You should leave. Just hop-scotch from one country to the next.
Some 14 months ago, I was in the coastal South African city of Durban running errands for one of my best friends who was getting married, and for whom I would serve as master of ceremony for the occasion. It was an Indian wedding, and my goodness was it beautiful (and delicious). The ceremonious nature of the wedding was, of itself, magical. The bride to be, my very good friend Linina, asked me to adorn her skin with henna. She was transformed into a vision of bridal opulence. The seriousness and grandeur of the clothes and the adornments of the venue were spectacular. I felt like a character in an important and lavish affair. Somebody may have said something rude to someone else’s wife and some tears were shed, but what’s a wedding without drama?
I arrived back home to find my phone blown up with missed calls and texts from the guy I had been seeing – call him Chris. Chris was deported to the United States – where he is originally from – while I was being a MVP. What was intended to be a two-week trip to his family in the U.S. was transformed into an indefinite apartness. And I was growing to really like this guy.
I recently had my belongings stolen while in San Francisco. The perpetrators broke one of the windows of our rental car, unlocked that defenseless automobile from the inside, then made away with my super-swagging backpack that was in the trunk. They also stole my computer, my wallet with all my foreign bank cards, my Swiss residence card, some extra swag that was in the bag just to keep it fresh on the go and my friend’s computer and a few other expensive things. Yet all those were dwarfed by the bag that was stolen. I mourn that bag and write about it wearily. That camel-colored leather backpack I haggled to the moon and back for when I was in Jaipur with my bae (Chris) shall be sorely missed.
About a month after my friend’s wedding, Chris proposed I visit him in Mozambique where his work was based. I applied for a passport, and a week or so later I was on a one-hour flight from Johannesburg to Maputo.
My favorite city used to be Moscow. The people are beautiful, the music is 17 kinds of lit, the city feels alive, and the exchange rate makes me feel like a baller. I say it used to be, because when I went to New York City I was faced with the harsh realization that New York, New York is the best city on earth. Chris loves that city too. His eyes light up when he talks about it. I like these two cities for the same reasons. I also like Chicago, but I can’t really say why.
I was a stranger in that country, and this was strange to me.
When I arrived in Maputo, Mozambique, for the first time, I knew nothing. Everybody spoke Portuguese, their currency was alien and I didn’t understand the language so I had no way of knowing whether my beers were dirt cheap or outrageously expensive. I was a stranger in that country, and this was strange to me.
It was during that Mozambique trip, when I rationalized my inability to live as “in-the-know” as I do in English-speaking South Africa, that I decided to get out and learn. That was a good year ago. After that great holiday, that kind where you realize that the man who was deported after you had been seeing him for a month is the man you shall stay with, I came back to South Africa and then moved to Russia. After some travel to India, I moved to Switzerland.
I don’t really know where I am right now. I do know that my favorite drive is from Vic Falls International Airport to Victoria Falls in the north of Zimbabwe, my favorite two cities are New York City and Moscow, my favorite beach is in Nassau in the Bahamas, my favorite wine is made and drunk in the Constantia winelands of Cape Town and my favorite street food is made and eaten in Jodhpur in the Rajasthan state of India. I live on cheese and bread in France, pork and beer in Russia, and Mission burritos in the Bay Area. I’ve been to four continents in the last three months, two of which I’m a registered resident in and one I’m a citizen of. You know what’s the gag though? I’m a student. I’m completing a Master’s degree in physics, and I am by no means wealthy. I simply took it personally when I couldn’t understand a whole society after an hour on a plane.
If you want to change the world, you have to appreciate it first.
I came back changed, and wanted more. One year later, I’ve learned Russian and French in Russia and France (and maybe through an app too). I’ve learned to greet people without saying a word, and understand jokes said in a language I had never heard before. I understand the difference between fetishization and interest, thin a line as it may be. I understand more of the world. An unfortunate by-product of all this exposure is that I am more tolerant and understanding of differences, I am more willing to learn, and sometimes I’ll order a Big Mac because that motherfucker tastes the same everywhere.
If you want to change the world, you have to appreciate it first. Sometimes, the best change you can impart onto the world is changing yourself. I’ve changed very much in the last year, and that is because I decided to get out. I left. You should leave, too.