For the “immersion” stage in South Africa I made it my personal goal to ask as many questions as I could; from “what’s your name” to “why do you wear a lot of skirts and not pants”, I was determined to completely immerse myself into what the culture had to offer from the perspective of the explorer. For this reason, it was quite peculiar for me to hear a girl ask me “so Maria, why do you walk so fast? Are you in a hurry?” From this occurrence, two questions came into my mind: one, shouldn’t I be the one asking questions? And two, why is it that I am in such a hurry?…

The first question allowed me to realize that the current situation I find myself in is not only a new experience for me, but it is also new for the people of this community. Not only have I never experienced their culture before, but they haven’t lived with a “white” person from the United Stated before (or how they call the US, America) which means they probably have as many questions about my way of living as I do about their way of life. Even though this realization does not make me any less worried about the possible “culture shock” I might experience soon—or make the latrine experiences any more “delightful”—it does help me feel less nervous and a little less self-conscious.

The second question made me think more about my life back in Chicago. Northwestern’s lovely quarter system has not only increased my Cortison levels but also the pace of my walk. Our culture seems to be infatuated with the ideas that we constantly must be moving in order to feel like we are accomplishing something. It has gotten to the point that it feels wrong to sit down and relax because one may be “misusing” the time and could be used doing something more “productive.” When was the last time I took the time to look around my surroundings while walking? It is incredible to realize how I seem to have forgotten the importance of taking the time to live in the moment, instead of constantly trying to accomplish as much as I can in a limited set time. It seems that I have also forgotten the importance of walking for the simple sake of walking, which to be honest is simply ridiculous.

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