The Life and Adventures of an Abroad Student

On my personal blog I began by writing posts about preparing to come to South Africa.  I had a count down for each week.  I’ve been avoiding this count down because I am still working on not focusing on home.  Yet as a math major I’m designed to like numbers and I make count downs and create fractions for everything in my life.  *cough19dayscough*

Everyone knows that I’ve missed home since I stepped into the airport.  Hopefully everyone knows that I love Africa too.  The experience has been great and I don’t regret a second of it.  Not even the parts that I regret.

Think about it.

Of course my issue is that I am too connected to the people back home.  I feel like I’m missing so much.  I feel like I’m letting friends down when I’m missing their break ups, their birthdays, their new relationships, their engagements, their injuries, and their success.  I’m missing the important milestones in the lives of the children I care about.  I’m so used to being there for people and now I’m not.  Even if I’m not letting them down, I just want to be there.  Whereas here I’m just a blip in the lives of others.  They have internationals come and go every semester.  They are friendly to us, they care about us, but it’s hard to connect.  They know that we are leaving soon.  There is no point connecting to closely to us when they have life long friends to hang out with.  With the exception of Thuthu and Dom, my closest friends here are the other international students because they are alone too.

I’m also aware that I was meant to be gone during this time period.  I needed to miss the things I missed and that’s okay.  The experience has been great thus far and the last 19 days will be great too.  Some of my friendships at home have actually strengthened due to the distance.  My family relationships have strengthened too… oddly.

So, how did I spend my day?

It began with a lovely email from Taylor, a best friend from back home, that I didn’t respond to because I woke up late.  Then it was STUDY STUDY STUDY.   I had my first final today at two.  I started studying this morning at 10 because last night I was watching scary movies until 1am for Halloween.  I spent most of my time staring at a window.  The trees here are purple and mesmorizing to look at.  Then I had lunch with a Norwegian named Ola.  Oh, I’m pretty sure I got an A on my final too.  I learn quickly under pressure.  Then I spent some time with Carolyn (An American) and Carla (A German).  Then I responded to Taylors letter and talked to Adam, another best friend from home, on facebook.  Then I had dinner with Caleb, an American who also goes to DU.  I got back and spoke with Cassie from DU and my brother on facebook.  Then I decided to write a blog post because it’s been a while.

Why has it been a while?  Because this is my life.  I remember when I decided to audition to be a DUAbroad Blogger.  I thought, “I will have a new blog post every week!”  What I failed to realize is that eventually being abroad turns into life.  I mentioned this in a previous post.  Everything is so natural now; it seems silly to write about.  I live a life of connecting with friends here, connecting with friends from home, going to school, and watching a lot of tv.  I don’t watch tv in the states.  Here there is so much time.

On the note of having time, it is really nice to get a break from the busy life of the States.  At DU I hold two jobs, have a full schedule, I’m on leadership for three clubs, and I have every meal with a friend plus coffee friend-dates.  Not to mention family and church life.   Here it’s not as crazy.  I do get to volunteer a lot though.

Of course I travel occasionally and do things like jumping off stadiums, zip lining, and kayaking with crocodiles.  Truly great experiences and the detailed versions of those trips can be found at sarahsouthafrica.tumblr.com

This blog isn’t for highlighting travels and touristy things though.  It’s to describe how South Africans live life.  It’s easy to do when you’re new to their life style.  It’s a lot harder to do when you’re a part of it.  If someone asked me four months ago when I was in the states, “How do you live life?”  I’d say, “Uhhh… I live it?  I go to school, church, work, and hang out with friends.”  When I first got here my ability to answer that question with an interesting response was so incredibly easy.  Now my answer is the same as it was four months ago.

This is me working at the Salvation Army with the babies.  You can’t take pictures of their faces.

This is a good thing, just so you know.  To finally be a part of the community you’re in instead of just observing it.  It’s a bad thing for a blogger though.  Maybe I’d be a better writer if I were able to find the and discuss the tiny jewels in life and translate it into blog form.  Maybe I haven’t been here long enough to do that yet.

In case you’re wondering what my part of South Africa looks like, here is a great video that Caleb made.  It truly shows the things we see almost every day.

– Sarah Caulkins,  DUSA Blogger

Why yes, I am American

Did you mistake me for a South African?  Of course you didn’t because everything from the way I talk to the backpack I choose to use shouts ‘American’.

Actually, I was told that my accent isn’t to bad in comparison to other American who have come to UKZN.  I’m also told that some of my actions, such as taking the mini bus system alone, is more ‘black’ than most of our black kids on campus.  Yet i’m a foreigner here, at times I forget it.  At some point I started saying things like, “keen”, “high boh”, “just now”, “now now”, “yeb boh”, “robot”, “varsity”, and many many more.  The lingo of the PMB South Africans has started to invade my brain.  My brain does a double take when I see a large crowd of white people.  Mainly because it’s not common.  We have white people, just not in large crowds.  Especially on my part of the campus at PMB.  I sense the first major part of culture shock when I get back to DU.  Ha

Despite my brains decision to pronounce ‘z’ as ‘zed’ and to say my ‘a’s more round, it is impossible to forget where i’m from.  I almost have more knowledge and pride for my home land than before I left it.  It’s a sad day when you realize that people in other countries know more about America than you do.  And that realization happens often for me.

Luckily, I never run out of conversations to have.  A lack of words isn’t a problem for me anyways, but now I can talk for hours and not even mention my own soul or life.  Literally hours.  I had a four hour talk with some friends about the food and politics in America.

American politics are an interesting topic here.  The only opinion i’ve heard is that someone thought the only reason Obama was voted into office is because he’s black.  Most people like Obama as well.  One friend saved my number in his phone as “Sarah Obama” because i’m American.  In general though, everyone is way to interesting in my opinion.  When I was little I was told that the only two touchy topics are religion and politics.  Clearly that’s not a problem here.  Which is TOTALLY fine with me because I often touch on ‘touchy’ topics during conversation anyways.

So, there are a lot of “the American in South Africa” stories, but that’s not why I’m writing this.  The inspiration for this post is as follows:

“Sarah, come here real quick.” – Jon (South African theatre friend)

 The two people start walking towards each other while has a look of complete concern on his face

“Are you okay?” – Jon

“Ya.  Why?” – Sarah

“I just want to give you a hug”

While embracing Jon whispers, “I hope you’re okay, I saw on facebook that ….. (mumbles that Sarah can’t understand) …”

By this point Sarah is very concerned.  What was posted to her facebook wall?  Who is hurt or dead?  What happened?!?!?!?!

With a confused look on her face, “What?” – Sarah

“9-11” – Jon

Moral of the story:  Always check the date before you leave your room incase it’s a monumental date in American history.  Then you don’t look like an idiot when receiving random hugs.

This sparked something in my soul.  Mainly it was sadness.  Sadness that a South African recognized and cared about the date before I did.  Sadness that only after 11 years I managed to lose the intensity of what happened that day.  Granted, I wasn’t living in New York and I didn’t know any one who was hurt or killed.  It was still a monumental event.  It was painful for many and it showed how our nation unites through all things.  Yes, America has it’s issues, but we are great as well.

Then I get an email from DU.  Memorial service for Alex Teves on September 12th.  He was a well loved DU grad student who was killed in the Batman Arvada shooting.  Once the shooting hit the news I got texts from about five different people asking how I was doing because they knew I was from Colorado.  Sadly I didn’t have the privilege to know Alex, but the email combined with the date of it being 9-11 reminded me that I love my home.  South Africa’s great, but i’m America through and true.

Why yes, I am American.

— Sarah Caulkins, DUSA Blogger

The following videos are dedication videos.  The one is well known and it’s dedicated to the United States of America.  The second was written, recorded, and produced by two students from Westminster, CO.  It’s a remembrance for the victims of the shooting.