Okay, maybe calm isn't an entirely appropriate word for right now, however, the phrase is fitting for these last few days before I embark on this complete and utterly overwhelming experience.
It's Thursday night; I have a full five days at home until I have to wake up (or rather, get up from bed because sleeping that night will surely be a failed attempt), scramble around the house in a blur of disbelief, shoving last minute things into my suitcase that I thought I was strong enough to leave at home, say goodbye to my dad and dogs (God, I hope they don't think I've left them forever), call for the cats outside, in tears I'm sure, because I'll feel horrible leaving without saying goodbye, but let's face it, they won't be waiting at the door to bid me farewell (and of course because I'll already be in an emotional state; the kind that would make your eyes sting in the unfortunate event that your taco shell breaks). I'll make sure I have enough supplies to get me through the horrid flight: snacks; two books; a notebook; laptop with the downloaded partial draft of Stephenie Meyer's Midnight Sun that I have been saving to read for this occasion, Friends, and season three of the OC on DVD because you know you can never turn it off after an episode so that should burn through a good chunk of the twenty-five hours of hell. Oh, and Ambien. Lots of Ambien. I'll say goodbye to my mom (needless to say, crying at least since she woke up) at the gate (okay, between baggage check and security, but at the gate sounded classic and a bit more dramatic). Of course I'll be there way too early, so I'll have plenty of time to sit and think "holy shit."
Other than the people who work for CEA (the company I'm going through) and the three girls who I'm Facebook friends with doing the same thing I am (from the States, going to NMMU, through CEA), and the US Embassy if that counts, I have no friends or allies in South Africa. All I know about my roommates is that I have three of them; one from (or students from anyway) North Carolina, one from Zimbabwe, and one from France. I think this complete independence will only add to the thrill and liberation of this trip.
I'm somewhat looking forward to my classes, especially beginner's Xhosa--one of the eleven official languages of SA. I don't have my final schedule until I get there, but the courses I'm taking are mostly about the past or present and/or culture of South Africa or Africa. I'm sure they will all beat the Intro to African Studies course I took at UMass, which for the entire semester only focused on white's false views of black's and how the whites made the Africans slaves. While I'll be grateful if the courses go beyond the lesson that should only fill the time of the first day of class, what I'm really looking forward to is learning my lessons first-hand; experience-based; hands-on; meet, learn from, teach, and help the people; learn from their land and communities, government and politics, religions and beliefs, and general way of living. If I accomplish this, I will come home not only thinking of Africa and their people differently, but how could I not think of myself differently as well? I will not just have the knowledge about one village, I will have the ability to adapt to an entirely new place, no matter what or where that place is, and I will have the ability to listen and learn with an open mind and heart. I think these two things could really change a life. This isn't just about taking classes or traveling just to say "I've been there" or just about the beach, the surfing, and all the fun (although I can't wait for that either); it's about all of that and more. All in all, I plan to make every minute of this trip worth-while, which does include the beach, the surfing, and the fun!
Love love love.