Dear Sabby, Far in Body, Close in Spirit

Dear sweet Sabby,

Happy boxing day! I thought of you yesterday on Christmas; saw a quick update on Facebook that you’d been to the movies and feasted on Chinese vegan noms (I have yet to taste that eggplant dish from Shandong that you rave about!); hope you enjoyed yourself, and are feeling the love that so many have for you.

I think of you also today, as I’m en route to the second leg of my journey: from Johannesburg to Capetown, South Africa. What I assumed would be a small domestic flight is actually a Boeing 737 filled with passengers, and more than 1500km. This country is bigger than I realized!

I know you are preparing to journey to a land you’ve never been to before, and I want to take a moment to salute you for your courage. It is really brave to travel far from home, Sabby, as you’ve told me on numerous occasions before. It takes a lot of wherewithall to hop on a plane, with so many unknowns ahead, and surrender to the unpredictable. You’ve asked me before how I conjure the guts to do a trip like the one I’m on, and to be honest, I can’t say I always surrender, flat-out. (I’m a little too controlling for that…) So I think trust is a better word for what I do.

And that doesn’t mean “trusting that everything will work out the way I want it to.” Sometimes, it’s exactly the opposite; it’s about trusting that I’ll be okay, even if all goes to shit. Even if I wake feeling like hell, with a pounding headache and incredible lethargy, and feel like I’m dragging myself through the motions of otherwise utterly beautiful days. How tough it is to be surrounded by amazing things to experience, and brilliant company to meet, and feel only partially present and able to enjoy due to my physical body protesting (unfortunately, an encapsulation of my past two days)! And still, am I glad I’m here? Yes. Absolutely.

Sometimes, it’s about waking to a day with certain expectations, and having them completely dashed. Going to sleep disappointed, rather than content. Feeling a lack of social or emotional or spiritual fulfillment, or that I’m missing simple pleasures of my home life. Wishing I could get a hug from a friend, or sleep in my own bed, or take a bath when my body is aching (there’s a drought in Capetown, so water is essentially rationed–meaning they’ve taken all the stoppers out of the bathtubs, and asked both locals and travelers to save their shower water to wash dishes and flush the toilet), or cool the heck down when I seem to be in a state of perpetual sweat (I’ll be on safari soon, where temperatures will be highs in the 100s and lows in the 80s, and–gulp–no AC, no way). And once agaim, am I glad I’m here? Yes. Absolutely.

Sabby, there are so many adventures to be had in this world. I’ve had to stop several times in my tracks, over the past few days, and say out loud to no one in particular: “I’m in Africa! This is real!” I had an opportunity presented to me, as you did, and I decided to trust that I’d be able to handle even the most challenging of the situations. That’s an important reframe for me; rather than saying I’m “relinquishing control,” it’s instead about trusting myself. That I’m resilient, and when I’m struggling, that I’ll be able to get through it.

And sweet Sabby, you are traveling to the only other place in the world I’ve traveled where the air feels as silky-soft as it does here. I can’t wait for you to get off the plane and experience it for yourself. I hope you feel as welcomed by the animal spirits and volcano goddesses of Hawaii as I have by the motherland Africa.

I want to quickly share a few things from this culture that have been startling. As in Hawaii, English is the primary language, but there are a few words and terms that are different. Here, it’s “Happy Christmas”–no “Merry” spoken by any of the 30 guests in attendance for our lunch feast yesterday. Swim suits are “swim costumes,” or simply “cozzies” (we learned this also yesterday, as we dunked in the backyard pool between courses of our midday meal and a raucous white elephant exchange. An afternoon swim was a Christmas tradition for many of the guests in attendance). Traffic lights are “robots” (say whaaat?). Napkins are “serviettes” (this one makes a little more sense). AC is “Air Con.” There are British words like “whilst” that have crept in to everyday use. And there are a good number of words from the Afrikaans language that are in common vernacular (ahem, excuse me, the locals here say “vernac,”) that I haven’t even begun to learn.

So yes, there is so much that is different. And, there have been many moments that are recognizable. Though our lunch table yesterday was filled with traditional South African/European dishes, there were several dishes you would have adored: a sumptuous mango-avocado salad, cinnamon-spiced lentils, homemade bread with olive oil and dukkah (that irresistible Northern Africa spice/seed/nut blend–in this one, I tasted cumin, coriander, and pistachio most strongly), fabulous sweet-sour pickles, and even a full tofu turkey! I’ve been eating a beautiful locally-made granola every morning, full of coconut and flax with a hint of maple syrup, in a delicious organic soymilk. And the salads here, they are unlike any other I’ve experienced! We’ve had several “house salads” loaded with some combination of quinoa, chickpeas, spicy greens and herbs, sprouted lentils, red and green onions, olives, roasted cauliflower “croutons,” avocado, pecans…and more! Suffice to say, I think of you; wish I was here to stick a spoonfull in your mouth, say “hey love, taste this.”

My dear foodie soul sister, I can’t wait to hear what deliciousness you experience on your travels. And I speak of so much more than food itself. I know your time with be rich with stimulation, pleasurable and challenging alike. I am so happy that both you and I are taking the leap, stretching ourselves, being open to expanding our world view and our depth and scope and breadth of understanding cultures, people, perspectives. Entering the unknown. Not necessarily trusting it. But trusting ourselves, to make our way through.

I love you!

PS Today’s cover photo is a picture of the idyllic backyard of the Airbnb we stayed in for the past several days in Joburg. A clear example of how, in some ways, this land is so different–but blink real fast, and you might mistake this scene for a lush backyard in Portland. The feeling in the air is unrecognizable, the plant life is exotic–even the varietals of grass are different! And yet, those natural hues, browns and greens and of shrubs and trees and earth, are all the same.

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