Monday, 19 November 2012

Here's what I say.

It's hard to believe that a little over four months ago I was driving back from Somers, coming home from the most wonderful, exhausting,eye-opening week of my life, then 36 hours later I was on a plane to Johannesburg, South Africa.

I really had no idea what to expect, nor did I have much time to really comprehend that I wouldbe gone for 6 months, in a foreign country, away from everything that was familiar and comfortable to me. Although I was quietly a little bit nervous togo to a country I'd never been to and live with people I didn't know, I was also really excited to see how I'd cope in a situation like that.

I would consider myself a relatively independent person, where I don't really need torely on other people to do things for me and am always happy to go out there an experience life. But until now, I had never really experienced independent living. Now was my chance to experience it! This meant Mum no longer cooked forme or cleaned my clothes (yes, I still live at home).

I'm not the world's most renown cook, and many times I have told myself and others that I can not cook. So one thing that I was quite scared of was knowing what to cook for myself and for the three lovely ladies that I lived with.Fortunately I began to master spag bol, learned how to cook rice (sortof), developed a wonderful technique of (s)mashing potatoes with a spatula,making the yummiest sandwiches ever (they are my new specialty), cookingeggs at least 3 times a week, saute-ing mushrooms in butter and notpoisoning my room mates once! At least they never told me whether they felt sick after one of my dinners.

So a tick to cooking! 

Next was washing for myself. This one I wasn't so worried about because the washing machines that are used at uni are industrial, so you literally put your clothes in with some washing power, insert the coins and boom, your clothes are being washed! Easy peasy. The downside of washing your clothes at uni was thatyes you had to pay for it. R10 each time you wanted to wash..which is just overa dollar. Ok, now that I've written it down, R10 doesn't seem too much..but thehard part was finding the right coins to put in the machine. They had to be the new R5 coins, and you needed two of them. There was a lot of dealing R5 coins around campus, old ones for new ones. Fortunately as time went on, we all built up a stockpile of coins, no more dealing coins was needed. 

Washing was successfully done!

Next was the scary but exciting thought of meeting new people. This was probably my biggest fear about living overseas for 6 months, not really knowing anyone,forming new friendships and getting to know pretty much complete strangers. Iwas lucky enough to live with some great girls. Sophie, Emma and Gaelle.Although two of them were aussies, I didn't really know Sophie or Emma. We hadall met twice before, at meeting for exchange. But none of us really go to knoweach other in these meetings. The only thing I knew was that they were bothreally nice. Positive number one. For the first two weeks I didn't really seeGaelle. She and her Mum were travelling around Joburg and South Africa, so Ididn't really know her properly or talk to her properly until a month or sointo the exchange. Recently Gaelle informed me that she was in fact avoiding talking to me early on because she was scared to make a mistake in English.She's French, from a little island off Madagascar called Reunion. Pretty cool to live on an island near Madagascar! 

But never fear, after a little while Gaelle's confidence in English skyrocketed and from there we became friends. Our house soon turned from being occupied by four individuals to four friends/roomies, then into the house that became everyone's hang out area...and I mean everyone's.

There were also other exchange students that I met, got to know and now call them friends. There was Marion from France who's an old soul. She's only 19,but has the maturity and thinking of someone much older. We were able to have some great conversations about anything and everything. And she was always up for a kick of the rugby ball or the footy! Marion lived with Rachel, who is from Australia and was great at baking us lemon coconut slices as well as choc-mint slices. So yummy!

Then there were the aussie boys, Susant, Oli, Tom and Owen. Get them alltogether, along with Matt the America and crazy stuff would happen! Susant is a character who had about a thousand nickname including Shoesant, Suzy Q, Suz, MrQ, Q, Susan Tray to name a few. I'm taking credit for Suzy Q, even if he thinks it was Matt who made it up! Susant is also the speediest person I've ever seen.No one could ever catch him in touch rugby. Oli is a lovely gentleman who made me tea, and made us girls dinner when he ate our food, or when he didn't. Thatlast dinner was so delicious Oli (and Soph, soo yum!).

Tom is a jumping jack, both literally and metaphorically! I've never seensomeone jump as high as him, nor someone be a lively as him, all the time. He certainly kept us entertained whenever we were bored, and was always upfor a banter with anyone. Owen was quiet to begin with, but came out of hisshell as we all became more comfortable with everyone else. He was always up for a kick of the rugby ball and wanted to eat every animal he saw, including giraffes! Then we had Falvey, Matt the American. Nicknamed the Teddy Bear by Gaelle, Matt was certainly a big bear, with a big heart. He also had the great ability to kill every ball that he kicked. Whether it be into the African deathtree with thorns the size of small babies or into 'orbit', Matt had a knack of popping nearly all the balls we had..Susant also had a hand in this too! Then there was Hilmi from Malaysia, a quiet but hilarious guy who was a bit late for everything we ever did, but also was good in the kitchen.

That was our exchange group, and what an amazing group of people they were and are.
So in a matter of a couple of weeks my fear of meeting no new friends wasconquered and I instantly had 11 new friends. Score!

This was both a good and bad thing. It meant that I had lovely friends, but italso meant that I didn't necessarily make as much effort as I should have tomeet completely new people that were exchange students. I'm not regretful atall for forming the friendships that I have with all the exchange kids, just a little regretful that I didn't make as many Uni friends as I would have hoped. 

Nevertheless, I was extremely fortunate to be involved in AFL South Africawhere I was also to meet some incredible, inspiring, high achieving andpositive people that I really hope will be my friends for many many years tocome, if distance doesn't get in the way. But I'll try my best to make sure it doesn't! Being involved in the AFL has really been a highlight of my time here,and I think I wouldn't have felt I fully benefited from being here if I hadn't been involved. I was able to see more of South Africa than the walls of Monash,meet more people than the students and talk with people of all ages about footy, politics, South Africa, and anything else that came up. I'm not sure if you can tell from the huge blogs that I wrote about AFL in SA, but I reallyreally enjoyed working with them and certainly hope that I can come back and help out, and hopefully some of the people I met can come to Australia! (Phindiand July, you better come next year or I will cry!)

As I sit here in David's work in Rwanda, I come to realise something that I know but perhaps haven't thought about enough. 

I'm pretty damn lucky. 

I'm 21 years old (although the other day I almost said I was 19, time reallyflies) and I've seen so many amazing things, been to so many wonderful places and have met so many amazing people in my short life so far. All this would nothave been possible if it weren't for the amazing family I am lucky to be borninto, even if I was a mistake :). My parents have always given me incredible opportunities to see the world and experience life to the fullest. Whether itbe PNG with my Dad, India with school, exchange in France and now South Africa/Africa, Mum and Dad have always encouraged me to see the world. They have never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do, even if where I want to go is a bit dangerous, namely India and South Africa. My sisters and brother have always been there for me, encouraging and supporting me in all that I do. Always there for a skype chat if I need it, or a viber catch up if it's been a little while between drinks. Plus, they have let me stay with them whenever I would like,right now with David, in Rwanda. Or hanging with Rachel when she lived in AliceSprings.

Without the influence of my family I wouldn't have been able to make such awesome friends from all over the world and definitely wouldn't have to able toexperience what I have experienced to so far in life. 

Being in South Africa, way from everything that I know and am familiar with, Ihave come to realise what amazing friends I have. Friends that challenge me,inspire me, encourage me, miss me, motivate me, are there to talk to, to laughat, and to just be me with. I have missed my friends back in Melbourne probably more than I realise and am looking forward to be able to keep developing the wonderful friendships I have. I'm also pretty pumped to keep in contact andfurther develop the friendships that I have made here. 

Being here has also made me discover things about myself that are not my finestqualities and also get to know myself better. If I learnt anything from MAX, itwas to take time to think about you and what you want to achieve in life. It'snot a selfish act, but an extremely important one, that prevents you from justcruising along in life without direction, passion and hope. This is something that I've tried to work on, but still need to do more of. But we'll get there,life is all about learning!

I still don't know exactly what I want to do in my life, and I do sometimesworry that I'll never know, but maybe this isn't such a bad thing. Maybe life isn't about having one stringent plan that we follow, but many different plansthat intersect, cross-over, zig-zag in and out of our lives, whether they bestructured or not.      

Life is about exploring, learning and experiencing everything there is in theworld; the people, the places and all that's in between. 

I'd say I've had my fair share of learning and experience here in South Africa,but I know that I have a lot more to learn about not only myself and the worldaround me, both at home and abroad.