It’s true that our plans don’t always go accordingly, and more so, if those plans are contingent on other people then you really have no way of knowing how things will turn out. My last week and a half in Cape Town is a perfect example of this. I arrived on the 14th of February, still a bit on cloud nine from celebrating an early Valentine’s with my love. It was actually my first one and his actions showed his thoughtfulness so that made it all the more memorable and sweet. So, happy with how we left off and excited to be back in Cape Town for a few months with my agency (If you don’t know, I’m also a model and spend some months out of the year here where my mother agency is based doing castings and shows) the last thing I was expecting to see after getting off an almost 15hr flight was a message conveying that I essentially had no place to stay!
Before my departure from NYC, one of my mates in town had done me a solid and reached out to a few friends to see if anyone had a spare room or couch that I could crash on until I moved into my apartment on the 1st of March. I linked to a friend's associate who lived not too far from the city center and he said he would be able to accommodate me on arrival through the 1st. But to my chagrin, he had sent me an SMS while I was inflight, stating that he couldn’t actually host me until the following Tuesday because he had double booked. I was rather annoyed, as I had sent a text confirming my arrival as I was boarding my flight by the day before, but in moments like that, you can only stay frustrated for so long. You need to breathe, let the irritation go and come up with a new plan. As C. Swindoll once said, “Life is 10% percent what happens to you, and 90% percent how you react to it.”
As my stopover in Johannesburg was only two hours, I didn’t have much time in-between disembarking, customs and re-checking my luggage for my Cape Town flight to search accommodation options. The few minutes I did have to browse the web didn’t yield anything that suited my needs/budget and I could sense myself getting increasingly annoyed, as I knew that once I got to Cape Town International, my next destination was still in up in the air. But, up in the air was where I was headed next and being in the skies happens to be one my favourite places to be, so I again calmed myself and trusted that things will work out. Serendipitously enough, while on the shuttle bus from the terminal gate to my connecting flight, I heard my name called and looked up to see my friend, Julia from Germany, who I had met in Cape Town five years prior. She had informed me that she too, would be travelling back to Cape Town around the same time as me, but we had no idea we would be on the same connecting flight! A pleasant surprise that definitely took my mind of the no housing situation and soon I was in the air, soaking in panoramic views of the mountainous terrain below.
I soon landed in Cape Town, and while waiting for my luggage at the carousel, head down in my phone scrolling Airbnb for available listings; I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and was met with an excited expression by a woman whom I couldn’t yet place. “Hey”, she said. “It’s me, from the consulate in NYC! You helped me out and I never got to say thank you because you were gone when I returned.” It suddenly came rushing back me. We had met a couple of weeks prior, while I was organizing my work visa at the South African Consulate in Midtown, NYC and having gone through the process before, I gave her some tips that must have made the process a bit easier for her, and she wanted to express gratitude. We exchanged emails and I told her I would send her some recommendations soon as I got settled in. Small world, right? Yet another surprise encounter that allowed me to smile in the midst of my unfortunate situation.
Shortly after that, Julia happened to find me again and offered me a ride into the city as she had rented a car. Talk about a win, when “everything” else seems to be going wrong! Instead of now searching for accommodation in the airport terminal and feeling stressed out to book a place just for the sake of booking, I was able to resume my search some 30 minutes later in the lounge area of 91 Loop, ‘A boutique hostel in Cape Town.’ I had directed us there since a few friends of mine had stayed there in the past and I recalled that they had enjoyed their stay. Thankfully they had three rooms left, so I booked for five nights because my friend’s associate said he could accommodate me on the 19th. I thought, okay, not so bad, plus I’ve stayed in plenty of hostels before and I rather like the “pod” set up on the room that I had booked at 91 Loop. Housing crisis averted, well, for the time being anyway.
Flash-forward to the evening of the 18th, my last booked night at 91 Loop Hostel and I receive a call from my would be host for next ten days, and he says that now he can only accommodate me for two days because he might have to go out of town for work. Seriously?? If my frustration could be scaled, it would have probably been a 7 or 8. I decided to remove him as a housing option- moments like these are when you need to tap into your discernment skills and chances were high that I would be cancelled on again, so I declined the offer and told myself that things could be worse (an always needed reminder in certain situations that can bring you back to the issue at hand and focus on a plan b) and put my energy towards finding another accommodation.
I awoke early the following morning, and whilst continuing my search on Airbnb, I found a listing that I had previously seen- a house that been essentially being retrofitted into a hostel. It was listed at $10 a night, well within the housing budget I had set for myself and the reviews were pretty good, so I booked. I was checked in later that afternoon by a rather friendly host, Cassy. She showed me to my upstairs room, pointed out which bunk was mine and gave me the rundown of things at the house. I settled in as much as I could, changed into some active gear and went for a run along the promenade. I was familiar with the neighbourhood, Seapoint, as I had stayed in a private Airbnb there for about two weeks last April after Fashion Week in Johannesburg before I moved back into the city center.
Later that evening, I overheard one of the guests, who I would later find out is from France, telling her friends there that some of her cash was missing from her pocketbook. Uh-oh! Definitely not a good thing to hear, especially with it being my first night out of 10 and I thought, yikes, what’s if this wasn’t the best choice after all? But, I brushed it off and told myself that it was probably a one-off, or that it had just been misplaced. For the most part, everyone seemed pretty okay and the atmosphere felt like one big dormitory, just in a house. I kept to my room early on, as I was still fighting a cold, and I kid you not, on one day, I drank no less than 20 cups of tea. Some of my roommates would ask if I needed anything, and even the host, would check in from time to time and one day brought cupcakes for the house. She easily could have been a Resident Advisor back at my university. I would eventually come to know my housemates a bit better, and funny enough a few of them were also models, including Mango, who had been staying there for a few months and was in town working the summer season. There was also the French girl, Gail who was escaping winter and Nico and Tolga, both models as well.
It seemed to me that they had formed a little family of sorts- checking in on each other, taking group hikes to Table Mountain, cooking together, motivating each other to work out and just overall not making anyone feel like they didn’t belong. It turns out that most of the guests there were staying long term, at least a month or two and here I was stressing about just 10 nights! I was immediately humbled. I decided to document my time at the hostel and began writing this on my third night there, unsure of what the title would be.
On my final morning, I went for another run along the Seapoint Promenade and took a moment to reflect on the past two weeks. I had arrived at the new hostel, still, a bit annoyed at how the first week hadn’t gone as planned, from my fickle host that didn’t deliver and also being under the weather and feeling weak, I was largely over it. But as I stood on the shores of the ocean, letting the salty ocean breeze fill my lungs, getting lost in the sounds of the crashing waves and the calls of the seagulls, I couldn’t help but feel grateful. In a few hours, I would be moving into my apartment and I was looking forward to being in my own space, unpacking my things, cooking (what I really excited for) and chuckled at having stable WiFi because the signal at the hostel was far from steady. And that’s when it hit me! Stay Africa, the name of the network at the hostel, a place where I was slightly apprehensive about spending 10 nights at but turned out to be a pretty okay fit. It's almost as if the events of the past two weeks were “destined” to have happened this way. I took another moment to take in the ocean, in all it’s grandeur and continued my run.
I hope that if find yourself in a situation as I did, or something similar, you remember to breathe, allow yourself to become frustrated, (because, hey, we’re human) but don’t let that control your actions and stifle you from doing what you need to do next. Look at those moments as learning experiences, moments that can help you realize what you are made of, and even lead you to become a better person.
“Life does not always give you what you want, but if you look closely you will see that it gives you what you need for growth.” –L. Brown.