Leaving Chicago

It feels surreal. Perched on my bed, looking at my life packed into two bags resting on the floor of my room in the Airbnb. Apparently Chicago is known for its thunderstorms, or by chance, they’re just here to amplify my excitement. Soon the bags won’t be resting but instead on my back or being hustled onto planes then thrown into the back of a jeep to drive across a desert to the research station.

My time in Chicago was not enjoyable. Finally seeing everything packed up in front of me gives me a calmness that I had been missing from being on the road a month prior. Movement is my flow. I felt uncomfortable in the city, I experienced bad people (my brain gets jumbled when I have to interact with someone who is intentionally bad, I don’t understand it and it smothers my energy), and I was bored with nothing fun to do outside. I knew I wasn’t a city girl, but I didn’t expect to be as affected by this environment as I was this past month. Dark times, but for a cause I believe is worth it.

Friday was my last day of training at the University of Chicago in the Department of Medicine. Though my training was for a wildlife research position to learn cell culture, it made more sense to train in Chicago in this department. Everything about the training was amazing – I learned so much about cell culture and stem cell isolation from bone marrow, the lab was awesome and very welcoming, and I feel ready to carry out these experiments in the field. I bid farewell to the lab and promised to send pictures of meerkats and molerats once I’m over there.

So now I’m here. Time is up, time to go. Bags are packed, stoke is high, nerves are finally being felt (it’s about time), and time is ticking. Ready or not, moving to Africa.

Tomorrow afternoon I fly from Chicago to Amsterdam, then the next day to Johannesburg. I stay the night in Joburg, then fly to Upington on Tuesday morning. I’ll be picked up at the Upington airport by two other managers from the station, do a grocery shopping trip for the project, then drive the 3 hours back to the station on dirt roads.

There’s a story I’ve recently been told about when I was 4 years old. Apparently my first real movie I got to see in theater was The Lion King and for the duration of the film I never sat down, but stood up fixated on it. I’ve always had a love for exploration and wildlife. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to chase after dreams formed by a 4 year old, but I guess that’s what happened.

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting against the wall of my Airbnb room feeling pretty floored about what’s about to happen. But that’s the draw to it, for me at least. Ready or not, it’s time to go.