So I’ve been off living my life for a while and there are some exciting shifts and unexpected changes taking place. And I want to tell you about ’em. So here they are, in a numerical list, in no particular order of importance:
1. I’ve just returned to Johannesburg after six weeks back in Ye Olde United States.
That’s why I’ve been so quiet lately. I’ve been doin’ my thing in America since early October, and I used it as an opportunity to unplug. (IE: I didn’t open my laptop once!) This year I spent my longest time away from home to date–9 months. A full gestation period. *throws up hands and shakes head* Needless to say, it was way too long and I’ve learned my lesson–that I need to be home, in America–in Pennsylvania and New York–to recharge my spiritual battery, to seek refuge in the people and places that I call my true home, at least once every six months.
But you know something? I learned a funny thing about being home this time, one that I must have missed in the excitement of my previous visits since moving to Africa in 2015: Just because you’re home for a visit, doesn’t mean the house is going to be clean. I’m speaking metaphorically here, about the messy parts of life that often aren’t apparent through phone calls and virtual communication alone. During my visit a lot of people that I love were going through a lot of tough shit. Breakups were happening, moves, health scares, family emergencies–life. was. HAPPENING. And fast.
I looked at the front pages of The New York Times from the two days prior to my departure. When I was leaving, it felt as if I was leaving my country literally broken and in flames. It did not feel good! Let me say that again….IT FELT REALLY SCARY. My homeland finds itself in a constant state of tumult. And somehow, watching it from afar and returning to my trans-Atlantic view of home from 7 hours ahead, is far more difficult than living in the midst of it.
And all of the turbulence among those that I love was only reflected ten-fold in the events that were unfolding in my beloved country during my time there. I was home for 40 days. Landing on the day Kavanaugh’s confirmation was approved by the Senate. That was only 40 days ago. In the meantime, Pittsburgh, a midterm election, the fall of Jeff Sessions, the election of over 100 women to positions in Congress. Political victories for almost every minority across the country, then Thousand Oaks happened, and Jim Acosta’s press pass was revoked (which is another long-winded post entirely), and now the wildfire that is ravaging the crowned jewel of American culture, the golden promised land of California. As I mentioned earlier, despite all of the incidental shit that hit the fan during my time stateside, being there, in the thick of it all- able to look for new apartments with friends, and lament senatorial committee hearings over beers with outraged comrades- somehow being there made it easier than it would have been had I experienced the same events back in South Africa. And on that note…
2. I celebrated my three year anniversary with South Africa this week!
What began as a six week assignment at Times Media Group in Jo’burg has now reached the three year mark. The assignment ended up lasting a full year, and once that year was up, and my work with Times Media was complete, I found I had fallen in love–with the breathtaking Republic of South Africa and with a handsome Afrikaner who became my sweetheart during that first year. So, rather than going back home to figure out what to do next, I heeded the message I was receiving from God and the Universe that urgently whispered, “Perhaps you should stay.” I enrolled in the Master’s Program at the University of Witwatersrand’s school of Journalism in Jo’burg’s CBD, and I’m almost finished with the programme. +) (More about this in post 4!) Also, this brings me to perhaps the biggest update that I have yet to share…..*drumroll*
3. I’m officially moving to Stellenbosch–in 2 weeks(!!)
‘You’re moving? You just got back!’ Oh yeah, I know. It’s funny, this thing called life–when it rains, it pours! Shortly before departing to the States in early October, my South African sweetheart was offered the opportunity by his company to transfer to the Western Cape, and help to develop a new office in the beautiful village of Stellenbosch, which is located at the bottom of South Africa, about 30 miles east of Cape Town, in the heart of SA’s bucolic wine country.
I’d been to Stellenbosch on a few occasions upon learning of this opportunity, and I was immensely excited by the prospect. You see, I feel very spoiled to come from such a beautiful hometown. If you ever been to Doylestown, Pennsylvania you might know what I mean. So very rarely, when I am travelling, do I find myself wondering what it would be like to grow up somewhere else. Yet, every time I’ve visited Stellenbosch, I’ve done just that. ‘Eikestad,’ meaning city of oaks, is a huge funky little college town in a valley surrounded by the Hottentot-Holland Mountains. It’s also the de facto capital of the Cape Winelands, with 170 operating vineyards as of April 2018.Wine is such a big deal here that Stellenbosch University has its own wine cellar, as well as a department dedicated to “the research and teaching in the traditional grape and wine sciences.”
After some deliberation, and confirming that I could complete my thesis remotely from the Cape, we made the decision to relocate down south! Little did we know, that when my sweetheart accepted the transfer, he would be told he would need to start in a mere six weeks, on December 1st. I was leaving for America a few days after we learned this news, and my return trip was already scheduled for me to return on the 14th of November. So yeah, a solid 16 days to pack up the apartment, and drive the 14 hours from Johannesburg to Stellenbosch, and move into a new place. Also, a little surprise, we are flying down to Stellenbosch for a dear friend’s wedding this weekend, (I’m still super jet-lagged!) leaving us even less time to get everything together. Although, the weekend in Stellies does give us a welcomed, albeit brief, glimpse of what our lives might be there once we get there. Luckily there is a beautiful little community of friends that are anxiously awaiting our permanent arrival there! =)
Miraculously, during my time at home, we managed to secure a beautiful townhouse to rent in downtown Stellenbosch. This comes with much deserved gratitude to my sweetheart’s mama, who lives in the area and was able to scout potential places on our behalf! I am so grateful to her!
It’s a big move, and one that certainly was not on our horizon. But it’s an upgrade, for both of us. I will continue to finish up my master’s thesis and once I’ve completed all of my work, I’ll be able to take on more freelance projects and hopefully find more clients in the hospitality and tourism industry that seek writers and communications managers! (Setting intentions!)
4. I’m in the final stretch of my Master’s Thesis in Narrative Journalism–and I just received a pleasant surprise!
I woke up to a wonderful surprise this morning! amidst piles of empty boxes to be filled, and to-do lists waiting to be ticked off, I woke to an email informing me that a non-fiction essay of mine has been published! The Paragon Press has included my piece “Reflections on a Dystopian Homecoming” in the newest issue of their literary non-fiction journal, Echo.
This piece is a preview of sorts, a truncated version of the long-form narrative nonfiction thesis that I am currently working on to complete my master’s in Journalism at Wits – University of the Witwatersrand. It is a highlight reel of sorts, retelling the story of my 72 hours in the NYC Prison System and Rikers Island. Surprised? Yeah, so was I!
While the events in the piece happened in October 2016, I haven’t really shared the experience with people other than my close friends, family, the Journalism faculty @ Wits and my travel writing class. (For obvious reasons. It’s not a particularly glamorous portrayal of yours truly!)
Today is the first day I can say that this story is actually out there in the public sphere. It feels equal parts terrifying and emboldening, and has given me the exact nudge that I needed to keep trucking on with my thesis.
But the secret’s out, I guess. I was an inmate on Rikers Island and lived to tell the tale. Note: The previous sentence is also the facetious working title of my thesis.
I’d love for you to read the piece, and many thanks to The Paragon Press for including “Reflections on A Dystopian Homecoming’ in their issue.
And so that’s all the exciting news from my end. Keep your eyes peeled for new work to come before the end of 2018. I’ve got some exciting stories in my backpack that I’m looking forward to unpacking with you. =)
Travel well, friends!