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I’ve always been close with my family. After moving to the States when I was 14, I got very accustomed and attached to the company and support of my mother, father, and my sisters. In short, they’re my best friends. They know practically everything there is to know about me, save for a few crazy moments. This trip has exposed me to a new side of these relationships, a side I’m finding very difficult to navigate.

Arriving at Duke, almost a year ago, I was most nervous about meeting people that I genuinely enjoyed and wanted to be around. A month into my DukeEngage program, and I’m most nervous about the changing relationships with my family. Time difference aside, its becoming increasingly hard to even hold conversations with them. They hold no context to what I’ve been doing or what I’ve gone through this past month.  And come to think of it, this isn’t new. They haven’t been able to relate to a lot of the things I’ve struggled with in a while. Going to college has created a chasm between us that I’m still trying to understand how to cross. Specifically, my sisters are way younger than me- I cant talk to them about college and boys. My father’s one concern is my well-being and the extent of our conversations here are:

“Hey daughta’, yuh good?”
“Yes daddy”
“Alrite princess, gwaan do u ting”

And then he hangs up. With my mom, its different. She tries her best to understand and hold conversations with me, but most times its just awkward because she cant hear me or she really needs to be doing something else. It’s a weird space to be in, feeling left out of my own family.
These differences have seem more prominent throughout this trip. I feel worlds away from them. But then I sit and think about it, do they feel left out of mine? I mean, I am the one frolicking around Cape Town, eating out at swanky restaurants, climbing mountains, working 5 days a week, and bar hopping at night. It’s a whole new world for me, and I think all of us. We’ve never had to make valiant efforts to keep in contact with each other. We were always with each other.

The strangest thing is, I don’t feel homesick at all. I’m not sure if that is because I know I have a plane ticket home, or because I am irrevocably in love with this country, but I have no desire to go home. That being said, I miss my family. It’s as though I’m changing so quickly and they’re struggling to keep up, but that’s not entirely their fault. We spoke extensively about the roles of our families’ on this trip at our last reflection session and I remember feeling so overwhelmed and sad when I mentioned how my sisters don’t even seem remotely interested in me or what I’m doing, Amaya aside. In retrospect, have I been making an actual effort to engage with them? They’re all younger than 13, how much can I really expect them to do?

That brings me to the catharsis of this post. This trip continues to surprise me in its ability to give me spaces for retrospection and deep thought. I’m growing and changing and feeling as though I’ve left my family at the starting point of this journey. I’m halfway up Devil’s Peak at this point, sweaty, burnt out and pained, and it would be a lot better if they were here alongside me, but they aren’t and that isn’t a bad thing. South Africa has taught me that this thing called life is my journey, and they’re a big part of it yes, but its my journey. I am going to experience things on my own, amazing things, and Ill get to tell them all about it. Being away from it all has made the biggest difference, especially being away from Duke. My family is important to me, the most important thing to me and if that’s true, I need to make a better effort in keeping in touch and trying to get them to understand the ins and outs of my life…no matter how new and novel it is.

Today I woke up and hiked Devil’s Peak, the second tallest mountain in Cape Town in my quest to hike all three peaks before I leave (very athletic, very unlike me…I know). The hike took almost 5 hours total (counting our very long lunch break at the top). It was hard. I slipped. I slipped some more. I wanted to turn back an insurmountable number of times. It felt as though I was on a pro-level StairMaster machine. It was probably the hardest hike I’ve ever done in my life. I’m cut, bruised, in copious amounts of pain, but I cannot wait to tell my family all about it.