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South Africa: Home, Where I Belong.

I felt the kind of connection to South Africa no one should feel when they are away from home. But home is where the heart is. And now my heart belongs to South Africa. My hair was blowing in the wind as I said out loud, “I could live here.” I was on a cliff staring at the waves crashing on rocks at The Cape of Good Hope. It was shortly after I watched baboons jumped on tables. Waiters and waitresses working hard to keep them off the roof and off our tables. We had an ocean view. I stared at the horizon and I wondered if somewhere out there the ocean did touch the sky. I barely noticed the birds on our table as I daydreamed about the horizon and my place in this massive ultra-verse.

I was literally on the same height as clouds on top of Table Mountain. I was scared of the height while riding in the turntable lift to the top, but my fears drifted as I saw the clouds gathered around me. It felt like I had gone home to heaven. And a sense of divinity flushed my fears away.

But how could this place feel like home. I have never been here before. Leaving Jamaica and moving to America had left me nostalgic; however, 24 years later even I knew that my nostalgia was misguided. Longing for a Jamaica I no longer knew. Unintentionally unrecognizable, the life I knew was over. But America always felt weird. Like I didn’t belong. Not quite black, definitely not white. In between, feeling lonely and homeless. I had already moved 10 times in 11 years. Not finding peace in any dwelling. I almost felt like a drifter until my feet touched South Africa.

It was inexplicable. The last leg of my tour was spent sitting with my knees clutched against my chest staring at the Indian Ocean on a tiny resort in Thonga. The transport literally went down a hill so my head was tilted and looking directly at my feet. I had never seen anyone used the AWD feature before and my stomach felt tight as I almost begged to jump out of the Jeep and do a butt slide down the vertical road. As I sat on that beach and stared at the Dolphins playing in the Indian Ocean, I wondered about the life I had already lived. It was living, or so I had thought. But seeing this and seeing a whole new world made me realized that traveling and exploring the rest of the world is God’s gift to mankind and anyone who doesn’t take advantage of this gift is literally committing blasphemy. A bit extreme? Maybe.

Eight days earlier, I arrived in Camps Bay after flying from Johannesburg into Cape Town. The only thing that saddened me as we transported to our hotel was the effects of apartheid. The discrepancy was real and I had to remind myself I was vacationing. No more crying.

I said I wouldn’t cry at Robben Island, but was lying to myself. The water transport left Cape Town smaller and smaller as we head there. And as the tour guide told the disturbing tale of Mandela’s imprisonment, tears flowed down my face in a way I had never cried before. To see the prison, he was held in and shook the hand of the tour guide who was there the same time as he was, felt moving. But I wanted to leave as soon as I arrived. While the stories made me cringe. It was the stench of injustice that made me sick. The place smelled old and of death and inequality. I was not prepared emotionally. I jumped back in line as soon as we got back to the edge of the island for the boat ride back into Cape Town.

The next day I saw penguins. I didn’t even know there were penguins in South Africa. Sea lions stink. But the view from the boat was desirable. We shopped at Louis Vuitton and drank Champaign until we spent more and more money because the Rand was 13-1 USD. We ate delectable steak at the Pot Luck Club and Gallery in Woodstock as we stared at the night view of Cape Town’s bright city lights. We ate art on a plate and in a can at La Colombe on the top of a mountain. And we toured a diamond factory and watched the tedious process of making a diamond jewel. We ate lunch at Chefs Warehouse & Canteen and had delicious veal, pork belly and pea risotto tapas!

Desserts were delectable! Excellent service. Warm owners and I fell in love with Bailey, the chocolate lab who sat in the shop portion of the restaurant. I had fresh fish from Codfather. It didn’t help that our server was a looker. Later, he asked if we could hike Table Mountain together. I couldn’t believe the taste of that fish dish. It was amazing. Perhaps this is why it felt like home. South Africa had inklings of Jamaica.

We went to an ostrich farm and fed the ostrich and I bought an overpriced ostrich leather clutch. I ate Kudu, springbok, ostrich and langoustine in South Africa. I could live here.

Stellenbosch was beautiful. An Eden so breathtaking I remember walking through feeling I had come home. But wine tastings and food in Franshoek came over me with a new peace. We arrived late afternoon at our bed and breakfast. I hugged our driver Nazir goodbye. Best personal tour guide ever. I stayed in one day and did work. I thought to myself, what if I could live here and work from home. I would be content as long as I can travel and explore and still feel the peace I felt in those moments. Not vacation peace, but living there peace.

We flew to Durban so we could head to the safari at Thanda in Kwazu Natal. As we drove through there were sugar cane farms that brought back memories of my dad’s farm in Jamaica. We stopped and I gave a school boy 10 Rands for FREE sugar cane. One of the safari workers peeled and sectioned the cane and I ate sweet sugar cane as I reminisced about life in Jamaica with my best friend.

Our first safari tour showed me a pack of lions. Too close for comfort in a topless Land Rover.

I watched as lion cubs ate a fresh kill. The lioness in the pack had killed a Kudu. Ripped its neck apart. I listened to their strong teeth crunch into the antelope’s bones and I cringed at the lifeless body.

I named several giraffes. They were easy to spot with height within the tallest of trees. They often grazed near zebras.Seeing these animals up close was amazing. I saw a rhino protect its young and a baby elephant ran to the land rover to check it out. He poked his head in and looked me in the eyes not long before running back to the herd. The next day I fed a male elephant. I paused to take a photo and he slapped my back with its trunk. Feed me I think it was trying to say. I chuckled and continued its feeding after my body had rocked forward with the shove.

I watched as cheetahs start their 18-hour nap after a feeding. Not sure what they ate but I’m sure it had parents.

Later at the club house I got asked “how are you able to afford this?” A white guy was there on a company event. It was a premium safari. Glamping instead of camping.

“Why, because I’m black,”

“No because you look so young. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“Then don’t say offensive shit.”

“Could I still have your number.”

“No. Not if that’s your opener.”

I did meet another. Smooth chocolate skin, beautiful white smile and arms fit to tackle a tiger. Our last night together we drank Drambui and chatted at the club house near the animal lookout. We spotted a giraffe and he pulled me off the ground for a closer view. He pulled me close and stole a kiss on the lips. I pulled away and then thought WTF. Why not. I moved closer and gave him a proper kiss. I pulled away again. It was too intense. Unexpected and unfamiliar territory for me. Now what? “Would you give up everything and move to America?”

“I don’t know, I would have to think about it. Would you prefer to be number one? 2nd wives can be bumped to number one you know. Would that make you stay?”

“No. I would prefer to be the only one.”

“I understand. It’s your culture.”

He could have had as many wives as he could afford cows. 11 cows to be exact. It’s what you would have to give the woman’s family. With me he didn’t need cows. But it didn’t matter. It was just a stolen and forbidden kiss.

My final night in South Africa, I was torn apart because I was leaving. I missed good WIFI, but this journey was incredible. I cannot explain how amazing it was. I have no words. Even the lizards couldn’t ruin it. I’m sure I will be back before I know it. This is one country I cannot remove from the bucket list. I gotta keep coming back. Parts of South Africa seemed like something from my dreams or someplace that I had seen before. Only I had never been to South Africa. So why would a stranger, in a strange place, think it feels familiar?

I remember while in SAM (South African Market), I noticed a piece of art that I believe to be a sign, it had writings that said “It’s not the home I love but the life that is lived there.”

South Africa felt like home. Perhaps this is where I belong. Maybe I was living in the wrong space. It is possible to wake up in your own country, your own city and your own home – with all the things that seemed familiar and the only thing you know – yet you feel a missing piece, or a hole that is inexplicable until you go somewhere else and realize, “this is where I belong. This is the filler for my hole.” South Africa made me feel full. My emptiness disappeared. And I knew that it was the home where I belonged. The home I just never knew.