Another Hemispheric Switch

A few days ago I was with my mother in Key West, Florida, watching the sun set from the southernmost point of the United States.

Sunset and boat

Key West is famous for its sunsets. I can see why.

I was initially a little disappointed in Key West. When we first arrived I struggled to see through the oppressive humidity and the grimy, booze-soaked, touristy-beach-town feel of Key West’s main drag. But like a lot of other places, Key West grew on me when I looked closer.

Sloppy Joe's

Sloppy Joe’s, the most famous bar on Duval Street. It looks pretty on the outside but I couldn’t bring myself to go in — the smell of stale beer on a hot Florida afternoon made me gag.

Anglican church

The Anglican church in Key West against a backdrop of spectacular clouds.

Cat on chair

A six-toed cat at the Ernest Hemingway Home. Hemingway once lived in Key West and his house is now a museum. Hemingway favored polydactyl cats (cats with six toes), and the house is still crawling with feline Hemingway descendants.

Cat at pool

One of the prettiest cats at Hemingway House. 

George and Coconut

Street performer Cowboy George and his dog, Coconut. George and Coconut are ardent advocates for the legalization of marijuana. As you can see, Coconut is “on grass”.

Rooster

Chickens wander freely in Key West. I encountered this chicken (crossing the road) on my morning run.

Sunset festival

Key West hosts a sunset festival every evening, with street performers, portrait artists, vendors, fire-eaters, etc. I saw a pan-handler carrying a sign that said, “Why lie? I need beer.”

Sunset

The crowd applauds as the sun dips behind the horizon.

That’s where I was a week ago. Now I am back in South Africa, suffering from jet lag and an unexpected attack of culture shock and anxiety about life.

Before I left for America, I worried about how I would adjust to life “back home”. But I was so focused on going there that I gave very little thought to how I would feel when I got back here.

I’ve been back for about 24 hours and everything is foreign. Things that were so familiar to me before are now unfamiliar. The way people talk, the way people drive, the music on the radio. Summer descends quickly in Johannesburg; the climate has changed since I left. Trees that were bare three weeks ago are now decked out with leaves. Areas that were sunny are now shady. The air smells like flowers. The sun rises early and the sky is eerily bright.

Even the Melville Cat, who to my great joy was waiting in the house when I got home last night, looks different than I remember — bigger and darker and fluffier.

Melville Cat on steps

Certainly no less beautiful though.

Nothing is different in a bad way. But everything is different. I guess I’m different too.

I woke up this morning and momentarily forgot where I was. When I remembered I was home, alone in my house in Joburg, I was paralyzed with panic.

I lay in bed and asked myself questions. How can I go on supporting myself here, with no family, no financial stability, no defined career and no particular plans for the future? How did I acquire such a strange lifestyle, living in a permanently half-furnished house and driving a dilapidated Rent-a-Wreck that isn’t mine? Why do I live in Joburg? How could I live anywhere else? Who the hell am I, and seriously, how the f*@k did I get here?

I’ve asked myself all these questions before and I know that there aren’t any answers. Actually, let me rephrase: These questions have answers but I don’t know them yet.

Deep down, I believe that every question will be answered in time and I just have to be patient. But when I get tired and fearful and insecure, I torture myself by asking.

A couple of months ago I thought I had things relatively figured out. I should have known better, as I’ve been through this cycle several times. Once again, my brain feels like a washing machine.

I’m not unhappy to be back. Just scared.

Previous Post Next Post

41 Comments

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough October 1, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Hang in there, Heather. Things will sort themselves out. One thing is certain, however, these photos are spectacular–each one better than the last! Stunning work!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • Reply 2summers October 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm

      Aw, thanks Kathy. I’m rather pleased with them myself.

  • Reply thirdeyemom October 1, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Oh Heather. Life can be so full if ups and downs. Your a very bright woman with so much to offer the world. I’m sure you will figure things out and you will find the tight place to be. Give it some time and I bet you’ll forget that you are homesick. But if not you can always come home. Thinking of you.

    • Reply 2summers October 1, 2013 at 10:25 pm

      Thanks Nicole. I don’t feel homesick, so much as lost. But I know it will pass. It always does 🙂

      • Reply thirdeyemom October 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm

        🙂

      • Reply thirdeyemom October 3, 2013 at 2:45 pm

        PS I love Key West! Used to go there for XMAS growing up and there is something about it that is so cool! 🙂 Great sunset pic too!

  • Reply Yashik Nanan October 1, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Oh, the Melville Cat is looking gorgeous! We missed the fella… and truthfully, we missed you too! Welcome back home!

  • Reply Jennifer Leigh October 2, 2013 at 3:19 am

    Hang in there. When my feelings are all over the place, I turn to the wisdom of Dr. Seuss. It is silly, but reading “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” to my girls reminds me that every feeling I have has been felt by someone before and will be felt by someone again. And that things don’t stay the same. Better feelings will come to you.

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2013 at 3:37 am

      That is very good advice. Maybe I’ll go to the bookstore tomorrow and buy some Dr. Seuss. Haha.

  • Reply jeanie freeman October 2, 2013 at 3:24 am

    Great pictures. Sorry you’re having trouble adjusting. Give it some time, things will work out. . .

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2013 at 3:38 am

      Thanks Mom. Things will definitely be better once the jet lag has passed.

  • Reply amelie88 October 2, 2013 at 4:59 am

    Missed seeing Smokey in the blog. What a beautiful cat. 🙂

    One of my fave chick lit authors lives in Key West (Meg Cabot, most famous for the Princess Diaries), I would have totally “stalked” her. And none of us ever really has it figured it out. And if people look like they do, they are just very good at pretending!

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Haha, I know. I used to be one of the pretenders myself 🙂

      Thank you on behalf of Smokey!

  • Reply eremophila October 2, 2013 at 5:40 am

    It’s the life of a Fringe Dweller.. life happens with greater intensity on the fringes… on the Edge 🙂

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      I remember your post about that. I still think about it — really moved me.

  • Reply Gail Wilson October 2, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Welcome back, your photo’s are amazing.

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      Thanks Gail! Hope to see you soon.

  • Reply Taryn Leigh October 2, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Happy you back home, you came back… that means something

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks Taryn. Hope you’re doing well.

  • Reply horsesofthesun October 2, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Beautiful pic!!

  • Reply JoJo Asfaday October 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Reblogged this on JoJo's Art Space and commented:
    Beautiful & Amazing!

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Thank you! And thanks for the reblog.

  • Reply Martin schulze October 2, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Is it OK to say I’m enjoying your posts, even when they are so serious? But your feelings portrayed are so engrossing, and relatable. I admire your life in JoBerg, and through your writings would never have had the chance to sample living there. But I also feel for your conflicts, expressed so well in these posts. I can go on… We’ve been to Key West, wandered through the Hemingway house and were fascinated by the cats. Your photographs, however, put mine to shame, particularly of the felines 5 toes! Marty

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2013 at 7:49 pm

      Thanks Marty, and yes, of course it’s okay to enjoy my serious posts. I am here to entertain you!

      Glad you liked the Key West pics. Those toes are much harder to capture in photos than one would think. I took dozens of cat paw shots and very few of them came out the way I wanted them to.

  • Reply Wisaal October 2, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Welcome home! Have enjoyed following your adventures. Catch up soon!

  • Reply Tim van Rooyen October 2, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Welcome to the now. Your travel may have awakened you some. There is life beyond Jozi. I guess we all feel a bit WTF at times. A change of scenery often makes me look at the familiar, differently, on my return. Perception is reality. I don’t have any advice other than well-worn cliches. Talk talk talk! Rage! Let it out. Take comfort in the love of others. Don’t worry – we are all as lost as you…

  • Reply simondaniel27 October 3, 2013 at 6:26 am

    I know how you feel, I moved to the U.S. from Germany, and things felt very strange over here compared to Europe. I couldn’t wait until I could go back for 2 weeks to see my family. But suddenly I felt like a stranger in Germany… It seems like I don’t feel home anywhere right now… But you will adapt. It will work out!! I am sure… I am sending you some positive thoughts!!

    Question: What lens did you use for the very first and last three images?

    • Reply 2summers October 3, 2013 at 7:36 am

      Hi Simon,

      All the images in the post (except for the chicken shot, which was my iPhone) were taken either with my Canon 28-135mm lens or my Canon 10-22mm lens. The first and last two shots are the 28-135. The third-to-last shot is the 10-22. Thanks for the comment.

      • Reply simondaniel27 October 3, 2013 at 2:50 pm

        As of now, I can only dream of those kind of lenses, I just can’t afford them. I have a 18-55mm, a 70-300mm, and planning on getting a 50mm 1.8… Wonderful shots there… I am a fan!

        • Reply 2summers October 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm

          Thanks! I really want to get the 50mm 1.8 myself. But as you probably know, the person behind the lens is more important than the lens itself 🙂

          • simondaniel27 October 3, 2013 at 3:57 pm

            Exactly! 😀 I will remember that! 😀

  • Reply kekedemea October 3, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Reblogged this on Key to Success and commented:
    Amazing !

  • Reply Fiver October 7, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Glad to see you made it home. Jet lag will turn anyone into a reality-questioning philosopher. It’ll pass. There is nothing wrong with being without a home for a time. We were all nomads once…

    You have the Melville Cat and your friends and your mission of bringing Jozi to the world (and the Joburgers who have forgotten their own city). That’s quite a lot.

    Hugs,

    F.

  • Reply Lj November 5, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    I love the photos of key west. I am a South African, with an American mom and have been living in Boston for the last ten years. I love your blog, as it is the exact reverse of my life, and there are days where I miss Joburg dearly.

    I visited Key West for the first time in March of this year. At first I was not crazy about it, but it really grew on me. There are beautiful building everywhere, the people were interesting, snorkeling was great, and the weather was a ton better than Boston in early March. You should have given Sloppy Joe’s a try. I loved sitting under the fan listening to the bad bar singer belt out 80’s covers.

    • Reply 2summers November 5, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you’re enjoying blog! Yes, I’ll have to get back to Key West sometime and check out Sloppy Joes — I just didn’t have the time on our short trip and wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

      Boston is freezing but I think it’s a really great city 🙂

      • Reply Lj November 7, 2013 at 8:06 pm

        Did you hear about the Garden of Eden? It is a “nudist” bar. We never went in, but from all accounts it is quite the laugh.

        Boston is cold, but the summers and fall are awesome, and the whole coast line from here to Maine and down the Cape are some of my favorite places.

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: