefore, the title of my blog is Journey of Good Hope, since it reveals the ambivalence of this country, but at the same time my deep admiration for it.

And on a slightly brighter note, in case you miss me at some point, worry not, I will be back sooner than you wish :). So lean back and let yourselves be entertained by my stories and pictures. Many of you will receive postcards, small presents or the occasional bottle of fantastic South African wine. Let the preparations begin.