Journey to South Africa

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July 8, 2010 –

I’m waiting for my flight to Johannesburg to take off. 

I landed in London yesterday around 9:30 a.m. My flight from New York wasn’t bad except for the fact that I got stuck with a middle seat and had started feeling like I was coming down with a cold while in New York. The hostel I stayed at, The Time Square Dream Hostel, was much less than a dream. In fact, the room was very hot and stuffy, which I think contributed to my sniffles which had me repeatedly getting up to blow my nose throughout the flight. Once I arrived in London, I didn’t have much trouble at all finding my hostel. I couldn’t check in until 2 p.m. so I took a stroll around the Marylebone/Oxford area. I got some food at a Lebanese restaurant then stopped at an internet cafe. Nick had responded to my message giving me the name of the dance studio, Pineapple Dance Studios, that he showed me last summer so I looked up classes to take. I met him after stopping in London on my way back from study abroad in Finland. I had been staying at Piccadilly Backpackers Hostel in central London, went on their complimentary pub crawl and I met Nick while dancing at one of the bar stops. We ended up staying in contact via Facebook.

A walk in central park after driving six
hours from North Carolina to DC
and a four hour bus ride to New York;
the day before my big flight.

At some point after leaving the cafe, I decided that I wanted to go for a run before dance class. So, I went back to the hostel, checked in, napped a little then woke up for a jog around Regent Park. Just the other day, I got the chance to walk around Central Park for the first time. Although I like London as a city more than New York, there’s a certain magic about Central Park that makes it better than Regent. 

Quick snap during my jog through Regent Park.

The plane is starting to move now. I don’t feel any kind of way about taking this time. Less anxiety and more anticipation than anything. I am finally going to Africa! I just want to get there! 

Anyway, I used my Blackberry to navigate to the dance studio, which I deemed quite useful. I took a Street Hip Hop dance class with Savvy, an Italian or French mixed man with long, brown dreads. That was one of the best dance classes I had ever taken but it wore me out! Still, I proceeded to H&M afterwards to do a little shopping and got lost on the way back to the hostel. I eventually made it back, changed clothes then went downstairs to order some curry; which was served at the hostel and was banging. I texted Nick to let him know how nice to dance class was and to see if he was going out later. I never heard anything back from him so I proceeded to the Underground to take the subway to Soho, the area where most of the pubs and clubs are. I stopped at Escape Room for a little but it was wack. I went to G-A-Y Bar afterwards and they played some good music but I wasn’t really feeling the crowd so I stayed for just a little bit then headed to G-A-Y Late, where I got in for free for having a flyer from G-A-Y Bar. After about ten minutes, it seemed pretty uneventful so I went to the bar to order a Strongbow apple cider. While I waited in line, I turned to the side and Nick was standing right beside me! Completely random, I believe. Nick introduced me to Kwaku, his African-British friend who was hilarious. We had some really good conversations. They had gotten there around the same time, so it was nice to chat with them and to have people I know while visiting London. 

I eventually met this guy, Jay, who was mixed with cornrows. I don’t remember how we met but I think we just started talking. He was with his Latina trans friend who was wearing all black, including heels with diamonds next around them. Not going to lie, she was fierce! She introduced herself as Jennifer Lopez. We hit it off well, laughing and joking. I don’t speak Spanish but I was using my Spanish accent calling her “Yenifer Lopes” the entire time and yassing with her. Good times. Jay had pretty much claimed me as his boyfriend for the night and we hung out for most of the night. Admittedly, I was tipsy but he seemed like a cute and really nice guy. I enjoyed the time I spent with him. Before we left, we hung out with Nick and Kwaku for a while. Then, what do you know? , Mark, a Somalian guy I met last year was staring at me from across the room. I didn’t recognize him right away although I thought he looked familiar. He waited until Jay was distracted to approach me and tell me that I looked familiar. I made the connection later, after reading through my journal entries and finding a story about him and I having a spliff in Camden. After Jay returned, he and Jay had a slight falling-out over me for a moment. I won’t lie, hearing two fine ass British men causing a fuss over me, stroked my ego a bit. Mark ended being rude with me too so I left with Jay and Jennifer Lopez. 

The next morning – well this morning – he had to work at eight so he kissed me goodbye and told me to add him on Facebook. Except I don’t know his last name. Oh well it was a great night! I’m going to put this journal down now and finish watching these random music videos that are part of the entertainment on the plane.

Flying over European plains to a layover
in Paris before Johannesburg.

July 11, 2009

It’s my third day in South Africa. I landed in Jozi (Johannesburg) around 5:30 a.m. on the 9th. I really feel at peace here already because everyone I’ve met so far is so friendly. For instance, when I arrived at the airport, a lady at the information desk stuck with me for hours while I took care of unlocking and activating my Blackberry at the airport. She even gave me her number and address. I still need to call her and let her know everything worked out. When I met with the driver, there were already two other riders.  On the way to our hostel, I met Jean-Baptiste from France and Taha from Yemen. We had conversations about life in our countries and our aspirations. Taha began talking to me about Yemen and told me that I should visit. He told me it has a reputation as an unsafe country but it is safe. The locals kidnap foreigners to get a government response, however, they are very hospitable to the hostages. He was suggesting I try it but I don’t know about it voluntarily allowing myself to be kidnapped. After I introduced myself to Jean-Baptiste (JB), he immediately likened me to ‘Jamal’ from the movie, How High. It was amusing to hear him explain it to me in his French accent and long, tangled dreads – much longer than mine. Eventually, the three of us arrived to check-in to the hostel.

The quaint hostel I stayed in near the Johannesburg Zoo near the Rosebank and Sandton neighborhoods.

July 12, 2010

It’s my final last day in Jozi. I leave in a few hours for the airport to go to Port Elizabeth, where I will be studying. I’m really going to miss some of the people I’ve met here. JB from Brittany, France has been my wingman here. We took a group tour of Soweto yesterday with our tour guide, Cosmos. Soweto is a township in Jozi, famous for being ground zero for the ugliest racist massacre of children during aparteid in 1976. After the tour, Cosmos asked just JB and I if we wanted to join him and some locals in Rockville for partying. I wanted to but said no because I had a flight to catch this morning.

July 20, 2010

Well I ended up missing that flight to Port Elizabeth. Though, that was about a week ago so I won’t get too much into it. Lots of world cup traffic, plus leaving too late, equals a missed flight. Fortunately, I ended up getting a standby flight. Funny how once-stressful things always work out. Part of the reason I decided to even come here was because the Upper African American Cultural Center at UNCW, a historically white university, offered me a scholarship to study this semester anywhere of my choice after completing the short-term Finland program. My roommate back in North Carolina, Tyler, studied here last semester and raved about Dudu and Nella. I’ve met both of them and I can already tell I’ve made lifelong friends. The two of them are best friends and their energy together is infectious. They don’t live in Annie’s Cove but they will be some classmates of mine at NMMU (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University).

I just got back from the braai  – or barbecue – that I was invited to by Anton and it’s pretty cold outside. Anton is from Germany and one of the first people I met as I arrived at Annie’s Cove, the international student community I live in. At the party, I wound up connecting some French guys who I recognized from the standby flight that I took to Port Elizabeth from Johannesburg. I didn’t even know they were going to be coming to NMMU but I’ve been running into the same crew on campus for about a week now. After speaking to them at the party they told me they are all down to travel around Africa and are here until July of next year. They plan to buy a car and drive back to France. I met Esther at the party too. She stood out because she told me I should smile more. I like when people tell me things that I don’t recognize about myself. I’m kind of awkward sometimes so she eventually told me that she could tell when someone doesn’t seem so interested in conversation and dismissed me. 

Part of the reason I wanted to study abroad again was because I really value being able to have conversations with people from different countries. I was placed to live in a four-bedroom flat with five other Americans so it hasn’t exactly felt like a study abroad program any more than my first day of college. But all of my roommates are really cool and I’ve become friends with them. Tonight at the barbecue, I realized how much I would miss Anniie’s Cove if I left. But I requested a room switch as soon as I found out I had to share a room. I’ve already overhead my roommate banging his African goddess during their after party. But I believe things will work out how they are supposed to. So no worries. The international office may have accommodation for me in a house with two girls and one guy from Germany. 

Tonight, while telling a group of international students about my living situation, the sexiest guy of that group stopped me mid-sentence and said,  “I have a thing for you.” How am I supposed to respond to this in front of all these people, I thought to myself. Then, he told me about some accommodation that was opening up just around the corner from Annie’s Cove. He is quite dreamy, I won’t lie. And flirty. I caught him glaring at me seductively about a handful of times. My gaydar is also terrible. He probably thinks I’m straight. We exchanged numbers and when I said goodbye to leave the party, he smiled at me and told me he lives in 11B. He told me his name but it’s hard to pronounce so I’ll call him Frenchie. Í definitely feel the appeal to French men now. 

The room I ended living in with three German roomates.

However, Frenchie is not the only guy who has caught my attention since I’ve been here. I have seen Gufi just about every day since I met him at orientation. All by chance. Gufi is from Botswana and approached me on campus the day of orientation. Since then, I’ve ran into him on campus twice and once at Gondwana, which means Pangea. The nightclub was full and he bought me a drink in front of Dudu and my other friends as we all stood at the bar. Dudu convinced me that men don’t buy other men drinks in front of ladies unless they want that man. He proceeded to make sure I got home safe by helping me take a taxi back to Annie’s Cove. He rode back with me to see me back safe.

Me and Dudu, my sidekick during the semester.

The next day he called me to see if he could come by but I had just gotten off a wildlife city tour and was tired. I ended up meeting him outside and he introduced me to his brother. I chatted with them for a little then told him I was going to take a nap. I ran into Gufi again on campus today and he told me that he saw me running on campus the day before. I went jogging without my shirt on  because I was hot. Okay that’s enough about guys, I need to remember to focus on what I came here for. But whatever is supposed to happen, will happen.

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