Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

No Woman is an Island

When I arrived back in Joburg on December 31, it felt like I returned to a different city.

First, the three other Canadian interns had returned to Canada at the beginning of December.  My tourist activities partners were gone!

Second, most people leave Joburg for the holidays.  None of my local friends were back in town yet.

Third, my seat buddy at work is on vacation until mid-January.

Fourth, almost everything was closed.  It was like a ghost town.

The differences were especially marked since I’d just been home where I’d had 10 days of “I’ve missed you!  When are you back for good?  Do you have to leave for so long?”

I felt pretty lonely for my first couple days in Joburg – maybe even a little bit depressed.  It was Friday night and I had nothing to do!  That’s not right.  Back home, I never have to plan anything because every evening I have a couple invitations from different groups of friends.  The hard part is trying to schedule everyone in.

Not having a full calendar, though, is a completely different experience.  What do I do with myself?

I decided my first New Year’s Resolution would have to be, “Meet more people and make more friends.”

Luckily I brought my #1 friend-maker back from Canada with me: cleats.

Now I just had to find an Ultimate Frisbee team.

Ulti players tend to be laid-back (games are self-refereed), friendly, and all-around awesome (but I may be a bit biased).  Furthermore, teams are always short of skilled women players.  Even though I’ve been injured and haven’t picked up a Frisbee in 8 months, I’m still pretty good despite being away from the game for so long.

I googled “Ultimate Frisbee Johannesburg” and found a league.  I went to my first practice last Saturday.  Within 15 minutes of warm-up (throwing around the disc), someone asked me if I’d be interested in playing on the Joburg team at Nationals. 

Of course!

After scrimmaging, we went for drinks at a nearby pub.  Some of them were going to a movie that night and I shamelessly invited myself along.  It was Saturday!  I wasn’t going to stay home alone like the previous night!

Staying true to my New Year’s Resolution, I am forcing myself to be more proactive in this country regarding my social calendar.  Like I said, I’m not used to having to make plans: usually I’m invited along.  And it’s uncomfortable for me to phone someone I barely know and ask if she wants to hang out.

Furthermore… I have to admit that I’m not crazy about all the people I’ve met here.  At home, I love all my friends: I know enough people to be choosy about whom I spend my time with, as conceited as that sounds.  In South Africa, however, I’ll go to a party even I don’t particularly like the host.  Or I’ll sit around and chat with people who I find… boring.

I complained to one of the interns about this and she replied, in her infinite wisdom,

“As for [name omitted], I think what you’re saying is something that isn’t uncommon for expats. Whether it’s about comfort or boredom or something else. But at the same time, what forces us to meet new people and be open to potential new friends or whatever is one of the best parts of being an expat – I think. Perspective is good, but try not to overthink it in any direction (easier said than done, I know!).”

Isn’t she fabulous?  Now there’s someone I would choose to spend time with if she was still here!

Moreover, she’s right.  Of course.

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