Over the past month I have been to the following places:
- Graaff-Reinet, and about seven other small towns around South Africa,
- Reunion Island,
- Istanbul (only for eight hours — will explain in a future post),
- Washington D.C. (I’m here now.)
Johannesburg is the one place where I haven’t been very much during the past month. As I’ve said many times before, I love traveling but I also hate being away from Joburg, especially for extended periods.
I’m really grateful to be back in the United States at such a beautiful time of year and to reconnect with my American friends and family, some of whom I haven’t seen for years. Every time I come back to Washington I’m surprised by how lovely it is, how quaint the houses and shops and restaurants are, and how liberating it is to step out onto the street and just walk. Jeez, I miss walking when I’m in Joburg.
People in South Africa often ask me if I “miss home”. My usual answer is no. I miss specific people and I miss certain things. But as I go about my day-to-day life in Africa, I don’t actively miss my old life in the U.S. I don’t feel homesick.
Strangely, the time when I feel most homesick is when I’m actually home. Home as in America — the home where I was born and raised and will always be “from”, no matter how many years I live in South Africa. As soon as I set foot back onto American soil, I feel homesick for America. I’m a stranger here — everything is different since the last time I came. I feel disoriented. I cry in taxi cabs because the driver doesn’t know where to go and I can’t remember how to direct him. I don’t know what to do first, who to call first, although I actually can’t call anyone because my South African phone doesn’t work. I can’t believe how beautiful it is here, how easy it is in so many ways, and I momentarily forget why or how I ever left. But I know I don’t belong here anymore.
I feel homesick for home when I’m here in America. I feel homesick for the home that I never appreciated when I actually lived here, the home that isn’t home anymore.
But you know that homesickness that everyone asks me about back in Joburg? The homesickness for America, which I never really feel when I’m away? Well I do feel it — big time — the other way around.
I miss my new home — my home in South Africa — a lot right now. I miss the exploding purple jacaranda trees, which I barely had time to appreciate for the two days that I was home last week. The jacarandas are putting out a bumper crop of blossoms this season and I hardly had the chance to look at them, let alone take a single photo. They’ll be nearly gone by the time I return.
I’m devastated that I wasn’t able to be “home” in South Africa during this particular week, when thousands of university students around the country marched in protest to support the #FeesMustFall campaign. I’ve been following the photos on Instagram and it seems there is a revolution brewing. I don’t know enough about the issue to say anything substantive, but I wish I had been there to help document what was happening. I wish I had been there to be part of it.
That said, I’m overjoyed to be back in the land of American football, real Mexican food, and cheap contact lens solution from Target.
That’s all for now.