“How are you? Passport please,” a South African woman said to me in a very thick accent. So thick I could not understand clearly. I felt bad for leaning in close and slowly asking three times, “Could you say that again?” The South African woman soon got annoyed with my ignorance and American accent. Took my passport stamped it with the markings and with a stern voice said, “You can proceed through customs.” As I walked through pulling my carry-on, I was still trying to figure out what she said to me. I realized I was in a whole new place, with much to learn.
Landing in Johannesburg was a huge adventure - walking through, seeing such diversity and the amount of people. Johannesburg was my first stop and my next flight connected to Cape Town (the place I am living). I felt nervous, excited, weird, and unalike all at the same time because this was my first time traveling without a group of people. As I passed customs, I headed over to luggage to pick up my two huge suitcases. (I never knew how to pack for 5 months, so I basically brought everything. Bad, I know.) I did the usual stand around the conveyer belt thing and waited to spot my green taped suitcases.
My first one came fast…. the second one I realized was not coming when all the other people who were waiting disappeared. I was freaking out in my head, thinking my suitcase is lost! How could someone lose a huge suitcase! I was told by many people to never cry or look lost in an airport (I guess to avoid strangers talking to you), so I did my best to think positive. As I headed over to the huge blue and gold sign LOST LUGGAGE. It seemed to make me sad all over because I never thought it would happen to me. The lost luggage personnel explained to me that my luggage never arrived to Johannesburg (my heart literally dropped). He then stated that it would take about 3 to 17 days for it to be processed and/or delivered. Like most, I asked the question I knew he could never answer, “So what am I supposed to do now?” In a smug rude way he said, “Wait.”
I was very emotional during those 27 days that I had to wait to get my belongings. It was like I was upset because I only could think about all the things I had missing and how I had to do without. Yet, at the same time I was thinking, I made it to South Africa safe and sound. Plus I was in South Africa!!! It was stressful to not let that bring down my attitude and how I viewed South Africa. I was upset that I had to wait 27 whole days to get my luggage that I had to pay extra because it was overweight! Yet, the best thing I learned from this experience was that everything is a learning lesson. On the 27th day I actually thought I was never getting my things- I gave up on trying to get them back. I was just going to start over and get new things. However, that day I actually printed out the form to claim my lost items and when I came home my RA told me my luggage was found! So I understood maybe sometimes we have to truly let go to understand and receive gains and lessons. I wish I had someone to tell me that.