Next Step

After finally getting my own internet (which has honestly felt like the most liberating, life changing experience and has basically made me feel complete again….yeah, I know, it was a sad realization but I’ve accepted who I am. Also, bare in mind, there are some places where lack of Internet matters more than others just due to logistic needs and what not. This is one of those places.), I’ve had some time to actually thoroughly read some of the other fellows’ blogs. And, I must admit, I am slightly jealous – of the landscapes, of the fun-sounding adventures, of the fact that many of them actually get to be in the same city with other fellows, of the whole being in cities where everything is something worth telling because everything is new and different. I’m sure this feeling is mostly brought on by the fact that I just moved into my new furniture-less, barren-walled, echo-y little apartment today, where I will be living on my own for the next 11 months, and it made me realize, this is the first time in my life I am ever truly living by myself. The last few weeks I’ve been living with my cousin at his modest-sized apartment always packed full of his Ethiopian friends. Before that, I lived in a closet [but like, literally] in a frat-like house with nine of my friends my senior year of college. The summer before that, I was in a house full of crazies (4 guys and a girl) who I found through Craigslist and quite enjoyed living with despite the 4 am piano-playing sessions.  Prior to that, four different homestay families in Paris and Madagascar over the course of a year and before that: dorms. Can’t really get more 24-7 social interaction than that.

And now, with an apartment completely to myself for the first time ever, it is an interesting feeling. Not bad necessarily, but just, exceptionally silent. My first instinct is probably to run around in the nude for no other reason than I can (isn’t that what people do when they have their own place?) …but I can’t even partake in that experience since I still haven’t purchased curtains.

But I kind of feel like my life in this moment is actually reflected by the current state of my room: a square beige space with blank walls, its only piece of furniture a bed in the center with a neutral grey bedspread, and two Malagasy lambas (big patterned scarves) hanging from the window as a makeshift curtain. It’s not uncomfortable or unpleasant in any way, and in fact evokes a certain sense of humble pride in its simplicity yet functionality, but most of all, it reflects potential. Looking around me, all I can think of is the elaborate photo mural I plan on constructing on the wall before me, the world map I’ll post on the wall behind me next to my pictures of Paris, Madagascar, and Morocco, the essential Christmas lights I’ll soon string along every surface, and the perfect decorative pillow that will pop against the blandness of the grey comforter. Maybe it’s the lingering remnants of my 6th-grade interior decorator career dreams (that lasted probably a month), but the prospects of transforming this small plain space into livable art in fact fills me with a sense of excitement.

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The door (and iron bars) of my new home

In case the metaphor isn’t evident enough, I feel like I’ve reached the stage in my South African life where things have become relatively comfortable — at least to the point where I can begin to understand people’s accents, not be dumb enough to get stranded places due to a lack of knowledge that buses don’t run on weekends, and most importantly, begin to make friends. But at the same time, it is not the kind of comfort that makes you complacent with the current state of things, but the kind that seems to prep you for more to come. As in, you’ve crossed the necessary hurdle of “settling in”, whatever that really means (and, of course, lacking a fridge/furniture/access to a bank account probably still implies I’m not quite settled in yet), and in doing so, begin to feel your mind wander elsewhere. Without having all your thoughts dominated by how to manage the basics of daily life and just navigate your way around, you reach a point that is both intimidating and exciting: a blank slate. I’ve moved into my new apartment, I’ve spent a few weeks at my job, I’ve met a few people…now what?

As I’ve made fairly clear with all my comparisons to the other fellows, Johannesburg is not the kind of place where I’m bombarded by adventure the moment I walk out my door. And I’m someone that likes being bombarded by adventure. But Johannesburg is also clearly a place with much to explore and a lot to learn from, as I’ve gleaned from my new local friends and some Americans who’ve been here a few months. Exciting and intimidating. Exciting for the obvious reasons and intimidating because of the effort required to make something of it and not waste any time (and, along with that, learning to overcome my dirt cheap instincts to not spend money on taxis every weekend if I actually want to do any exploring…since in the end, it’s still cheaper than renting a car and I have to get around somehow now that I’ve made my choice). It’s scary how fast these last few weeks have gone and it’s made me realize that weekends are also basically the only time I really have free to do anything…and the number of weekends in a year are limited. So now that I have a new home, my own Internet, and several people’s numbers in my phonebook who I barely know, I’ve got the basics down and am ready to put the decorative pillow on my grey bedspread. (p.s. that last bit was still a metaphor. just in case you missed it)

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