Eight weeks ago, my fellow RA’s and I were at the High Africa training camp getting to know each other, learning how to work as a team, and getting drilled on the various responsibilities that we would face over the coming year. It was a time of bliss – there were no academic assignments to slog through, no parents to be accountable too, nothing. It was like being four years again. If four years get to build rafts, abseil, kayak and climb 50m high obstacle courses. It was a memorable time of my life. If I could go back, I would do it all again.
Seven weeks ago, the same team of RA’s stood at the Cape Town International Airport’s arrival suite and waited for the summer crop of CIEE students. We did not know what to expect, we did not know their names, and we did not know what the heck they thought about Africa. Where they came from was a mystery to us, what they hoped to achieve here was even cloudier. They were coming. Five minutes before the first student walked through the terminal gates, I had a mental breakdown. ‘I am not ready for this” the small voice in my head said. Ten minutes later, we were exchanging handshakes, names, sharing jokes. It was a memorable time of my life. If I could go back, you bet I would do it all again.
Six weeks ago, we moved into our houses. For most of the students, living in digs (SA term for apartment or house) was a novel experience for them, some were anxious, some were nervous. Sharing rooms, sorting out cooking schedules, grocery shopping, academic registration getting to grips with Cape Town life was in full swing – some hit the ground running, some stumbled. All of them found their stride in the end. As RA’s we prepared for the worst, we slept little, always ready for that 02h00 phone call that started something like “Hi, Rémy. I’m lost…I don’t know where I am…”. It was an amusing time. If I could go back and do it all again, I would.
About five weeks ago, UCT started doing its thing – schoolwork came flying thick and fast. Everyone scrambled and hit the decks. The RA’s, all of whom are senior students knuckled down and got to the business of hitting the books and looking after a house at the same time – it was challenging, but we made it through. The students were doing their thing as well, each one found a niche, they all found something they liked doing. Cape Town is that kind of place. Watching some of them adjust was entertaining. There is nothing as funny as looking at an exchange student trying to jump a Jammie queue. (Come here and you will see what I mean). The academic phase was hard – it was challenging. If I could do it all again, I would. But better.
Four weeks ago, things took turns between heating up and cooling down. It was an assignment today a party tomorrow. Parents visited the students – I met some interesting characters. The students themselves were independent, no supervision needed. They had their own lives, they knew all of the Cape Town slang, and they made their own friends. It was like watching a kid toddle up onto their feet for the first time. Lord knows there were a few RA’s who felt the fear of being relevant once students started venturing off by themselves. It was misplaced though; you cannot keep such cool people to yourself. You have to share. I would definitely go back to four weeks ago.
Three weeks ago…two weeks ago…today. Crap! Already halfway through the term.
One week from now…
Three weeks…Four weeks…Five weeks…Six…
Seven weeks from today, my fellow RA’s and I will be standing at Cape Town International Airport’s departure lobby, making sure no one has forgotten passports, luggage or any other important luggage. Someone will forget their towel. Something is always forgotten. I don’t think I will cry – awesome people don’t cry. Their eyes just condense with excess awesomeness. The voice on the PA will announce the boarding of a flight, someone will disappear down the tunnel. A plane will take off.
I assure you that at that point, the RA’s and I will all be thinking of that first day, eight weeks ago. And would we do it all again? Damn right.
How time flies.
University of Cape Town: Postgrad LLB (Law)