Over the summer, I was grateful to experience a once in a lifetime thing. I traveled all the way from Houston to South Africa. For three full weeks. I was the only student from Houston who would be going and the rest of the students going were complete strangers to me. After packing, getting everything ready, and going through my checklist over and over, I was finally ready. I left Houston on Saturday and didn’t get to Johannesburg until late Sunday evening. It felt surreal for a few days until I got accustomed to everything.
As an introvert, I thought it would be hard and I thought it would be painful, if I’m being honest. It wasn’t. Let me tell you, those people I met were probably the most amazing group of people I’ll ever have the chance of meeting in life. I thought I would have to keep things to myself, me being the suffer in silence type of person, but there wasn’t anything I couldn’t talk to my roommate with.
My first roommate, Tori, I had met in the Atlanta airport. She was actually the first person I had met in the entire program, technically. Tori and I were stuck together for two weeks. Even though her opera singing in the dorm got old really quick, her and I bonded really closely over talking about dogs and waking up twenty minutes before we were supposed to be ready only to rush to get ready in about fifteen minutes. We were never late.
Jania was a character. We’d met soon after getting in Johannesburg. She never failed to make me laugh at her sarcastic remarks and all her reactions to things. She was probably one of the chill ones out of our group; except around us. She acted like our mother often yelling at us for things. She kept us in check.
Later on I met Audrey, when we were forced to do an icebreaker talking about our names. Audrey, named after Audrey Hepburn and she took that claim to fame. She wasn’t as graceful as the actress, though. Never organized, always losing things, needed to be reminded to take her medicine. Out of everyone she was the only one who lost her wallet. Poor, Audrey.
Then there was Lesley. Lifeguard Lesley from New York. She was awesome. Not much else to say about her. She reminded me of some of my friends from back home. She loved corn and butter. My snuggle buddy.
Let’s talk about the program leaders. Ann was my flight leader who helped me get from one country to another. Abbey acted as the group mom and made me feel ten times better about myself when I was feeling down sometimes. Candice was our program leader once we got to Cape Town. She opened up her arms to all of us and gave us an opportunity to create a family. Pieter, the one with all the cool dance moves. He, like Candice, was also from South Africa. We had deep conversations for three hours at the bottom of the mountain I never climbed. (I’ll be back to climb it soon) And then there was Jesse, also from South Africa, who was nice and we had some conversations about food. All of them made me feel like I was at home, they made me feel like family and they still feel like family.
There was Grace and Alice and Priyanka and Charlie and Justin and everyone else, but if I took time to write about everyone, I’d have to write a book. The experience in Cape Town was one of the best and I think what made it so awesome was the fact that we got to bond with one another from completely different places/backgrounds with the same like minds coming together for the same end goal after the program.
I thought after we left we’d never talk to one another again, but that’s completely wrong. People like Audrey make it a point to not let me forget about her. Even during Hurricane Harvey she was messaging me everything to make me smile. Then there’s Jania who makes a point to send something everyday. Not to mention our group chat that someone drops a message every now and again.
Especially during Hurricane Harvey. One of the scariest times I’ve had in my life. I tried holding up a brave face, but as every Houstonian can say, it got really scary and sad at times. Every day they’d check in on me. Sending their thoughts and prayers. It meant alot to me more than they’ll ever know, which is why I took the chance to write about them as a thank you for my first ever article.
Now we’re a family, I can truly call them my family.
I grew as a person in three weeks. I am who I am today because of them. It was just three weeks, but I’ve opened up more to them than I have friends of years. We lived together, did the same things, ate the same food, went the same places. All together for three weeks. They’re truly some of the best people that I’ve been able to meet. So thank you, to everyone in the CIEE Cape Town 2017 group. For being there for me, for being my family.
My name’s Desirae, this is who I am. I am who I am because of these people molding me into the person I am for those three weeks. I am a seventeen year old high school student from Houston just trying to get by in this world. I might live in Houston, but a small part of me was left behind in Cape Town. I hope everyone enjoys the year with me, we’re going to have a fun one.
Thanks, Cape Town.