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It started with possessions in a duffle bag in the kick shuffle airport dance and a pocket full of foreign currency. It began in a place where beer is sometimes cheaper than water, and always a smarter decision. Hiking trails begin as hills and mountains, intimidating the cityscape. Local beer makes beer taste better even if you think it isn’t possible. There are vineyards spreading as far as you can see with sunset ripened fields of grapes. Its history grounds you, roots you into the timestamp of yesterday and today.

Before getting to South Africa I started getting acquainted to the country with books like South Africa for dummies (kind of like looking up a blind date’s Facebook before the date). The first pages of these books were inevitably about the country’s history, which right away gave me a sense of how vital South Africa’s narrative line was to understanding the whole of the country. The country is vast and culturally mixed, but its national identity is strong. It’s music and rhythms, plates of food you can’t pronounce, and picturesque landscapes your imagination couldn’t paint. It’s a place where elephants sing and I learned that penguins are stinky almost more than they are cute. South Africa confronted me with a whole new perspective on the world and a new context for myself.

Beyond the magnificent landscapes, rich history, and rhythmic culture, South Africa showed me the true essence of happiness. The people I met and my new friends showed me what it was like to actively pursue happiness. They were from all different parts of South Africa, different directions and different townships. Each person has a deep understanding and complicated view of the world. Their stories of struggle and motivation narrate their time at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town. They defy these actualities by soaking in the happiness that spills over their “glass half full” approach to life. My South African friends’ optimism is blinding in the face of adversity. These stories of strength allowed me to become familiar with a new kind of happiness. My new friends have inherently and unconsciously chosen to be happy. Their happiness belongs to them because it comes from within.

They know happiness and taught me a thing or two.

South Africa is my #happyplace.


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