This is Africa
I have always loved to write.
I have always loved photographs.
Hey, I'm Court.
I'm an overly ambitious adventure seeker that is constantly chasing the next 'big thing' life has to offer me kind of girl. I have a 2 year old collie mix named Aspen and she is my entire life. I love her beyond measures. She has changed my life since she was brought home at just a young 5 and a half weeks old. In other terms, what I call a puppy sausage.
I like to think I am a very vulnerable person, but I feel I can be more vulnerable. And for some reason now, just today, May 11 at 12:05AM, I am finding myself starting yet again, another 'new blog' to share my vulnerabilities too. For some reason, I feel imposed to share everything I am about to share with you. Not for pity, but maybe for the sake that I finally feel understood, or that perhaps I am helping someone else as they read these words if they are ever read.
As everyone knows, in November my life changed forever. I wear a massive incision on my heart that has only just freshly been stitched; but has yet to be finished scabbing, and drying, before it is to reach its final phase and become a scar. A scar showing the wound is healed, but the story remains there. It is getting there. As I always tell myself, "progress is progress".
Africa did a lot of that healing. They say salt water heals open wounds, and I truly believed the Indian Ocean may have subsided the sting that remained there. Not just the sting from Cold, Lonely November, but, the sting I have felt for...maybe what feels like my entity; my whole life.
With a very unstable childhood that was brimming with military lifestyle of packing boxes, divorced parents, and moving to the next chapter over, and over again; I believe I became exhausted. The good thing, I have friends everywhere back home on the Island. That at least brings me some kind of peace. But the sooner I left my younger years, and the closer I crept to early my preteen, it became harder to make new friends. I was different, and a little timid. In grade 6, I lost myself. I think I lost myself completely just through our final move to Alberta.
Until I returned from Africa, I was lost. I had NO idea what I was supposed to be doing, or who I was supposed to be. My career choices were in shambles, my life was in shambles, my heart was falling to pieces, and I was giving up hope on myself. I for so long, and for many reasons felt so much pressure. Surprisingly, I wear a pretty hard shell to protect myself..not a lot of things can truly affect me, especially based on the types of previous events I have been through in my lifetime (that I obviously will not openly share here), but put a girl under pressure for a long time..and she will crack, unravel and fumble to pieces. That was just it, that was me.
When I booked that one way flight to Africa, I cried. Travelling is something I have longed for, for many years since I was very young. I feel like I should have traveled when I was a little younger. Maybe early 20's. But then I wonder, maybe it was good I went at the age of 24. I got what I was looking for. I think the world has SO much to offer us. We can truly find ourselves, we can truly heal, we can truly learn about so many different things when our hearts are out of the embrace of that comfortable shell you live in. You learn to face different challenges, meet different people..I took a piece of love and a lesson from everyone I met and spent time with in Cape Town. I think having the opportunity to travel, and fall in love with the lifestyle in South Africa, and help those in need really put a stamp on my heart. I think about it every day. I remember the first time touching the ocean with my feet. I felt shock at the ocean swept under my feet, the current pulling me in, and whispering "holy shit" to myself.
On one my last few mornings I was sitting at the the ocean's front at an early 4:00am dawn. I just felt so present, so alive, and..for once, really in my moment. If you're about to ask me if I cried here too, I certainly did.
Should I be walking around on a beach at 4:00am in Africa? Probably not. But had I not, I don't know if The Universe would've allowed me to reach the higher intuitive state that I did in that exact moment. The ocean vapor, the water at my toes, my hands hugging my knees as I sat and watched the sun rise. I felt love again within myself right then and there. I think that's when I finally, and very confidently saw myself helping people for the rest of my life. I saw myself helping families, and children in need. I saw myself going home to Edmonton and pursuing my Photography Business for the summer and many years after, and starting my Social Work diploma within a year. And for the very, very first time, in my entire 25 years of life, I felt wholeness & peace with myself.
I reached a point where I was so exhausted of 2 jobs + my business that my relationship and I fell to pieces. Right now I'm picturing myself walking with my heart dragging on a very fine string behind me. I have absolutely no clue how that image popped up into my head as I was arranging these words but it did. I actually feel like I am dragging my heart around a bit. Am I still hurt? Yes. Do I still ask myself about my decisions? Yes. Do I ask myself "What if?" Yes, all the time. I carried a journal with me on my ventures through the month of February. For the first time since I have been home, I read through the pages. I could remember and picture every single scenario I was in. I can picture what I was wearing, what I was doing, which host I was staying with, which small hole-in-the-wall coffee shop I was at. I can feel those emotional wave lengths all over again that I felt at that time as I'm reading the messy and reckless words. It's interesting..hence, my inspiration to tell you my story now.
My first week was everything and more I wanted it to be. I had met Nic the week prior to me leaving through a friend. She visits South Africa often to volunteer at the Surf Outreach in Muizenburg. We hit it off, became friends, and she was happily willing to pick me up from the airport on my late arrival after my interesting journey in Ethiopia to Cape Town, helped me get set up with a working phone, and we were on our way to my first AirBnb. She helped me get settled and nestled into Cape Town, I unpacked, met my very friendly first hosts, and rested for a bit. Nic came back around 5:00pm to pick me up, and take me to an adorable location where we firstly 1) obviously, got wine. 2) food, I needed normal food as Ethiopia terrified me with their interesting cultural foods. I was terrified of getting travelers diarrhea so I avoided crazy foods for as long as possible. SO, I got fish and chips. We ate, drank, talked about each others' crazy lives, and found we actually have so much in common. The first thing on my to see list was "Chapmans Peak Drive". The road that drives right along the side of the ocean from what feels like a cliff. Seriously, take my word, it was so beautiful. We kept the bottle of wine that we hadn't finished along with us for sunset. My love for sunsets grew sparingly bigger once I touched back down on Alberta soil too. I still to this day, try to catch a sunset every night, and sunrise when I can. The first week I was a little nervous as I settled into my first host's home. Just adjusting to new lifestyle, the people, many things. First time being in another country and alone was a pretty interesting challenge. They had 5 animals. 3 cats, 2 rescued dogs. 1 of 3 cats is actually deaf, and screams in the middle of the night because he can't hear himself and I wish I got on video, but it was probably not just the most interesting thing I've ever heard, but it was hilarious. As for my allergies, not as hilarious.
On our last week together, Nic and I decided to hike Lion's Head mountain and took an early start to the day. I wasn't feeling super great as we were climbing due to some issues I was having with my stomach, but we made it down in one piece, and decided to hit up some smoothie bowls and a fresh juice before hitting the market. We have visited this market before, it's on every Thursday from first thing at 9:00am to 6:00pm I believe. This is kind of where you can find that very true, authentic African shopping experience. You barter with the market vendors, etc. We had previously been purchasing sterling silver rings from one particular vendor who was very friendly. Being I wasn't feeling super well..I knelt down and she asked if I was okay. I said I wasn't feeling super well, and Nic asked if I was going to puke, and I immediately answered "Yup." Just in the cubby of the market square, there was a Burger King, so I ran over and rushed to the washroom. Nic said she would meet me there once she had paid for her rings. As I was walking in, one of the workers told me I can't use the washroom without being a paying customer. I promised I would purchase food, I just needed the washroom at the moment. He looked at me odd, and quietly said "...okay", and stepped aside. I never saw him after that. Nic asked me by the time she got in there and asked me if I had puked yet, and I said no. I could feel it, but you know when your sick, and you become super hesitant about how you feel and you just know whats coming? Yeah, that was me. "Dude, just get in there and get it over with. Otherwise I am coming in there with you, and shoving my fingers down your throat" she says. I shrug, and head into the stall and...yeah. That was that. All I could hear was Nic laughing. Nic welcomed me to come down to the Surf Outreach with her a couple times and I willingly went. I was so happy to join an hangout with the kids. It was an experience I was more than happy to be apart of, and it was probably the biggest highlight of my trip. Needless to say, these kids have me wanting to go back to Africa tomorrow. If I could go back right now, I absolutely would.
Nic and I continued to adventure as time went on and she wasn't working. We drove all the way to Cape Point, screamed in terror from the vehicle in fear of Baboons - I instanly felt like I might have been in a Jurassic Park film. These things, are scarier than bears. I learned very quickly that I am VERY terrified of baboons. I did a little bit of adventuring myself and happened to meet a couple South Africans. D and I met at a local cafe in Observatory, also known as "Obs" - I guess. He's a realtor, and he happily introduced me to his house mates J, JC, P (I could never pronounce this guys' African name for the life of me so I actually just called him P the whole time), and they were happy to hangout and show me around. I miss them. We had (way too) many drunk nights together and laughed and talked about life. J and I quickly bonded, learning that we are both artists in our own ways. I miss her adorable cats, and her ambition to make me drink the first night I met her. They were so welcoming, and made my experience in Cape Town truly memorable. I'll never forget during my last week they insisted taking me out for Sunday Funday at the little restaurant that is placed beside the Constantia wine farm just outside of Muizeinburg, and they basically have a live DJ that is on the drums, and everyone the patio, wasted, and there is string lights, and it's just beautiful and a wonderful drunk time. I joke to people who ask "How Was Cape Town?"
Me: "Great. I left Canada with a broken heart, and I came back with a drinking problem."
While I'm here joking and not emotional for a second, here is how I describe Cape Town: Where there is no water, was currently no president, and alcohol is cheaper than water..
As for the water crisis, it wasn't terrible. You could shower for 2 minutes, try not to flush the toilet - only do so when you need to. I washed my hair probably once, and lived off of baby powder for the entity of the month. Showered maybe twice, and that was about it. I was in the ocean a fair amount, so to be honest, my concern was quite minimal.
One VERY specific memory I have while I was staying in Hout Bay in my second AirBnb is when I was hosted by two lovely South Aficans, S and Z. They invited me over for dinner one night. They are young parents with twin daughters, A and M. One was very social, the other very shy. A ran straight up to me within 15 seconds of entering their home (next door to their guest house) and called me "Tonnie" - which is Afrkiaans for "Auntie". Z and S laughed, and explained it is actually a respectable term you call someone who is older than you. My heart, obviously melted into a puddle and found itself on the floor as I played with her for a moment. Throughout dinner, we shared wine and had an amazing Cod that they purchased just from the fishermen off the harbor in Hout. Once the girls went down to sleep, A putting up a fuss and wanting to cuddle with me, we talked about our families, education, how scary Joburg is and it's not really worth visiting; my photography business; and most specifically, what brought me to Africa. I laughed when I told them how I really went about booking the flight, and then how everyone (well, mostly just my mom) lost their mind that I was going by myself and went all "WHY AFRICA?!" on me. They were shocked, but impressed. I'll never forget when S said: "Regardless of what happens when you go home, just remember, let everything unfold as it is going to. Things are going to happen, no doubt. You still very much feel those emotions and that love, don't be surprised if love calls you back." By this point we were already 3 bottles deep, S and I specifically were quite drunk by this point and being she was a mom, I could feel a lot of motherly comfort through her words and energy. I remember in this moment I thought about my mom back home and could hear myself as if I was speaking to her "Don't worry mom, other mama's down here are looking after me too." To be honest, there was multiple situations where I felt I was cradled by that "motherly embrace" with many women that I crossed paths with throughout my travels in Africa. It's scary for a mom to watch her daughter leave the country to another unknown country for a long period of time, and venture off by herself. I often think about the women that I felt looked over me and I thank them in my heart. It was like having a piece of home while standing beside an angel. Around 3:00am we decided it was time for bed, and I was to stumble back to my little guest house. S and Z offered me anything else and if I needed ANYTHING, that I "must not" hesitate to reach out. I quote "Must Not" because it's 1) hilarious, 2) in South Africa, it is actually a suggestion, and not a demand. Whereas here, in North America, we see it as a demand or chore. Here, now you know if you hear someone with an accent say "must, mustn't, must not" - those are very clear indications that they are probably south African and not Australian. I remembered Z talking about this little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop and god I can't remember now what it's called, but it was small with an outdoor patio, and cute shelter over some tables, and enjoyed some coffee cake and iced Americano. The owners are exactly what Z had described them to be: "Carefree hippies, but good looking ones." Well, he wasn't wrong. The owner (the husband) and his wife were incredibly healthy, and good looking. Not really your stereotypical hippy I would say, maybe in their late 50's and just had such a welcoming energy. I remember the owner came over while I was writing in my journal, and asked my how everything was as he lightly touched my shoulder and smiled. Once I spoke up he noticed my accent was not African and I could see in his face he was a little shocked and perked up. Of course within moments asking me where I was from. "You're a very long way from home. Welcome to South Africa." I felt he knew that I was likely staying with S and Z, it was like he had recognized me in some way. Z mentioned he is a regular there, and had probably mentioned it to him that they had a Solo Canadian girl staying with them. Again, I felt that very same parental embrace. It was so warm. Writing this entire paragraph brought me to tears, if you are wondering. Before some of you panic and say shit like "You are WAY TOO TRUSTING" - hold up: one thing you should know about South Africa, is the mannerisms are very unique. Every time it was my first time meeting someone new, I was greeted with a hug, and a kiss on the cheek. They do not shake hands there and any time I tried to they actually just look at you kind of funny. So, if you plan on visiting South Africa, be prepared for that. So a light touch on the shoulder from the owner of an adorable coffee shop did not feel in any way intrusive, inappropriate, or make me feeling threatened. It was a welcoming, and reassuring thing. I felt very much at ease.
By the time my third week had come around, I was feeling whole, and actually not ready to come home. I was was truly excited to come home and photograph, and see my clients, and get things planning and on the roll. But I wasn't excited to come home in fear that I would go back to feeling how I felt before I left. I learned and soon knew that it wasn't possible. I had learned so much about myself on this trip, I knew exactly how to manifest, and authentically be myself. A lot of people say I did change, and Africa did change me, but I think as far as I can see it's been nothing short of in a good way. I'm more confident, I'm lighter, I see life in such a different light now than I did before and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunities that I did. I'm a people person, and it's my favourite part about being a photographer. I always knew that somewhere along the way, my career choice would involve helping people. I am a natural nurturer at heart, and I admire that about myself the most. Coming home wasn't easy, especially because a lot of things that I put on hold were still on hold. Here I am picking up my feet and figuring things out one day at a time. However, I really do feel like a brand new woman. I have found many answers, achieved nothing but personal growth, and finally have myself on pace.
I'm registered for school in the fall, I see a life coach 1-2 times a month, I'm set up for volunteering, all is well. I feel spiritually whole, and happy. Nothing is meant to be easy, but I learned this crazy journey has been needless to say fun, difficult, interesting, and I have really grown fond and found contentment with being vulnerable. Sure, it is scary- very scary. But I find that when I am vulnerable, and just open minded, all of these opportunities come in so many different directions. It really fills my heart. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about my past life. Without hesitation, I would redo everything and I would do it differently.
But I really genuinely believe that love always finds a way. And as I kind of share a few tears with myself as I sit here and wrap up my story of my journey, all I have to say is just follow your damn heart.
A piece of my heart will always ache a little, and want what was had, but I know deep down that timing is everything, and if love remains after all, it will find its way back. Time heals.
I hope you enjoyed this insane, maybe little emotional excerpt on Africa. If you have made it this far and you are not bored of my interesting writing, thank you for being here with me. I definitely had a few tears as I briefly stepped back into nostalgia. Right now, I am feeling so grateful.
Until the next adventure.
Whenever the F*** that is.
Love always, C