Friday, April 24, 2015

south africa, part two: cape town unfiltered.

Leaving Kruger Park after four days was bittersweet.

Bitter because Buhala Lodge was breathtaking and awe-inspiring and so much fun.  We'd seen and done so much in the short time we were there.  Sure, we'd checked, "See huge wild animals in their natural habitat," off our proverbial bucket lists, but leaving meant saying goodbye to these amazing views and that was sad.

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But also sweet because we traded safari views for Cape Town views, and, well, those did not disappoint.
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If going on safari with my co-workers was like going on a really extravagant field trip, then going to Cape Town with those same co-workers and meeting up with the other Americans going to Emily and Justin's wedding was a lot like the study abroad trip I took to Spain when I was in college - a few dozen people, all roughly the same age converging on the same foreign place at the same time.

I'd like to think it was a tad more sophisticated and grown up than the six of us laughing at animal dung.  Our days were filled with group tours and cultural experiences; our nights were filled with sunset cocktails, dinner parties, and OMG LOOK!!!!!! THIS BEER HAS MY NAME ON IT!!!!!!!

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Ok, so maybe only slightly more sophisticated.

I'll have more on the cultural experiences in a separate post, but I called this essay, "cape town unfiltered" for a couple of reasons.

First, if there was any filtering happening while we were on safari, after several days of nonstop togetherness and now in our own house with our own fridge stocked with alcohol, we'd stopped being polite and started getting real.  We were a little less forgiving of one another's quirks and a lot more willing to call them out.  We stayed up late, our intimate peaceful conversations at Buhala turning into, "let's heal open wounds from five years ago" and "let's make each other laugh so hard we cry and pee our pants" conversations.

Also Cape Town is so very beautiful that there is no need for any kind of photo filter - each view, each sunset, was more spectacular than the last.

Every evening we'd gather on our porch and watch the sun sink lower, capturing its marvelousness with nearly every device possible - cameras, iPhones, GoPros.

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It was a typical tourist move that could be expected by us first timers.  But one evening when they joined us for "sundowners" (aka Happy Hour in South Africa), I watched Emily, the bride, and her sister Helen taking as many pictures as the rest of us -  a place where they've watched a thousand sunsets in their lives still so grand, it warrants photographic evidence.

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More than once during our trip, someone would ask Emily some version of the same question:  "Why did you ever move?,"  "How could you ever leave?" or "When are you moving back?"  I mean, her high school literally sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean in Camps Bay.

But besides the glorious landscape, I suspect Emily also views South Africa and these Cape Town sunsets through the lens of a "home filter."  The one that fills her with nostalgia and intense pride and gratefulness for her people and the place she is from, making these scenes even more beautiful to her than they are to us.

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Filters often get a bad rap for misrepresenting reality and more and more we're calling each other to start keeping it real, but aren't we all guilty of viewing and presenting the world through a filter?  Are we kidding ourselves or just accentuating the positive?

I mean, I doubt I'll ever meet up with my Irmo friends at the Olive Garden on Harbison Blvd. and start snapping sunset pics, but every time I'm home, I'm filled with nostalgia and feel so very thankful for the place I grew up.  Thanks to my home filter, I don't remember how my undiagnosed depression and anxiety made high school such an unhappy time.  I don't remember how insecure I felt.

I'm equally thankful for a relationship filter, that helps me remember most of my exes fondly for the time we shared, instead of remembering the utter dysfunction or douchey things that they did.  Filtering out the bad makes it easy to chalk it up to a learning experience and move on.

Though likely not to the level that Emily feels about South Africa, I find myself often in a conundrum about returning to Charleston, South Carolina, a place I once lived for a short time.  I miss the beach, the history and the people and every time I return - which is as frequently as possible - I wonder why I ever left.  I seem to have forgotten how impossible it was for me to start a career, much less find a job that put me above the poverty line.  Perhaps to my detriment, I view Charleston through a "vacation filter," and have lost the ability to be impartial.

On the other hand,  Charleston is where my niece lives and I'm pretty sure the "aunt filter" is the strongest of them all.  Gray, like South Africa, needs no filter.

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