A Message for my Fellow International Interns

June 5, 2013 2:43pm

There is this pattern that happen cyclically throughout all of our lives. Its a certain style of battles and defeats, hills and valleys, ups and downs. For most of us it’ll come at expected times with familiar enough triggers. When you travel however, particularly within a lengthy defined time frame, those slow moving slops seem to come at you at lightning speed–often times resembling cliffs with fire pits below, or scary looking green anamorphs who only eat frightened humans.  It can come in the form of loneliness, fear,  homesickness and many other i-miss-my-bed illnesses. Fortunately for me I no longer suffer from home sickness, one of the most fleeting and deadly of inflictions.  Luckily enough, though Im always missing my mom, aunts and friends,  my family and i communicate frequent enough when im away that I just about graze above the home sickness piece. what i do get, however, is what I think ill call ‘control sickness’. Now this is not to say I am some sort of insane control freak, not at all. In fact when you are traveling and in a place where you are foreign to your environment and your environment is foreign to you, I would readily dub ‘control’ as a sense of ‘safety’ or ‘security’. This is what I miss and im holding on to my wits to figuring it out daily, where even the smallest of tasks requires a process of give, take and well over-thought negotiation.  Let me give you a practical example of what i mean. June to August is winter here in South Africa and it gets very cold. COLD. There is no indoor heating and electricity is  too expensive to be using a portable heater all the time. Today, at my first day at work i was freezing. I knew there was nothing i could do about it so i stuck in out by exiting the building during my breaks to get some more sunlight on me. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but when you know there is no where you can go that will bring you warmth, you can start to long for home or you can choose to make problem solving your best friend. I did/do both. lol Im going into town later today to purchase an internet stick with MTN so I can do my work outside when it is sunny to avoid being freezing cold in the office. Which seems like the only solution I can put my hands on and Im down for it! Here is a list of things I cant control here in South Africa, inclusive of things we (interns) can find difficult in travel situations in general. Ive paired them with some ideas of how I/we can cope in these gloriously challenging situations.

1. Food. I am a picky eater (not really, but when someone else is cooking for me I kinda am) plus I’m vegetarian, I’m afraid of blended solutions i didn’t make ie soup, thick drinks etc, i don’t drink white liquids, I’m not a fan of foods that have patterns on them, I don’t like thick cheese, I don’t do condiments or sauces and id rather starve than eat most of whats listed above. Hm.. i guess when its put like that, I do seem a lil picky huh. No fear fellow pickies! I have a solution: Ask your host family if you can go along grocery shopping, point out the things you like to eat and check out prices. For me Im a veggies, fruit and rice alternative kinda lad. I have to realize that often times vegetables and fruits can be some of the more expensive items to buy. If you find this is the case in the country you’re in, pitch in or find an alternative you’ll be cool with. Most importantly be honest with whom ever is preparing your meals or simply prepare them yourself!

2. Transportation. The community of St. Helenas Bay, where I live is removed from the nearest town and has no major stores (well there is one but it is hella expensive). I cant just run down the road on my own if I am missing anything. In fact, I’ve had to be driven just about everywhere Ive gone so far, because of the distance. In this case Im dependent on someone else in order to leave, explore or shop. Solution: If you are dependent on other folks for rides, try to arrange convenient trips with them and offer to help with gas. If someone is going somewhere you’ve never been before, ask to go along so you can explore somewhere new.

3.warmth. Yes so its winter and no, I haven’t packed the right clothing for this type of cold. This morning the temperature dropped to 4 degrees o__O. ughhhhhhhh. Solution: Do as locals do. My host momma noticed my shivering and heard me whimpering from the depths of my fetal position and offered me to sleep with a hot water bag. Its like having a perfectly still puppy (or animal of your fancy) wrapped around your ankles as you sleep. In addition, Im also about to decide if I ought to purchase a thicker jacket because Ive been wearing 3 weeks worth of clothing every single day.

4.privacy. This is something i don’t really have an issue with… Actually if there are young kids in the home who looove to be in your room then your room can quickly become communal. Solution: lock them in a closet…jusssstt kidding. I would trick them into thinking someone else is way more fun than you, that seems to work every time.

righto. I hope you feel better already knowing that there are creative solutions to these common host-family, foreign country, new experience dilemmas. Ive pretty much had to deal with all of these issues, I’m trying to hold it down, but it can be tough when you’re trying to remain culturally sensitive and respectable while still meeting your own needs. The important thing to remember is no matter how new the experience or situation is, you always have some control somewhere, and you can always find something that is familiar, even if its seemingly insignificant.

❤ the internship whisperer

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One thought on “A Message for my Fellow International Interns

  1. Hey Anique!

    Enjoyed reading the post. Staying in Jo’burg I also share you’re pain about the weather! It is just as cold up here. How is the landscape though? I hear Cape has beautiful views.

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