My African Moments

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I plant my bare feet in the white sand. I feel my whole body sink into the earth below me. The light blue sky creates a sharp contrast with the dark blue stretch of ocean in front of me. I take a mental panorama of my surroundings. Foaming white caps crash upon contact with the shoreline as the breeze blows up grains of sand onto my legs where they stick to the droplets of water that run down them. In this second I mute the sounds of people talking behind me, focusing solely on the noises coming from the sky, the land and the water in front of me. At this time I have rooted myself not in the past or future, only in the present. I have fully given myself to the world around me, taking in all that I am capable of. This is what it means to live in the moment.

I am standing on Rocktail beach looking out in the Indian Ocean on the edge of South Africa. I take Whitney Lonsdale’s advice – I plant my feet in the ground and I am here. Whitney is one of four teachers who I am fortunate to have met while taking a semester abroad with The Traveling School. Throughout this trip I have struggled to live in the moment. Having many expectations for this adventure that I am on it is only now, with my toes buried in South African sand, that I am able to let them all go. It may be human nature, or simply my personality, to continuously expect and push for the next “great” thing. Everyday I am looking forward to the next day when I should be looking in the moment, living it to it’s fullest.

Week one of our fifteen week journey our community of twelve girls and four teachers created group living standards. At the top of our list was: “to always live in the moment”. It seemed simple enough yet I still find my mind wandering through thoughts of the past and future, sometimes in the moment, sometimes elsewhere. Can anyone constantly be living in the moment or can one only try? My journey, both internally and externally, is defined by those moments of full appreciation and absorption; where I have been nowhere but the present.

Kneeling on the seat I stick my head out the window. The passing air blows my hair across my face, but I can still see. BMWs, Toyotas, Fords, and Chevys speed past on the smooth pavement. Merging, exiting, off ramps and on ramps. Crates from container ships are piled next to warehouses, cranes loom overhead. In the distance sky scrapers line the coast. Buildings, roads, transportation, development, infrastructure; it’s almost like home but not at all. This is South Africa.

Running up a dirt road I grip a small boys’ hand. His dark fingers intertwined in mine make my own tan skin look pale. Green rolling hills scattered with teal painted roundevals go on for miles. On the uneven terrain I move out of the way for passing cattle, goats and horses. I greet ladies in Xhosa as they pass, their long colorful skirts flowing with the sway of their hips, buckets balanced effortlessly on their heads. As the small boys’ hand slips from my own he smiles and laughs, his bare feet stop in the soil as my Asiac running shoes keep pulling me up the road. I wave goodbye as he does the same, his dark brown eyes lighting up my own. This is South Africa.

Crawling on my hands and knees I inch my way to the edge of the cliff. Sharp green hills rising into peaks surround me. On my stomach I peek over the ledge, lush grass and barren rocks lie one kilometer below. Across the valley is Sentinel peak, its bare rock face looms high into the clouds. I look out at the view only to wonder what I could see from above. I lay face down on the rocks of the Drakensburg Mountains, almost 10,000 feet above sea level. This is South Africa.

Diving under a crashing wave the water embraces me. I pop up with a mouthful of salt water. Eyes stinging, throat burning, I feel as if I swallowed the wave. Another slams into my body, pulling me under, pushing me below the surface. Struggling to stand before the force of the water knocks me down, I give up. Instead of powering against the water I float with it. The warmth of the sun beating down on the Indian Ocean turns the water every shade of blue I could imagine. Pushing me closer to the shore repetitive waves eventually place me on the sandy beach. Salt seeps into my skin as the dry air evaporates the water droplets. Foam from the end of each wave tickles my toes. Closing my eyes to the sky my body melts into the ground. This is South Africa.

Spending my last weeks in South Africa I sometimes feel like I have seen all there is to see but in reality I have barely penetrated its surface. From Cape Town, the melting pot of South Africa with its 350 years of recorded history, to the Drakensburg Mountain range, stretching from the Eastern Cape to the Northern Province. I have traveled through the small town of Umdumbi and walked by moonlight past turtle prints on Rocktail beach. I have seen more than I thought I would, I only hope that I have not only been a spectator but also made an impact.

In fifteen days I will be home and people will ask me what Africa is like. I will tell them stories about what I saw, people I met, and what I did. But what is Africa like? My Africa is defined in moment, in times where I have given myself to the world around me. These paragraphs, these words of description are my moments. They have shown me how vast and diverse the world is, making me only want to venture further into its depths. Planting my bare feet in the sand, the dirt, the grass, the rocks, the soil of Africa I am present. I am for this second living in the moment.





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