“Abroad, we are not ourselves; and as the normal and the novel are transposed, the very things we might shun at home are touched with the glamour of the exotic.”
Pico Iyer, ‘Video Night in Kathmandu’
The glamour of being abroad is that you can paint yourself anew because you are a stranger here and will be gone without a trace in a few weeks. With that attitude, everything takes on a deeper significance when you are in a new place—suddenly, your cup of black tea is an exotic brew brimming in your chipped, foreign backpacker’s mug. Every conversation with a bunkmate or someone random is like watching a short BBC documentary, a glimpse into a life so wildly different from your own: there is Kate, who is from Seattle, but graduated from school in Kenya, and now doing PhD research on access to constitutional rights; there are Adeline and Maeva, the young French-speaking girls from Reunion Island interning at the local school even though they hate kids; there is Sean, who is a chef from Durban trying to open a restaurant in Capetown (he frequently wanders the hostel sans some article of clothing be it a shirt to work on his tan, or pants because he can); and there is the young reception guy who recently interviewed for a job in Dubai with Emirates, where he will oversee the flight attendants.
Their lives seem so unique. Talking to them is like unlocking a small storybook, chapters rich with different perspectives and struggles. I had a wonderful time in South Africa—from riding the metrorail (aka metrosnail) to an ostrich, from diving into my research to swimming with sharks, and from touring Apartheid museums to stepping foot into the Constitutional Court, all my experiences taught me something. I truly appreciated the opportunity to be in such an amazing country. Most of all, I am grateful that I will be able to bring a new perspective on a country that everyone associates with violence, danger, and underdevelopment. My pictures and adventures show a land of mountains, oceans, and a very hospitable culture.