A long goodbye…

I’m back in Germany, at least physically, not really mentally. It’s still difficult for me to understand that I’ve spend eleven months in South Africa. There are days when I feel quite empty, days when I feel as if I wasn’t even away and days when I actually wanna go back to South Africa.

In fact, I’ve started to say mentally goodbye to South Africa about two months before I actually left. It was kind of a „klick“ experience, because I realised that my time was almost over and there were still a few things on my „to do list“. Luckily, I had a lot of changes in the weeks before departure, because Alta du Toit sent me to the working area where I had to help packing goody bags for the Oyster Festival in Knysna – 6.500 goody bags, it was really a lot of stuff! But bJulia and I had great fun there because it was physical work and we worked with clients we didn’t know till then.  

I’ve been going out every weekend for the last eight weeks or so. Together with Julia I’ve spent the weekends in Town, where we did clubbing and shopping (gifts for my friends and familiy, of course). Fun, Fun, Fun. We danced till the lights turned on and music turned off.  

In the end of my stay in South Africa everything turned out well. Even Alta du Toit said that they realised they had to do some changes to improve the situation of the volunteers. Around three months before I left I made a list with Julia of all the things that doesn’t really work for the volunteers. Then we had a chat with Charlotte from Alta du Toit and she was very impressed. We said, for example, that we really like to be an active part of Alta du Toit, because we feel sometimes quite lonely and don’t know which projects are going on there. So we’d like to help Alta du Toit when there are special events, even if it’s on weekends. Another thing was that we think it’s not the best procedure to put the newcomers in the low functioning group, because it’s too tough for volunteers who never really worked with disabled people. Charlotte and in the end Alta du Toit agreed and made the decision that the new volunteers will work in the working area and in the middle group and no longer with the low functioning people. I had this feeling that because of this meeting and all the ideas we wrote down there will be some changes in Alta du Toit. I really hope that this is going to work during the following two years…  

One week before I left I started to give away stuff I wouldn’t need in Germany. I sent a 15 kilogramm box to Germany which made my backpack only 17 kilogramms! I am quite proud of not struggling for a moment to reduce my luggage to an absolute minimum.

I took the plane from Cape Town to Johannesburg on Friday, 21th of July, at 9 a.m. Mandy was supposed to fetch me at 7 a.m. But because I overslept I was really glad to even have enough time to brush my teeth, waking up only at 6.35 a.m…It was quite hectic this morning but maybe that was even good because so I didn’t have any chance to be sad or melancholic. I met the other volunteers at the Cape Town Airport, most of us being very weak and willing to sleep during the flight. I admit I cried a little when we left Cape Town (the morning being very cloudy, unfortunately, we didn’t have a good view).  

We landed in Johannesburg two hours later. There we had to wait for the driver to the lodge for another two hours…

As we finally got there we found out that we were the first weltwärts participants from our group to arrive. So we went to bed and slept and a few hours later the rest of our group arrived as well. After dinner we came together and had a unit about our year in South Africa. The rest of the so called „End of Stay“ was on Saturday. We spent Saturday morning with two AFS Ladies and talked about our expectations of the return to Germany, our experiences in South Africa and the possibility of a reculture shock. Luckily, someone from the AFS national office visited us and gave us the opportunity to talk about the good and the bad things that happened during our stay and how AFS could improve the support of the volunteers in South Africa. It felt good to come together as a group talking about that and reading something in our handbook about these issues. The funny thing is, that after all we talked quite little about our last days in South Africa and the whole year. It was more like everybody being by her or his own and thinking about the past eleven months. 

For some reason I couldn’t sleep on the plane (during my first flight to Johannesburg I slept so deeply and long that I didn’t even eat anything…), so I felt numb and kind of drunken, when we finally departed in Frankfurt. After rushing through all the monitoring stations I was welcomed by my two sisters, my brother-in-law, my mom and my boyfriend Fabian. My family made a transparent but I was too excited to actually realise their work. It was around 6.20 a.m., but already very warm and sunny. We drove to my mom’s flat all together where they had arranged a big breakfast for me. Of course I was too nervous to eat more than one roll but I really, really enjoyed and appreciated to be around my family. Especially seeing my sisters again after eleven month was very good. First of all, I got huge updates of their lifes. 🙂 

Fabian has told me that I talked a lot during the first four nights in Germany. Once I woke him during the night and asked him if he can speak english. Very, very strange, I think… Of course I don’t remember. I only remember that the awakening on the first morning was quite confusing. I needed a few moments to sort out where I actually am. 

The first week in Germany was very, very hot, more than 30 degrees Celcius. So I went to the pool with Fabian and met my uncle and my aunt who live next to the public pool. I was so glad that my uncle was still alive and fine because when I left Germany we said goodbye and didn’t really know if we’ll see each other again. Unfortunately, one of my four mice died when I was in South Africa. The other three had a few fights before I arrived but they are much better now (and I like to believe that I’m the reason…). 

 At the moment I’m busy trying to find a job. Besides, I went to the jobcenter and have to do a lot of paper work now. I went to a hairdresser (I didn’t really cut my hair during my stay in SA), bought a few official clothes for job interviews and made pictures for the applications. But I’m not in a rush and not afraid of the future. I’m enjoying being back in Germany, meeting my friends and family. Luckily, the weather is very good and I can just sit in the sun and work on my tan and my freckles. 😉   

Now I wanna say „thank you“ to all the people I’ve had around me in South Africa. Friends, colleagues, and the AFS-volunteers – especially Mandy, who was always there for me when I needed something. I had a tough time and I’ve never thought this year would be like this but in the end I really enjoyed it. And I admit, I’m glad it was not only a positive and nice experience. Yes, it was hard and sad and lonely sometimes but to get through it anyhow makes me very proud of myself. I’ve learned a lot – at least about myself – and I don’t wanna miss this time. So thank you all for spending time with me, inspiring me and helping me by talking to me and hugging me whenever I needed it! 

Love, Alex.



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