Views expressed are my own and do not represent the Mandela Washington Fellowship program


It was only 48 hours since I had landed in the land of the free and I crashed.

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We were approaching the end of the day when I started feeling like everything was loud. I couldn’t gather my thoughts and the room was crowded. My body was spinning like I’d been doing donuts in the gusheshe.

I knew something was wrong when I wasn’t feeling hungry. I eat as a sport. My life mantra is, “Never turn down food.” So when I had no appetite, it was a cause for concern.

I went to my room and slept. There’s very little that sleeping can’t solve.

Woke up the next morning and I was tired! I went to pee and water started leaking from my eyes. I’m experiencing technical difficulties for real.

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Thembi wept.

I called my aunt that stays in Germany. And I said to her, aunt Kay I’m losing it. I can’t get it together. I just keep crying and I can’t find the off switch for the tears. She assured me that it’s normal. Her advice was to load up on water and apples. And that what I was experiencing was in fact culture shock.


They had warned us about this at the Pre-Departure Orientation but nothing could have prepared me for its intensity. When they spoke to us about culture shock I thought to myself, that could never happen to me. I’m the ice Queen when it comes to emotions. I’m only unstable when the cycle is confusing my hormones. They explained how culture shock works and exemplified some of the ways in which it manifests itself. For example, they said when it hits, you’ll want to exclude yourself and just be alone and that you shouldn’t do that. To be honest, that’s all I wanted to do, I was feeling crowded and everything was noisy.

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Here I was, red and puffy-eyed in the middle of class. I endured the session but I knew I couldn’t do another one. Not in this state anyway. My eyes were still doing their bit to flood Nebraska. I excused myself and went back to my room. No food for me again. If the weeping doesn’t kill me, the hunger sure will.

I texted the lady from the Embassy and explained to her that the culture shock had me in a choke hold. Blog she said. Pour it out onto the page, that’s your strength she said. I wasn’t in the mood to turn pain into art. My inner Adele was not having it.

I slept. I’d rather go in my sleep shem. Like a real G.