Amanda, my colleague and side-kick explorer, recently sent me her first blog post. Thank you, Amanda!
“Francois keeps on nagging me to blog something…and I keep on telling him that I can’t, that I don’t know how to do it.
I think the most difficult part for me is to decide where to begin and what (not) to say. Today on a plane to Johannesburg I read an article in the in-flight magazine on blogging and one of the tips they mentioned was that one should stick to the one thing you really like (now that might just be the problem! Who has only one thing?). I’m not so sure whether I like putting evolving ideas and memories down in back on white, making them permanent, never the less sharing them with the world… But today was a day of finding familiarity in unfamiliar moments, so I though I might as well try one more new thing.
Please forgive me for my blogging-virgin attempt on expressing these experiences that dance (and will stay dancing) around in my mind.
On the 15th of October 2012, exactly a year ago today, I boarded a plane to Barcelona via Istanbul. My itinerary read Barcelona-Madrid-Seville-Granada-Madrid-Rome-Naples-Barcelona. Originally, the plan was to go to Morocco and Spain. But things don’t always go as planned, do they? I also never made it to Seville.
It was my first solo-mission and I was armed with no knowledge or experience on how any metro or underground system works, no accommodation bookings for Italy, no Spanish and only a few (pretty useless) words in Italian that I was taught in music classes (dolce meaning sweet, presto meaning fast, secco meaning dry, tutti meaning everybody).The only two Spanish sentences I had time to practice before I departed, was Uno cappuccino por favor and Uno cerveza por favor. (I was sure these sentences would save my life, and although that first cerveza in Barcelona cost me R100, I will still say they did).
I travelled to the airport along a route I effortlessly and often take to work and to visit friends, past one of my favourite landmarks mounted on my left. I had my last Spur Burger and Black Label, went through the boarding gates and a few hours later stepped out into a world where everything was unfamiliar. I remember sitting in the cafeteria of the Istanbul airport at 5 am, freaked out about how hot it can be that time of day, drinking weird tasting coffee from a funny looking cup, only seeing men in dresses at the tables close to me, wondering where I am allowed to be and how I would know.
A few hours later, I stepped out on Plaza Cataluña in Barcelona, after having followed Spanish signage, making payments in foreign currency, reading pictures and taking (travel guide-educated) guesses, and got lost searching for my backpackers. That was not the only time I got lost. I found myself lost more often than not in the two weeks I travelled Spain and Italy. Some of these ‘losts’ brought me unexpected wonder, others allowed me to be enclosed in the everyday lives of a culture I don’t know.
At times I just walked into unfamiliarity without knowing where I am going – exploring the unknown, energized by the fact that sometimes one can do things only one small (giant) step at a time. I always had a map in my bag. Most of the time this map (and my ability to read it) guided me back to where I started, where places that were unfamiliar, strange, daunting before, became home. Today I had to travel from OR Tambo airport to Sandton via the Gautrain. First time. I then had to meet a driver called Steven at the station (you know those guys with a piece of paper with someone’s name written on it). My name. First time. I noticed something when I walked through the airport, searching for the Gautrain platform: although it was a new experience, it was familiar to me.
Although I have not done it before, I knew how to do it. Because experiences add to who we are. In unfamiliar situations, we have only ourselves. In unknown environments, we can only know ourselves. When you get lost, whether it is on purpose or whether you took an unexpected wrong turn, you are your only safe space. In travel and in life. If you are rooted in who you are, things around you can change, things around you can be unfamiliar or uncertain, or new, or even troublesome. If you know who you are, you will find familiarity wherever you go.
Earlier today I read an article on Facebook on the 20 things every 20-something year old person should be able to do (I must say, not being one of those anymore, I was glad to be able to tick most – not all, but most – of the things mentioned on the list). One of these things is to write a cover letter. You have to be able to explain to another person, a company, a prospective employer who you are beyond qualifications and work experiences and accolades. You have to know your core. You have to be familiar with who you are.
Please don’t get me wrong (and this is why I am wary of putting thoughts onto paper), although I say that we should know ourselves, our core, be familiar with who we are, I do also think that it is an ongoing process of exploration. We are ever evolving, we are shaped by the people, the experiences, and the world around us. We might never get a total, final grasp of who we are. (That would be quite boring, wont’ it?) But I want to urge you to try. To get lost. To take chances. Even to stroll away from who you think you are. To be surprised. And to find your way back.”
Since October 2009, Amanda has been a practicing Educational Psychologist with a great interest in, and passion for career development and guidance. After matriculating at Table View High School and completing a Bachelors degree in Science and an Honours degree in Psychology at Stellenbosch University, she continued to explore her interest in Psychology by enrolling in a Masters programme within this field of study. This programme gave her the opportunity to conduct her first research project focusing on career development within a Stellenbosch farming community. She was then introduced to the field of Educational Psychology, which she pursued by completing a Post Graduate Certificate in Education at UNISA, and after that, completing a Masters degree in Educational Psychology, again at Stellenbosch University.
Within the research project for her Masters dissertation, she investigated the meaning that Grade 12 learners attach to the factors that influence their initial career decision.
Amanda is currently involved at the Centre for Prospective Students, Stellenbosch University where career – and subject choice assessments and guidance are conducted with Gr 9, 11 and 12 learners. She is managing the Career Development Programme of the The Make a Difference Foundation, an educational charity supporting academically strong, but financially challenged learners and students, while starting to set up her own practice, focusing on career-related workshops and assessments. In 2012 she co-started our organisation known as An Unravelling Exploration.