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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Home with open arms

3.5 months out of these 2 bags.
All repacked and ready to go in Cape Town
Alas, after nearly 3.5 months in South Africa, my inaugural visit here has ended.  It was with ambivalence that I entered the airport destined for my home country, leaving behind a newfound home.  South Africa has much beauty in its natural landscape and people, and it would take little convincing to move to some cities.  I would readily move to CapeTown, but many other cities, such as intense Johannesburg, would take a lot of persuasion.  The country still has a long walk to economic and social equality, but continues to progress in the right direction.  Overall, my impression remains: I would like to travel to this “Rainbow Nation” again.

Next stop?  33 hours and 24 minutes of flights and layovers.  Cape Town à Johannesburg à Frankfurt à Chicago à Orlando.  I went through security 5 times, two times of which my bags were subjected to a bomb search.  (I was negative both times!)  I can blame this double treat to bringing home two carved ostrich eggs...

On my second of four flights from Joburg to Frankfurt, my front seat pocket broke, thus everything was (barely) loosely contained for 11.5 hours, but manageable.  On my third flight from Frankfurt to Chicago, my front seat pocket was exceptionally tight with a strong snap back.  During this 9.5-hour flight, I had an exciting turn of visual events.  While attempting momentary sleep, I removed my eyeglasses and used the front seat pocket as a holder.  Upon retrieval, I found that my glasses were SNAPPED IN HALF!
(A note about my vision: without correction, anything more than 2 feet away is starkly blurry.  Bad.  Legally blind bad.)
Attainment of thrice-used food cart tape from a flight attendant yielded semi-working results, while I quickly realized how many times I push my glasses back up my nose by way of the nose bridge.  Oh, curse you, Murphy's Law!
Imagine this next scene post-debarkation:  Standing in front of an American Passport Control Agent in Chicago, only 2 days to spare on my visa, and my glasses lose their tape, break into half, and fall down the bridge of my nose held only by the ears.  Doesn't exactly add credibility towards regaining lawful entry (without suspicion) back into the USA!!

Wishing I could perform the Oculus Reparo spell on my glasses!

On the last flight of my journey, a short 2h 45m land jump from Chicago to Orlando, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a baby.  A *screaming* baby.  The. Entire. Flight.

Weird things/feelings/stuff back in the USA:
       Driving.  On the right side of the road.
       A very plush, soft bed (which by US standards is really just ‘modest’).
       More than seven pairs of socks and underwear at my disposal.
       Lots of bathroom supplies.
       Non-communal bathroom, kitchen, and other living spaces.
       Clean clothes.  Lots of clean clothes!

My next travel adventure?  Memphis, Tennessee to begin a 10-month Dietetic Internship at the Memphis Veteran’s Administration Medical Center!  Back in May all of my belongings were packed in a portable storage container, and I only extracted a few weeks of living for 3 weeks in Florida (split in June & September), and my 13 weeks in South Africa. 

Welcome home BBQ in FL!
Upon return to the United States, I stayed in Florida for 1 week.  En route to Tennessee via Georgia with my Mom, it was not long before I noticed a few key things while on the road.  My driving hiatus, combined with left-sided driving South African influence, had yielded TERRIBLE driving skills.  No question, I had become an atrocious driver.  I tried to drive on the left side of the road; I paid little attention to stop signs and stop light color, and nearly took out a few cars.  Seriously, I was dreadful; my mom can testify to this.  I epotomized every Female Bad Driver stereotype.  Thankfully, after 4 weeks, I am able to reclaim my safe and courteous driving status again.  It took a while and a few pissed off drivers before it all came back to me.

        Start to Finish
               Move out of my apt in Athens, GA
               17 nights in FL, GA, TN
               67 nights in Grietjie Nature Reserve, SA (Link to 1 of many blog posts)
               3 nights in Johannesburg, SA (Blog post)
               14 nights in the Byrne Valley, SA (Blog post)
               10 nights in Cape Town, SA (Blog post)
               10 nights in Cocoa, FL
               1 night in High Springs, FL
               1 night in Atlanta, GA
               2 nights in Lawrenceville, GA
               1 night in Holiday Inn, Germantown, TN

And now… sleeping in my own apartment in Memphis, Tennessee!  Obviously choosing an apartment online was not ideal from half around the world, but thankfully it is a pretty good place so far with good management and geographic convenience.  Consider Walking in Memphis with me for a long weekend or vacation!

Newest dwellings: Memphis, TN!
Next blog posts: Random events, stories, patients and people experienced during my Dietetic Internship at the Memphis VAMC

"What's the world's greatest evil?  It is this – that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what is happening to us and we let our lives become controlled by fate or others.  We become afraid to pursue our most important dreams, because we feel that we don't deserve them or that we'll be unable to achieve them or that something will happen to prevent us from succeeding.  So we stop dreaming, stop reaching, stop living.  We become the walking dead amongst the living – our lives become monotonous and tedious.  If we become one of these unfortunate souls, we bury deep inside our dreams for the future and ultimately, fail to reach even a minimum level of happiness."

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

From the book, The Crossing, an account from a 2-person team rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in the Atlantic Rowing Race.  One of the team members, Ben Fogle, wrote:

“I love challenging people’s perceptions.  I (live in a world) where one is so often pigeon-holed and stereotyped, and I am always trying to test that typecasting.  But it wasn’t just challenging people’s stereotypes that attracted me to such adventures and challenges, it was also the chance to take myself out of my comfort zone.  We live in a society of excesses, where just about anything and everything is available at our beck and call.  It’s not that I don’t’ enjoy my comfy, contented life with my (significant other), our (expansive home), and loyal friends, but I have always enjoyed leaving those environs to test myself outside the circle.  There is something so sweet about returning to life’s luxuries after a period of abstinence.  Everything, from tastes and textures to feelings and conversations, is much more vivid, and somehow also more precious.”

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