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If you read my blog post from last week, you would know that I had a couple close encounters with robbery. Thankfully I made it through the week with all my belongings…until Friday, that is. My phone was stolen out of my bag (on my birthday of all days) on Long Street. Although it was a sour note to end the night on, I have no regrets and I am endlessly grateful for the friends who celebrated with me that day and supported me that night (again, shout out to Anna and Chiara!!).

Did I jinx myself by writing that last blog post? Did I inadvertently taunt the Universe into dealing a hand I couldn’t beat?

There is this tension inside me now that I can’t quite seem to reconcile. On the one hand, I was unharmed and the thief didn’t take any of my money, credit cards, or ID. For that, I am incredibly grateful. On the other hand, that phone was chalk-full of photos and videos from this trip that have now disappeared into the Great Unknown. I had been taking videos of a couple seconds of my life each and every day since touching down in Joburg, intending to compile a video montage at the end of the trip. Now the montage is going to have a lot of blank frames.

This raises an important question for me: was I really living in this experience, or was I too preoccupied with creating a snapshot of the trip to look back on? Is watching the sunset through the lens of my phone’s camera really watching the sunset?

I had become far too dependent on my phone. During a lull at work, at dinner, or virtually any time, I would instinctively grab for my phone to meaninglessly scroll through Instagram or Facebook. Now, I don’t have that luxury, but I also don’t feel that burden.

Yesterday another student on the program asked me what it was like living without a phone. Living without a phone is just living. Being present. In fact, it may just be the most liberating thing to happen to me on this trip. I am now free to experience every moment thoroughly without worrying about having to preserve it artificially. I will remember this trip for the rest of my life, whether or not I have a photographic record of it.

I stand by the conclusion I drew in my last blog post. I refuse to live my life in fear. I am still incredibly fortunate, and what happened to me happens to people in every city across the world each and every day. Cape Town still has my heart (and I guess now it has my phone, too).