Before I came to South Africa, people would always ask me what I was going to be doing there. I never knew how to answer that question because I wasn’t even sure about what I was going to be doing there. All I had to go off of was two paragraphs tucked away in the corner of a a tiny pamphlet.
I don’t know why or how or what drew my eyes to the those words, in the same way that I don’t know why or how or what drew me to want to visit Africa my whole life. The Africa I had read about always seemed so troubled and beautiful, hopeful and transcendent, raw and human. But those were just words on pages and pictures on a TV screen. I wanted to experience it for myself.
I didn’t know exactly what it entailed, but I knew it was where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to fly halfway across the planet to sit in a classroom. I wanted something real and different. I wanted to meet people, and connect with them on an honest level. I didn’t care when my major and minor informed me I wouldn’t be able to receive any credit. I didn’t care that people told me I should have just spent my money on an elaborate vacation to go “find myself.” I didn’t want to wander around aimlessly in a foreign land. I’ve done plenty of aimless wandering and I learned a long time ago that’s not the way to find yourself. You find yourself in others. You find yourself in the old stories your grandparents tell and in the imagination of children. You find yourself in the silence shared with others, in tears and jokes and shared meals among friends. You find yourself by giving all that you are to the present moment.
A waitress once told me that déjà vu is your guardian angel’s way of letting you know that you are on the right track, that you are exactly where you are meant to be. I don’t know if that’s true, but there’s definitely some profound comfort in that. As someone who has always tried to understand things on a scientific level, it brings me a certain level of reassurance to know that there remains a phenomenon that we can’t explain. I haven’t experienced any ruptures in the space-time continuum or had any prophetic visions since arriving, but I have had a feeling deep down inside that I am in the exact moment that I need to be in. I had that feeling when I first saw those little lines of text in that pamphlet, on the plane ride here, in the conversations I’ve shared with others, in the walks I’ve taken along the ocean cliffs and now as I write these words.
We live in a troubled and beautiful world filled with troubled and beautiful people. Humanity isn’t marked by color or creed, but by a desire to do better. We share hopes and fears and dreams. We all feel a pull to tackle the insurmountable, to defeat the undefeated. We all want to be better, so let’s be better.
Seth Stroupe enjoys talking to paper, taming mythical beasts, and fighting crime. He’ll be in Africa for the next few weeks, but if you want to keep up with his travels you can find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter (@SethofArp).