Author’s Note: I wrote this back in July and never got around to finishing or posting it but I wanted to share some of my thoughts as my time in Swaziland is wrapping up.
I get asked this question a lot. Friends will send me messages saying things like, “Oh my god, how’s it going? How’s your trip?” whenever I leave the country and I do the same whenever someone I know sets off somewhere across the globe. For a regular trip of sightseeing and travelling, this question is tough to answer. Do you want me to sum up my trip in one word? Or are you looking for a day-by-day account of what I’ve done? Some people are interested in hearing it all while most are looking for a general summary followed by a quick little story with accompanying photos. “Paris is amazing! It’s like walking in a postcard. I could live off of crepes and macarons.” <- I’m pretty sure I gave that exact response to this question about a year ago during my first visit to Europe. And while I stand by everything in my statement, did I really answer the question?
“How’s your trip?” is even harder to answer when you’re not chasing tourist sites, moving from hostel to hostel or getting lost in a maze of planes, trains and automobiles every other day. When you’re spending three months living at the same place with the same family and working a regular Monday-Friday job, it’s hard to even call it a trip. In fact, I don’t. So far, I’ve settled on synonyms like “adventure” or “experience” but honestly, it just feels like a new life.
There’s the day-to-day monotony of trying to get to work and back on the least reliable public transit system I’ve ever tried to navigate. We spend the majority of our days at work in front of a computer screen. We eat dinner at the same time while watching the same soap opera before relaxing with more computer time in our rooms. We mix things up with meetings at work, trips into town, treats at the café and visits to the public library. But, for the most part, our weeks are fairly routine. Of course, this routine is a far cry from our lives back in Canada but after 6 weeks, it has become the norm.
And I find myself apologizing and trying to make up for that. When people ask me ”how’s your trip?” I often fall back on weekend activities that better fit the definition of “trip”. I don’t want to bore them by recounting the 6 hours I spent researching and putting together a presentation, trip to the post office and the fact that I only waited twenty minutes for a kombi today.
The funny thing is, because my routine here is so vastly different than my life at home, it probably would be an amusing answer to the question. And by retelling my daily experiences, I would certainly be portraying a truer version of my “trip”. Africa is clouded by stereotypes of tribal people, intense heat, starvation and safaris. But everyday I am surrounded by the exact opposite: people dressed much nicer than me who live and work in cities, chilly temperatures that have my Canadian butt reaching for a scarf and jacket, more food on my plate than I know what to do with and nothing wilder than a rooster or dog to take a photo of. That’s not to say that with my limited 6 weeks in one small part of Africa I can dispel all of the stereotypes, but I can witness to a broader understanding of Africa.