The Ups and Downs of Travel

July 17, 2013 | Olivia, ECH, JCM, Afrique du Sud, Cape Town Refugee Centre

We were told before our departure that it would be like a rollercoaster; there would be ups and downs. No matter where one travels, or for how long they are gone, this is the truth. Even when at home, there will never be an extended period of time where one is blissfully happy or completely miserable. It is a fact of life that there will be ups and downs. However, when you are travelling and in a place foreign to you, they somehow seem more defined. The ups seem as if everything is wonderful; the ocean has never looked quite so beautiful, the people are the nicest you’ve ever met, and the mountain is beyond comparison. The same, unfortunately, goes for the lows. It is already difficult to deal with uncomfortable or unfortunate circumstances, but to do so in a place that you don’t recognize and without your normal support network make it even harder to cope.

My relationship with Cape Town cannot be described in any other contexts except that of a rollercoaster. Every time I find myself sad, upset, or frustrated and I feel exhausted and as if my patience has run out, Cape Town finds a way to make me fall in love with it again. And I think that is both the attraction and the downfall of staying in Cape Town. It has been labelled the most dangerous city in the world, but has still maintained a steady stream of tourists, immigrants, and die-hard fans. It remains at the top of people’s travel to-do lists, and I have met some people who came to visit and never left. This city has a magic to it that just makes people fall head over heels; maybe they put something in the water.

The ups and downs can also be applied to the work being done at the place of internship. Sometimes there is very little work to be done and more has to be actively sought after. At other times, I am kept busy with meetings and deadlines. It is more than just the workload though. Frustrations sometimes run high in regards to financial decisions or advocacy efforts that I disagree with, but I have to recognize that I am not the expert in this organization. And this organization has survived through the apartheid regime and experienced the beginning of democracy in this country, so I should trust in the way things are done; and then the ups come. Rewards come during community outreach programs, when I will speak to a person who is genuinely appreciative of the work that has been done, and suddenly all of the doubts and criticisms are gone.

With two weeks left in this country, I have found that I am now traveling a steady course. I am not ‘down’ because I know that I will be heading home soon and the prospect of being reunited with friends and family is exciting. However, I am not ‘up’ because I still have so much to do in this city and I am going to miss my host family very much. But to be honest, I think the rollercoaster was more exciting.

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