Dear Friends and Family,
This is an open and honest post about my feelings and sentiments for my time that I have spent here and for the time that I have remaining. I have past the six month mark and I am staring at my calendar with less than three months left. It is strange to think that I have been in Johannesburg for six months already. This place is not just a placement anymore, but it is home. I have my network with people from home, and my fellow Fellows abroad for a support system, but this is where my life is currently. I quite literally have people all over the world, so if I ever need to call someone, I know that someone will be up. I even had the opportunity to meet a Union College Economics Professor, Ellen Foster, as she performed here in Johannesburg. I realized how global my world really is in that meeting. This past week I was talking to Isabelle (A Fellow in Cambodia) and I realized when talking to her that I no longer feel like an intruder here. I feel as though I am a part of this country in a way. When people in the shops hear my accent they ask if I am on holiday, and I respond, I live here, without thinking. So where has the time gone? I look back on the past six months at all the memories, and all the work I have done and I feel so much pride. When I look forward to the next three months the first feeling that bubbles up is panic. In the best sense of the word. I am panicking because I have so much love for Johannesburg. I find myself looking at my calendar and realizing there are only so many weeks left and I still have so much I want to accomplish. I feel as though I have just hit my stride not too long ago, and what am I going to do now? Well the answer to that is to hustle in order to complete the projects that I aim to complete before I leave.
My second thought is from my last phone call with Michelle. We were discussing the idea of tension. My awareness of the tension in everyday life, the poverty I see, the need, the help that can be given, and the differences in living situations, I am still acutely aware of it all. I feel comfortable here in Joburg, but I do not want to feel as though that is how it is. We discussed how we need to have this in our lives, and when we realize that this is no longer the case, we should move on. We need to have that tension in our lives so that we remember what we are here to do and what our purpose is. It really is amazing but also scary when you realize what you can get use to; what becomes the new norm. When I think about this the thought scares me. I am afraid that one day what I see around me on a daily basis will seem normal, that it won’t bother me, or make me uncomfortable when I see people begging in the street, or seeing people malnourished that “that’s just the way it is.” The tension keeps me awake and present in this reality.
My education has expanded my life an opportunities far beyond what I knew until I came here. My education has given me this opportunity to grow and that is a privilege I hold very dear. Every day I still feel the shame for having the opportunities I have had, but I also have to remind myself that I can do something with what I have been given. I have the ability to touch peoples lives and make a difference because of it and I am so grateful.