Howzit?! Last weekend I spent time away at the Hermanus Whale Festival about two and half hours away from campus. My program sponsored the event and about thirty Americans signed up. We left Friday night and stayed through until late Sunday afternoon. It was so nice to get away from campus for a few days and see a new place. We stayed at a quaint and comfortable hostel walking distance from the festival and all of our meals were prepared for us by the owner and staff. We were all ready and geared up to see whales on whales in the bay, take pictures of the whales and buy whale t-shirts. After sitting looking out at the water for about an hour, it seemed the festival was lacking one minor detail. I might have seen the back of one whale, but… it very could have been a rock. Regardless of the whale aspect, the trip offered the chance to really get closer with some of the other Americans. It was such a beautiful day and valuable time was spent bonding with the other students while lying in the sun on the shore.
I still remember my first week here, worrying that I would not make any authentic, genuine relationships. This was one of my main goals in coming to South Africa- to find new people to connect with and learn from beyond the surface level. Prior to coming here, I honestly had the perception that I wouldn’t really even talk to Americans and would be laughing and scampering about South Africa with the locals. Surprisingly, those that I have become closest to are not local South Africans, but other American students in my program. As time passed, I found myself wanted to discuss and reflect on the experiences I was having with people who would understand the context. Through both the good times and the more challenging times, I wanted to find peers that could really relate to what I was feeling. I have definitely made local friends and have had many conversations with South Africans; I just have not developed the relationships I anticipated. With all of this said I am so grateful and blessed for the strong relationships I have made! I am learning so much through these friendships and my experience here would not be the same without them. Several of us are already making plans to get together back in the States after the program ends! 🙂