Mountains don’t get as much glory as the sea

Mountains don’t get as much glory as the sea.
Yet, you are sturdy and resolved
Not wavering and uncertain like the waters.
Your presence is always felt; your shadows calm me in its imposition.
Not like the sea, demanding respect and instilling fear.

Sometimes I’m frightened by how high I have to climb,
It is more comfortable floating on the surface,
But once on top of you, I am only reminded of how far I’ve come.
Things are lighter up there.
The sea can only push me down into its dark pressures,
Crushing my lungs.

I will never drown in your being;
I may fall, but even then I’ll be at your feet.
Your tantrums are infrequent,
Unlike the constant ebbs and flows of the sea,
Even in the quiet of the night.

You may not cradle me like the waters;
You may not be malleable enough to slip through fingers;
You may not wash over me;
But you are always there when I need you.

Mountains don’t get as much glory as the sea.

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To the man in the blue blanket

If it were any other day I would not have paid attention to you.
At best, you would have been a blip out the corner of my eye.
But today was different.

Standing on that street ledge you demanded no attention,
Your action was not laudable, it was anticipated.
And yet, it was an action unfulfilled.

Confusion holds me – it could have been done
You gave no reason for its incompletion,
It wasn’t your intention.

For four hours I stared at you
Unmoving in your position
We turned cold for the same reason, you more lasting.

In life you would have been forgettable
In death you became a spectacle.

Static History: Statues, Symbolism, and Race

This year I joined the University of Cape Town’s Black Law Student Forum (BLSF) as a member of the executive because I knew many students who felt disgruntled about their experiences within the faculty. I did not join the team with utopian dreams of solving all the issues and turning the law faculty into Gilberto Freye’s “racial democracy”. I joined because I thought it senseless that students felt the way they did yet not much was done in terms of collective action.

This is not the post on why I joined the BLSF nor why I believe it still necessary to have organizations such as the BLSF within the faculty. However, in light of recent events surrounding the Rhodes statue, and the greater conversation about race and symbolism, (if you are unaware of the situation read more here) members of the BLSF executive were asked to give our thoughts on the statue. Although the article posted by the organization does in gist represent my views, (read the statement here), I thought to share my original piece with you to better express MY opinion…

Each morning I walk from UCT’s north stop to Kramer, I tend to look up at Jameson Hall beautifully contrasted by the overpowering mountain. I occasionally see Fuller’s bust encompassed in the sandstone, and the view from where Cecil John Rhodes sits is enviable. I do not know who the Kramers, Jameson nor Fuller are, but I assume they have played an integral part in the formation and sustenance of the University of Cape Town; an institution which prides itself on its legacy and the calibre of students, researchers, and faculty it produces. However, I am very aware of Cecil John Rhodes.

From a young age, I was taught of South Africa’s history through a particular prism, and Rhodes was a prominent name in textbooks and tests. Ingrained in my memory is this mining titan who would wish to build a railroad from Cape to Cairo.  His story is not as novel as my textbooks made him seem to be. As I was taught to wonder at this man’s accomplishments, I was never told that he would not regard me, Black and female, as competent nor as worthy of achieving the dreams he was meant to inspire in me. It is this tainted reality of who Rhodes was which I believe the reason why many UCT students are calling for the removal of his statue.

The power of imagery is often understated; it is a conversation between the curator and the audience –  a story, message or feeling wished to be told. I do not wish for Rhodes’ story to be erased from the history of UCT, controversy aside, he played an important part in why the university is situated where it is among other financial assistance which he provided and continues to provide till this day.  However, it is the celebration of Rhodes through a statue that needs reconsideration. I am conflicted in the sense that I understand the outrage over the statue; however I do not know where this will stop? Is this a call to rethink all names and imagery at the University? Will I walk to a building no longer named Kramer, see a hall not named Jameson, or Fuller’s bust?

The problem is greater than the symbols at UCT. The removal of Rhodes from campus will unfortunately not erase the greater sense of silence on issues of racial representation at the university. Whereas I believe the conversation, and call to remove the statue is a starting point, there are deeper issues which need to be spoken on, not in place of, but in conjunction with symbolism at UCT. With that said, I support the student’s call to remove the Rhodes statue, and equally urge all students to engage in conversations and actions on broader transformational goals.

Relebohile Phoofolo

And my fellow countrymen, we are poor

“There’s one big difference between the poor and the rich”…
“No — the big difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich are blithe. They believe nothing can ever really be so bad… Their lives are the same for generations. There is no social upheaval that will really affect them. If you’re comfortably middle class, what’s the worst a government policy could do? Ever? Tax you at 90 percent and leave your bins un emptied on the pavement. But you and everyone you know will continue to drink wine — but maybe cheaper — go on holiday — but somewhere nearer — and pay off your mortgage —although maybe later.
Consider, now, the poor. What’s the worst a government policy can do to them?  It can cancel their operation, with no recourse to private care. It can run down their school— with no escape route to prep. It can have you out of your house and in a B&B by the end of the year. When the middle classes get passionate about politics, they’re arguing about their treats — their tax breaks and their investments. When the poor get passionate about politics, they’re fighting for their lives.” – Caitlin Moran vis John Kite in ‘How to Build a Girl’

Here is to wishing for only one life crisis a lifetime

Yesterday I completed my first term of law school, and I wish I could say I did so unscathed. The past six weeks felt like I was competing in a mini triathlon, completing one gruesome task after another. I have had to motivate myself to do my readings, papers, go to class, and study; but I never doubted if law was what I wanted to do (some would say that is a good sign). On Friday after my last test of the week, on Comparative Legal History – a class that isn’t as much about the legal histories but a brief introduction to Private law – I was frustrated that I had not answered the question on the oranges; however I was looking forward to socializing with my fellow colleagues who are in this with me for the next three years.

In South Africa you are able to enroll in a law program fresh out of high school, but some universities have introduced, and are trying to encourage students, to complete a bachelor’s degree before entering law school. I do not foresee them phasing out the High School to law school program completely, but I think more students see law as a complementary (or alternative) career path.  I know that my journey to UCT Law was not as clear-cut, but in a Paulo Coelho-Connect the Dots- kind of way, I find myself in Cape Town studying for my LLB letters.

I am currently enrolled in the law program at the University of Cape Town as a “postgraduate student” a term that comes with a lot of connotations, expectations, and frustrations. Essentially, this term differentiates me from my high school counterparts in two ways 1. I already have a degree to my name and 2. I am enrolled in a three-year program whereas the high school students are in a four-year program. However, colloquially, this means more. Collectively, I am in a group who is prone to do poorly because of overconfidence from completing a first degree. Equally, I am in a group who has the potential to do the best in the law program for the same reasons. Individually, I am supposedly in a Brain trust, I’m THAT GIRL who asks questions in a lecture (Thank you Mount Holyoke), and I’m the girl with the accent/nice voice (if all else fails, I’m becoming a voice over artist). These superlatives have put more pressure on me – I never wanted to fail, now I feel like I there is no room for failure (not a healthy attitude, I know).

So where are these supposed dots? Well, I’ll quickly run through my 2010-present. If you have read my earlier blog posts, then you know that I have been going through a quarter life crisis, unsure where my life was heading. You know that I went into the working world after I graduated from Mount Holyoke and dabbled in a lot. You may also know that, although at the time I didn’t know it would turn out to be, I went on a mini Eat, Pray, Love, think about your life and figure this shit out, vacation last year.  The idea of law school was always planted in the back of my head, but I didn’t know if I really wanted to pursue it. I felt that if I went to law school I was being clichéd, and taking the easy way out.  All I knew was, by 30, I wanted to be great – I blame Beyonce.

When I posted on FB that I was coming to UCT for law school, and more recently when I was scorning a test I was studying for, two friends reminded me of an occasion in 2010. In August of 2010, I was in South Africa doing “research” for my thesis and took the time to do some traveling through SA with these two friends from the USA. We visited the UCT campus to see a friend of mine, and as we sat on the infamous Jammie stairs, I mentioned in passing that I was thinking of going to law school and UCT was a contender. Fast forward to 2012, I was prepping myself for my move back to Lesotho with no clue what I was going to do once I got here, and the thought of working in Cape Town for my then employer weighed heavily on my mind – this turned into me wanting to move to Cape Town, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it happen, and it in turn, did not happen.

During my vacation last year, I saw no future in the work I was doing in Lesotho, although I loved the idea of my work it deepened my quarter-life crisis thoughts and it snowballed into thoughts on love, life and work (living in Lesotho will have you having serious thoughts on marriage and kids, even if you never intended to have either). One night I decided I was going to look into applying to UCT. The application process was really simple and I completed it that night (save the sending of my transcript and the application fee). It was such a spontaneous application that I didn’t want to tell anyone that I applied thinking I may jinx the process. UCT was the only school I applied to and I kept toying with the “all eggs in one basket” scenario, but I felt that UCT seemed right. Alas, here I sit, several months, and a lot of uncertainty later in Cape Town studying law.

Recently I wound up on the Thought Catalog website and as I went through the pages, I realized that the type of articles which I used to read religiously, I now brush past. I still have questions about Law school and if this is truly the right fit for me, and wonder, after these three years, what am I going to do? Right now, I feel that these are healthy questions, and after talking to numerous classmates who always end their question with “So how did you end up HERE for law school” I am more assured that I am at least on the right path.

Through my quarter life crisis years, I spent a lot of my time thinking about my professional life. How I wanted to earn an income and spend my life. I battled with what would make me the happiest, and how to realize my materialistic desires – I’m coming for that Mercedes SLR McLaren. Sidenote, not all my materialistic desires are that egotistical. I have determined that I, like most people of the world, want to be my own boss and what that means for me is, I want the freedom to regulate my working hours on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. I want the freedom to be able to take a month off and not worry if I would still have a job or money at the end of it.  I already see your “oh honey child” eyes piercing at me trying to tell me that I am being idealistic, I know. Just understand that this is my goal, and I will work towards achieving it. So at least walk with me through these next three years. And now that I have the professional side sort of on the mend, I now worry about operation 2016 😉

I found Sao Joao’s baby at Toca da Mocreia

Right now it is 2:49am and I am about 5 hours away from the end of my 8 hour trip – so the reality of my situation is, I have only begun my journey. The poor bus passenger who had the unfortunate fate of having to sit next to me as I type away at this well-lit computer screen, is tossing and turning by my side, and I have decided that this is the perfect time to blog. You see, this blog post was supposed to begin with my clever, Hemmingway inspired sentence “As I sit here, eating a piece of dry toast, from what was once a melt in your mouth fresh piece of bread, I stare pointlessly at the gate as I think of ways of saying goodbye and reflect on time spent” (I don’t think Hemmingway would really use a Leboesque sentence like the one I just splat across this word document, but please humor my intellect for a little bit)

I just came back from a small beach town, Ilheus, in Bahia Brazil, and I am still in disbelief that 1. This is my life right now, and 2. This is abnormal. I am currently living in an alternate universe where I do not have to remember the day of the week, and I fall asleep and wake up with no idea of time. The reality is, this has been my life for the past month, but has been amplified for the past week and few days.

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On a Wednesday, I left Salvador, a place filled with happiness, beauty and extreme absurdities for Itabuna; a town I only know of because my co-travel partner’s brother was sent here haphazardly by the Rotary Club. Normally, when people leave Salvador to travel to other parts of the state or country, they upgrade to the Rio’s of the world, or go to charming smaller towns… I was going to the mundane.  Little did I know that my life would be anything but ordinary, I was charmed.

Before this sounds like a love letter to a town, I will stop and say, Itabuna the place is as charming as the bewildered faces I encountered, as I told people that I was heading to this small town. I’m going to be cliched traveler right now and state that my take away experience from Itabuna are the people I met. All 30 that I lived with in a single house in Ibicui for Sao Joao and the 15 I shared a beach house with in Ilheus , as recovery from Sao Joao.

Yes, I really did spend 6 days with 28 complete strangers, and a girl I had worked with for 6 months in Boston last year. We headed to Ibicui, an even smaller town of cobble stone roads, houses adjoined to convenient stores which are connected to local eateries. The joint residential and commercial area is surrounded by lush farm lands and breathtaking green rolling hills. We were there to celebrate what was traditionally farming communities’ winter harvest festivities that has turned into the commercial 3-4 days of never-ending music, alcohol, friends, and encouraged kissing of strangers. The never-ending applies to all points, but important side I-want-to-be-Prime-Minister-one-day note, I indulged in all but the ultimate point (hi mommy)

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People travel from the bigger cities and towns to go these small villages to partake in these daily music fests and the locals are employed as the caregivers for the day (Extreme stereotype and summarized version of events). I claim Sao Joao to be Brazil’s country music, small villages get their praise, version of Carnival, but that is not it’s true, complete story.The age range varies, but over 80% of attendees are of the middle to upper middle class who can afford renting a house and the exuberant ticket prices (I paid R$220 –That’s approximately $110 and R/M880 – for one of the parties. Saving grace it was all inclusive) Your ticket into these music fests are actual paper tickets and a t-shirt that are mostly worn, but must at least be on hand at all times while in the venue – which makes finding your friends difficult if you are to break away from the group by accident. The fascinating thing about these shirts (called abadas) is not the fact that 90% of the festival participants are dressed alike, it’s the tailoring that goes into these shirts to make them as individualistic as possible. And by tailoring I mean the time I spent waiting for the pair of scissors to cut up my shirt in true Brazilian cute and sexy fashion, a feat I wasn’t as Braziliany fashion forward as my cohabitants.

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Back to the music fest:  they essentially take a huge plot of land, construct 2 stages to minimize the set up waiting time (clever), set up food and drink stalls, toilets, and voila, you have roughly 15 thousand people assemble to enjoy the music and people around them.

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Admittedly, after 2 days of nonstop music blasting in your supposed place of rest, and 6 hours at the 1st ticketed music festival on day 3, all the music starts to blur into one really long song of not understanding what they are singing about (language barriers). By the 2nd ticketed festival day, I was irritable, tired, and could not stomach anymore cachaca ice cream (which was really an alcohol infused slushy turned into flavored liquid by the end of the night) By the 5th day, my body shut down, and I spent the day in the house trying to figure out which shower had the warmer cold water.

A goosebump moment from Sao Joao was the first music fest where they had a big screen of the Brazil vs Italy game. Part of its beauty was seeing the sunset behind the screen and the rolling hills as a backdrop. However the hair raising came courtesy of the cheers from inside as Brazil scored that 4th goal, and everyone around me was jumping around and hugging each other.  Goosebump moment 2: When you’ve been standing for 8+ hours, and it starts to rain, you just accept life and jump around and dance to music you still don’t understand. Then on the walk home, you silently weep for a hot shower (Laughs), dry clothes, and a warm bed (even more laughs)

Day 6, people started deflating their air mattresses, tossing wet clothing into trash bags and packed their belongings, and selfs, into cars for the hour and a half drive back to Itabuna. Goodbyes were concluded with promises of Facebook friend requests and well wishes. I truly understand all these travel books, documentaries, and movies I have read and seen when they reminisce about the people that they encountered on their journeys. Can I get soppy for a little bit? In general, Brazilians are extremely openhearted people, but I feel that the ones I met went above and beyond the expected Brazilian kindness. I really felt like I was welcomed into these people’s lives; they had the warmest of smiles and more importantly hearts.

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I thank them all for a more than phenomenal experience in Ibicui for Sao Joao. And above the already picturesque views, Ilheus was the perfect mix of deserted beach and great companionship. As I cough my lungs out from a virus that has passed from person to person, I want to say to  you all, but especially, Liz, Theuz, Rafa, Paula, Natali, Camila, Tereza, Bea, Leticia, Tine,  Vanessa, Vanessa loca 😉 Carlos, Mauricio, Jessica, Alane and Anna Luisa: From Sugar Shots (THEEUUZZ, why are you doing this to me), Quadradilho de oito,  Polentinha do Arrocha overload, Churrascaria, Mistos, Facebook (the energy drink), Stlova, Licor, and *singing* “A otra dia na balada….. diriding ding ding diriding ding ding” –  you are beautiful souls,  Obrigada!

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*All these pics are courtesy of Nino and her amazing camera!

Unbearable

I wish I were more comfortable with expressing my feelings
‘cause I will tell you that I appreciate you.
Not in a nonchalant, hey you exist kind of way, but in a
I am extremely grateful to have met you and have you in my life
I appreciate that you listen to me, help me, and more importantly
I appreciated that you get angry at me; it means you care.
Life’s beauty is to know people care about you,
And my greatest reward is to be able to care for you
I, like you, don’t want to see you suffer,
I hope for bright days filled with joy
I know that this will not always be the case
But I selfishly pray that I can make the journey more bearable
And I selflessly pray that you are able to do so without me
Reflecting on days past, I hope your only regrets
Are the laugh lines and crow eyes on your face
An indication of a life well smiled
I Thank God for your being, and in our conversations I thank him for sharing you with me
I thank you for sharing with me
I am a loose fitted, gaping hole sweater without you
My life is interwoven with your am
Thank you for crocheting the missing parts and keeping me warm
What I am trying to say is, and I don’t say it often enough is
I love you
Genuinely

RIP Karabelo “Bear” Suping

Sometimes 2 Divided by 5 Won’t Work

There comes a time in our lives when we care less about people’s opinions of us and start living life the way you would like to. Some people call this YOLO, but the more generally accepted term is “I don’t give a F**K”. Recently, people have appropriated this term and spun it in very interesting ways eg. “I have seemed to have lost the F**K I was meant to give.” Everyone seems to have an opinion on “F**K” (F), it’s a one-sided relationship, always bashing F, we have yet to hear what F cares about.

Well, this past weekend I met F, and he doesn’t give a care about us either! F will take you under his wing, butter you up and leave you wounded on a futon, not knowing whether water is your friend or not. This weekend, I have grown to respect F much more, and will begin to care about his feelings, next time I decide to live like a motherless child.

So what happened this weekend???? Southern Africans

Three sets of people made decisions that in the collective could easily turn into World Star Hip-Hops first reality TV show. The first set were 2 females who left the clurb in the meat-packing district after girl #1s birthday to say a quick hello to a friend in Brooklyn. Set #2 were the 3 folk in Brooklyn who decided to drive from Brooklyn at 4am to Queens and back, to get speakers. The third set were the people in Brooklyn who allowed for this to go on.

The minute I walked into that apartment building in BK all sorts of memories flashed before my eyes, and not the pretty type of memories. These are Katniss finding out she is going BACK to the Hunger Games type memories. You know you’re defeated before you even begin.

Collection hat passed AGAIN, Malt purchased AGAIN, House music blaring AGAIN, requests for Drake sent AGAIN, Failed attempts at leaving AGAIN. As one patron pointed out, “At this stage, we have gained the right to be invited to each others weddings” The comfort level we have with each other is abnormal; the fact that we enjoy each others company at our lowest moral point is a bond no one can take away. I now know what it feels like to be a member of the Jersey Shore, Snooki, I empathize with you.

The first time I got myself into this situation, I called myself a victim of a hostage situation, this time, I must just accept that this is a lifestyle I have chosen. No need to feel sorry for myself anymore, but I know I can do better.

So to my fellow poor decision-makers, please remember our promise to each other. When we become important figures of this world, no need for  public slander. When in need, money will be transferred into our bank accounts. Our children will be afforded the best education with each others help. And sometimes it is better to go upstairs with no box, rather than 2 slices of pizza!

I too have dreams

I may not have grown up with a silver spoon but I grew up with a spoon nonetheless. On paper, I have lived a VERY privileged life thanks to the contributions of my parents, siblings, family, family friends, knowledge of opportunities, and the courage to take them. I am  grateful for what I have, both materialistically and conceptually.  But most importantly, I am eternally grateful that I was taught to think and have an unquenchable desire to explore.

However, I choose to write this post today because I feel uneasy, perturbed, and gut wrenchingly sad. Why? because I am an idealist, and in my ideal world, South(ern) Africa would not be plagued and driven  by frivolous materialistic desires.

This rant is brought on by my watching the 3rd Degree episode on the Izikhotane. A group of South African youth from the townships obsessed with one-uping each other through materialistic signifiers. I was not only provoked by their, for a lack of better terminology, stupid  behavior, I was also annoyed by people’s reaction to it. Reading the twitter responses to this episode, I was baffled by people believing that this phenomenon was not their problem, or that they were far removed from the situation.

Middle to upper middle class South(ern) Africa is caught up in the same bullshit. Honestly, we can substitute Caravelas with Jordans, ripping money with making it rain, and Ultramel with the bottles of Moet we have suddenly acquired a palate for.

No part of me dislikes wealth, and the ability to spend money nonchalantly. I too dream of the day I don’t have to look at the price tag to buy a t-shirt I like, when I can ride around in my black  Mercedes SLR, and when I don’t have to think twice about a vacation to the Maldives; but to what (or whose) expense?

Just like the kids in the Izokhotane episode, I question where the middle and above classes of South African youth get the money to afford such a lifestyle?  I cannot take any person seriously who brags about their luxurious lifestyle if  50% or more is funded by their parents, or banks’ generous allowance for debt. More importantly, I silently weep for those who without thought, without intellectual capital, and with YOLOing tendencies, actively pursue such.

And while I’m at it, can we eliminate terms like yellow bone from our lexicon, sport less weaves,  tone down the number of labels we wear, shun ignorance, and stop acquiring so called “haters” to deem your worth?

Let’s invest in ourselves, but in things that will pay us forward, like above par education, decent public services, innovation,  ownership of our intellectual  property, and a greater understanding of our cultural worth.

I say let’s indulge in life’s pleasures, but only after our foundation is strong.

Why I will NEVER Party With Southern Africans Again- Pt 2

“On a scale of 1 to feet, where is your conversation?”

When the after party takes you from Manhattan to Brooklyn, game over, you are not catching your bus home in 3 hours, heck, you might not even catch your bus until 3 days later!

After the Mzansi in NYC party, we spilled into the streets, and I realized the hardest thing to tell a Southern African is “The party is over”… Hearts were broken. I stood outside, not really sure what I was going to do for the next 3 hours before my bus ride back home.

I followed my nose to the most delicious smelling bacon known to man kind. Guys, I don’t think you understand how good that bacon smelled! Like we actually went into the deli and asked the man to give us $5 worth of bacon, plain bacon!  Still warped in the Bacon’s spell, I made the look back at your life, this is where you should have gone right decision and allowed my friend to usher me into a cab to the BK.

Next thing, I was in a strangers house, with more than 7 other strangers, and 3 familiar faces. A collection hat was passed around, malt purchased, and my hostage soon ensued. We laughed, danced, freestyled (Let’s be honest, I observed and was a semi-recipient to this)  and soon forgot we were strangers. As the evening/morning progressed people started dropping like flies, and I, thinking I was on Survivor for some monetary gain, stayed awake until 4pm.

Leaving at 7am soon turned to 10, turned to 1pm, turned to 10pm, by midnight, I was in the same house! Paralyzed by malt, fatigue, and the devilish allure of my new found compound. I even lied to myself and called a friend on the outside, and asked if she wanted to meet. Who was I kidding? I was in the same clothes as the night before trying to head out to the Village.

That night, we became too comfortable with each other, and our conversation reached a lowest of lows….. Feet… People, in 2012 we must respect conversation enough to not devote a whole period of thought  to our lower phalanges!

Day 2 in the house, we lied to ourselves again, and no one left. Actually that is not true. After nap rotations, talking, and getting to know people better, we left the house, but not each other. We went ALL the way to Queens for a chisa nama/BBQ – we were not serious about life. Neighbors were confused, like what kind of party begins on a Sunday night? At this stage we were wounded, I felt like the people I saw sitting at Sullivan’s, we had nothing left to prove,  yet we were forcing it.

We eventually got back home ( I even called this place home, it was serious) , and I against rotating who slept on the bed when, decided to take some part of my life back in my hands, and forced us to economize the bed. We got to a point were things I should not entertain became comic fodder i.e:

* I think at this stage I should mention I do not condone ANYTHING Malevin says, but the combination of stories, justifications, methods and Engrish in this clip, you laugh at your pain *

What can I do? Monday came along, and I decided to take life back into my own hands. I was leaving, Mary I’m leaving, I’m going, Thabu Mombeki is going to be President, I’m leaving!  They didn’t believe, but as I grabbed my bag,  with a change of shoes, ipod, ipod and phone charge, and make-up essentials. I left the compound. I went back to real life, where responsibilities exist. I felt like Woody in Toy Story 3, when he leaves the squad to be with Andy *don’t ask questions*

I eventually made it on that bus back to Boston, and reflected on the weekend before. Glad to have experienced it, smirked at all the foolery, side-eyed myself, laughed at our lack of sense, and was happy to have met the people I did. For everything else, there is no mastercard…my lips are sealed!