As I stepped on the airplane heading to Cape Town, I knew that I was so close yet so far (at least in miles). I had just traveled over 12 hours to London (my layover). It was quite an adventure to get to South Africa.
My mom and I were at the San Francisco airport for our flight to London when I heard a woman say, “I heard the plane does not have a wheel and the airline will cancel the flight.” I was thinking “we don’t need the wheel and no they will not cancel the flight.” Ten minutes later they announced that flight was cancelled, and we needed to go home.
Thankfully, I was with my mom. She called the airline and tried to figure out what to do so I could get to South Africa. The airline told us that we needed to get our bags. I went down to baggage claim and my mom went to the check-in counter. I was talking with some fellow passengers and one the guys had an Apple Air Tag that showed our bags were still on the plane. At that point I was annoyed, stressed and nervous. After 45 minutes, our bags came and my mom and I took an Uber home. She called the airline, and they told her that there was nothing they could do. I didn’t know what to think about the flight being cancelled.
I woke up the next day and my mom told me that our flight was happening that afternoon. We got the airport and the check-in lady said that I would have to recheck my bags when I got to Heathrow. Just in case my flight got canceled, my mom had asked her friend who lives in London if I could stay with his family for the night. He said that I absolutely could. I was very thankful that I had a place to stay just in case. We got to the lounge and talked to this mom and son who were going to Europe for a couple of weeks. We get on our plane and as we taxied, I thought to myself “ok you are one step closer to your exchange.” As we were taking off, I saw Mount Diablo in the distance.
The flight to London was ten hours long. I didn’t sleep much, but watched a few movies. We landed in London and the next step was a nine-hour layover. My mom was flying on to Rome and the check-in person said that my mom had to catch her flight now, so I would be by myself for the nine hours. I tried to be strong for my mom because I wanted to show her that I could do this. I sat in the same lounge for nine hours and was starting to get really bored. I was also missing my family a lot and I just wanted to go home. But I told myself, that I could do this and I am independent and I am strong. I kept my eye on the flight board. At 9:25 my flight popped up and I headed to my gate. We boarded and I let everyone know that I made it on the flight. I was one step closer to Cape Town.
I slept for four to five hours, which really helped. It also kept my mind off missing my family. The captain came over the PA to say that we were starting our descent into Cape Town. I was excited and nervous. I had travelled for about 30 hours. I didn’t know what my exchange family was going to be like. I got through customs easily and I got my bags. Then I walked out to where everyone was and I saw my exchange, Sienna, holding a sign with my name. I immediately ran into her arms and hugged her. I felt so loved already.
The drive to their house was gorgeous. It was such a nice day when I got there. They decided to take me to a rugby game that night. When I got to their house, I met their dog and took the nicest shower of my life. After some food. we headed to the rugby game. The energy in that stadium was out of this world. South Africa won and I felt like that was the perfect way to get introduced to South African culture. After dinner at home, me and Sienna watched a movie. I slept for 12 hours, and it was so nice.
The next day, Sunday, I met some of Sienna’s friends. They were so excited to meet me, and I instantly felt welcomed into her friend group. We had a great time talking about America and similarities between South Africa and America. Monday we had off, so I had to get my unform for school. I did not want to wear a uniform, but I had to. I got a skirt and pants. The pants are comfortable, and they keep me warm.
Tuesday we started school. I was nervous and excited the same time. We had assembly first and I was told that I had to make a speech. I was anxious and wrote down what I wanted to say, but I didn’t need my phone. I talked about Athenian, and they laughed at the part where I said that America is extremely far away and another part. I thought the laughing at those parts were a good sign that they liked my speech.
I shadowed Sienna that day. Everyone asked where I was from and said that they were excited to meet me. The biggest difference between St. Cyprians and Athenian is that St. Cyps is an all-girls school, but I didn’t see that as a problem. Sometimes being at an all-girls school is nice. I had to get black lace up shoes, and I got a really bad blister on my ankle. When we finished school I got asked what I thought about the school, and I said “it felt like a 1960’s British school.” (My thought of the school changed pretty quickly.) Sienna gave me a tour of the school and I immediately felt lost because every hall looked the same to me. I found my way around the school eventually.
On Thursday mornings, I have soccer practice at 6:30 am and I wake up at 5:30 am. It was pretty hard to get up at that time, but I did it and it was nice to touch a ball again. I was tired on Thursday after a long day. On Friday, I went to a birthday party, which was so much fun. It was nice to meet people from South Africa and girls who go to my school but who are not in my classes. I got to Saturday and realized that I made it through my first week in Cape Town. It was so nice to have friends and an amazing exchange family that has been really supportive and have offered for us to do touristy things. I can’t wait to see what the rest of my exchange looks like