Olivia Shaw
Olivia Shaw
South Africa, 2021
My name is Olivia Shaw and on January 13, 2021, I will be hopping on a plane to Cape Town, South Africa to begin work in Woodstock at a group home for immigrant and refugee children. I will be living in Cape Town for about six months and am so excited to see how my work will develop in my time there! Read More About Olivia →

Twenty Four

16 January 2021


The First Twenty-Four

It has officially been twenty-four hours since the arrival to my new home in Cape Town. There is a lot I could say about my experience so far- but first and most pertinently- I managed to finally sleep a full night’s worth of sleep. I’ve always found that life in general is far less overwhelming when your physical needs are met, i.e. sleep, food, hydration, and a good hot shower. In the past twenty-four hours, I’ve managed to do all of these things, and in addition: grocery shop, purchase a new SIM card (but not activate it, because this was too big a task for the first twenty-four hours), and find a coffee shop with an amazing coffee and breakfast special.

The Trek

The view landing in Munich. Fun fact: I LOVE snow!

I spent about three days traveling from Nashville to Cape Town. The travel went something like this: I flew from Nashville to Chicago, waited a small bit, then flew from Chicago to Munich (and slept on the plane as I jumped forward seven hours). Upon arrival, I became very familiar with the Munich airport as I was there for about eleven hours (I couldn’t leave the airport due to Covid-19 safety precautions). From there, I flew another eleven hours, (gained another hour) and landed in the very sunny, very warm, and very beautiful city of Cape Town, which I would learn to now call home!

My program coordinator was waiting at the airport upon arriving in Cape Town, and she so kindly purchased a few groceries to last me through the night. In this bag she gifted me were basics, such as milk and juice, as well as a South African biscuit that is frequently enjoyed with tea. To help with the adjustment, she included a package of Oreos in the bag, which was nothing but kind and considerate.

My view driving form the airport to my home. Now I live so close to these mountains (including Table Mountain) and get to see them everyday!


Something that I have found to be very grounding while acclimating to all of the newness around me, has been my body and its needs. Just as it would at home, my body reminds me it’s hungry and that I need to nourish it every so often. My basic bodily functions and the tasks that I need to do in order to maintain my body’s homeostasis has been a way that I’ve managed to keep myself mindful of my environment and present to where I am.

I have, for the most part (so far), been able to remain present with myself in my new surroundings, but also remind myself that I am still me, just in a new place. It is so odd to me that the normalcy of the habitual tasks of bodily maintenance that I created for myself have oddly been the thing that grounds me, keeps me present, and also takes me home- all at the same time. I don’t know why there is something so comforting about mundane, autopilot tasks we create for ourselves- perhaps it’s how familiar and second nature they are.

Culture Snapshot

In a short period of time, I’ve learned that 8:00 AM is apparently early, that business open late and close early, and that when you buy breakfast, you don’t pay up front, because it’s assumed you’ll stay for lengths of time and enjoy your company, and that businesses will close for load shedding, and they don’t have to tell you. I’ve learned that productivity that simply exists to fill a void of spare time is a failure to commit to conservation of energy- put simply, it’s a waste of time. Already, I’ve tasted and seen a bit of true fellowship, community, and camaraderie.  

Twenty-Four Part Two

A (masked) selfie with my house keys- There is a gate key, house key, and room key!

So after a long day of tasks completed, objectives tackled- with moderate success; I walked to the kitchen, exhausted, and ate a single Oreo- not because I like them, but to experience a small piece of home and somehow connect to a different world that I still felt both completely a part of and simultaneously removed from.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll try the South African biscuit that sat next to the Oreos with some Rooibos tea; but for that night, I ate the Oreo and began to write about the day I had experienced before starting something in the slight resemblance of a bed time routine- because even adults need those. 

Maybe in the next twenty-four hours I’ll manage to properly set up my phone, but for now, I will take things step by step and accept that some things, things like this, take time. I will continue to unpack my belongings, learn more about my housemates, and walk places without a GPS, and begin to settle into Cape Town and breathe deeper.


In your corner,


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