One year ago, Amy flew to Botswana. And today she flies back to Los Angeles and she honestly thinks it's unbelievable how fast her gap year went by.
The first month seemed like she wasn't where she was meant to be. Molly told her everything about the crazy university life and how Annabelle and her are really getting along even though it was a little awkward knowing her 'past'. They lived ironically on the same floor and had this weird texting relationship where they would keep each other updated about the other girls of the hallway. Annabelle often made Molly go to the wildest college parties and tried to get into this sorority which was a real cliché.
Molly told her that she had been drinking more alcohol than ever and some nights Gigi and Jared would just show up randomly. Gigi still seemed to be the same weirdo as always but somehow everyone knew her at Yale? And as soon as Gigi made a video of herself, she saw that Gigi had many more followers on YouTube since she got to college. The most popular video – of course – had to be Gigi making out drunk with some girl named Mimi. Amy hated and loved this a pretty equal amount.
As the months flew by and Amy and Molly couldn't always text or call each other because of the time difference and their university/gap year going on, Amy didn't feel like missing out so much anymore. It may have been better to not know all the details on how everyone was changing in the US and living their own lives.
She really loved seeing the thankful women who were used to be scared for their lives. Nothing could compare with that, not even getting the best grades in college. Amy got reminded daily how crazy it is that sanitary ware wasn't equally available worldwide, just as well as food and clean water. She will never look at a hamburger the same again. Botswana is a very developed country with a good economy and education. Still it's so different from Los Angeles, she usually wouldn't believe her eyes. And honestly, the food was great but she misses her parents' cooking so much. It's probably just about the habit of eating their food her whole life.
Botswana has a lot of airports and during the holidays Amy and her host family flew over to Johannesburg in South Africa which was just amazing. All of them went to a big theme park inside the city and had so much fun riding the roller coasters and eating all the junk food. Amy even won a plushy and immediately sent Molly a picture of the fluffy tiger and her.
Molly: I feel blessed seeing such beauty!!!
What did Ling-Ling say?
Amy: I didn't tell her yet... trouble in paradise awaits.
Molly sent a picture of her holding up a peace sign and Annabelle in the background wearing a flower crown.
Molly: We are getting ready for a peaceful protest in the city!
Amy: I have to fly over to tell you that you just made my heart skip a beat
Molly: You should talk to Hope about that... :p
Molly always pushed her to talk to Hope after the whole bathroom incident. She never understood why Amy didn't text her the minute, she saved her number in her phone.
“Honestly Amy... you fucked her in a really weird way for the 'first time' possibly and even though she seemed really interested. I don't see the problem texting her the peach emoji.”, Molly said once... or maybe twice. Or actually Molly said that so often Amy could never use the peach emoji ever again.
The piece of paper with Hope's phone number written on it – in the most beautiful handwriting by the way – made Amy shiver whenever she looked at it. She really didn't know if she should text or call, so she never did anything. What was she even suppose to say? Should she play it cool not mentioning the bathroom or should she play it cool by making it sound like it wasn't the most embarrassing thing she ever did? Amy didn't want to do either and it definitely wasn't an option sending Hope the peach emoji. Amy still felt very bad though. Maybe Hope was waiting for her to make the next move but as time passed by, Amy got more and more scared to start a conversation.
While time flew by, she met a lot of new people – mostly from Europe – who stayed with families in the same area as her. All these students were just awesome and had so much to tell, they started making this 'worldwide chat' where all the volunteers had the opportunity to tell their stories and organize meeting each other. She really connected with a volunteer named Jacob who now holds a special place in her little heart. Jacob stayed with a family two houses away from hers. He and his host grandmother just came in one day after Amy had been in Botswana for about three months and she told him to learn something about women in a very cute broken English. She seemed furious with him so Amy's inner feminist awoke just this minute.
“That was kind of weird?”, she said and introduced herself.
“You know, she doesn't understand me all the time. But this time she mixed something up very badly, I think...”, he answered.
“But since Botswana became independent, the English language has gotten more important. All secondary education is taught in English.”, Amy wondered loudly.
“Yes, I thought the same thing. I asked my host mother about it and my host grandmother had eight younger siblings. And as their father died, the oldest one had to go to work who was her apparently.”, Jacob explained.
“I see. Well, I can still show you how to make tampons if you want to.”, Amy offered.
Jacob turned out to be very smart and generous. He was very respectful and knew a lot about women's health and their cycle. He told Amy that maybe the language barrier caused some trouble before because this grandmother almost screamed at him once. He still didn't know what she thought he said but talking about traveling to Paris shouldn't have been a reason to get yelled at.
Amy and Jacob made some tampons together and after three hours he asked for her number since he just arrived one week ago. Amy offered to connect him to the worldwide chat with all the other exchange students and he seemed so thankful.
“What is part of your exchange? What do you do here?”, Amy asked curiously.
“I hope to improve the English of their children. They aren't doing well in school since the education changed to a different language.”, Jacob explained.
“I hope you can help them.”, Amy smiled at him.
“Yeah, and when they are at school I help with cleaning, cooking and just anything there is to do. It is indeed very weird to actually do something for the household you live in in your free time. But I don't have much to do here.”
“As soon as you meet some people from the area, you will have plenty things to do. They are all awesome, most of them are from Europe and it's just wonderful to hear about different cultures.”, Amy said and got caught up by the thought of the others.
“That sounds really great!”
Amy and Jacob texted a lot and saw each other once in a while. The whole crew of volunteers would often meet up and just sit around talking to each other, maybe sipping some beers. At some point, Amy and Jacob would always coordinate if they would go together. Both of them liked the volunteers but the only real friendship they felt was with each other. The helping was the best experience ever but making a friend like Jacob really kept Amy going on during the hard days.
Jacob started his gap year three months after Amy because he wasn't sure what he wanted to major in at college. He always emphasized that taking a year off only occurred to him because he didn't know what to decide. Not deciding at all seemed to be the best idea then.
One night they met up with everyone in the 'worldwide chat' and even though it was still super warm outside they started a bonfire and listened to loud music. Jacob and Amy arrived a little late because Jacob had to help his host family longer than expected. He texted Amy that she should go without him and he would join everyone later but Amy insisted on waiting for him.
The little party was going well with little groups forming. One was dancing, one was just chilling next to the bonfire just talking. Amy and Jacob decided to bring beers since they were late and the response to the gift was overwhelming. Everyone was so thankful for the beer and eventually talked to them about it during the evening. The fact that some of them would help Amy for weeks or months with making tampons and teaching the women how to do it themselves while others just helped the families cook, clean, watching the kids or teaching them a different language was breathtaking.
A few minutes later, Matthew – a volunteer from the UK – rounded up everyone for a fun round of Never Have I ever.
“Since everyone has secrets, it's time to leak some of them and get drunk in the process.”, Matthew announced and raised his eyebrows repeatedly.
Jacob and Amy sat down next to each other with a fresh beer in their hands and listened carefully as everyone was trying to seek out the interesting facts about the others.
“Never have I ever done drugs”, someone said.
And Amy took a sip, just as most of the others did too. Jacob to her surprise didn't drink and she leaned over and told him that she didn't like it and it will probably remain a one time thing. He laughed a little and told her that he would like to try weed at some point in his life but the opportunity didn't come up yet.
“Guys!”, Laurie, a girl from Germany, shouted, “talking about drugs, I brought weed with me and I felt like I should wait for the perfect vibes to smoke.”
“Well, how about now?”, Amy whispered in Jacob's ear and smirked.
“Only if you try with me again.”, Jacob challenged.
Amy was scared. Not because of the fact that she might cry because of the dooming thought about her parents' dying but the because of the girl from Germany Laurie, who had been working with her a few weeks, reminded her of Ryan so badly that she couldn't keep it in her pants and developed a little crush on her. And by 'little', she actually means 'huge'. Amy didn't do anything about it. Just staring a little too long when Laurie wasn't looking or daydreaming about her.
Molly always made fun of her when she had the chance to and told her she could at least try to talk to her.
“The world is not going to end”, she used to say. But the courage wasn't on Amy's side and eventually Laura would fly back to Germany.
Amy didn't know whether she should try again. She felt like not thinking about her parents would be possible in this scenario but not embarrassing herself in front of Laurie felt unlikely.
“What is bothering you?”, Jacob whispered in her ear since she didn't answer him.
She was lucky enough, Laurie was sitting across from her, so out of earshot.
“I sort of have a thing for girls like Laurie”, Amy admitted to him.
Jacob told her that the crush shouldn't be a problem when it comes to smoking weed together.
“I can't believe you are making me do this.”, Amy said.
“It's your decision, really. This is your chance in doing drugs with me.”, Jacob pressured her playfully.
Most of the volunteers participated and Laurie decided to roll a few joints so hopefully everyone would get enough hits to be high. The joints were going around the circle and eventually crossed Amy's and Jacob's way.
As both of them took a hit, Amy felt the nicotine kick in instantly. Jacob and her just took a few hits and passed the joints to the next person.
“That feels intense.”, Jacob whispered and laughed a little.
Amy couldn't concentrate and just started into the bonfire thinking about the fact that she was on a different continent, in the middle of nowhere with strangers basically. And honestly, she couldn't care less.
“I kinda like it.”, Amy admitted to Jacob and smiled at him. “I really like the fire.”
“So do I. Reminds me of home.”, Jacob smiled back and both of them just stared into it in peace.
Jacob is actually from Canada living somewhere outside of Toronto. He is a dedicated scout and loves things like hiking and making marshmallows but his favorite activity will always be singing at the bonfire together. At times when he really misses camping he hears the songs they sing and can't help it but cry because of the happiness the songs brought him.
Right in this moment Amy felt like she was right where she belonged. She felt the joy and happiness increase in her body. She could finally understand why Jacob loved everything about being together around a fire. Amy couldn't believe she was helping women on a daily basis with an immediate response and hanging out with new people from different cultures and places. She doesn't know these people properly but she doesn't have to worry about stuff like that anymore. Knowing that you can't know someone by first impressions or four years of high school without real interaction made her realize that everyone has a great story.
Amy and Molly always texted about the time they would call each other. So when Molly was calling out of the blue, it had to be more important than anything. She walked outside and sat down on the front porch of her house.
“Are you okay?”, Amy answered the phone worried.
“I don't know!”, Molly encountered. “I just know that I need you right now!”
“Why? What is happening?”, Amy asked more questions.
“I think I'm about to have sex with a guy”, Molly finally admitted.
“WHO?”, Amy blurted out loudly.
“Don't be disappointed! But it's Jared.”, Molly said quietly.
“Nooooo way!”, Amy couldn't believe it.
“I know it's really weird but when he doesn't try to become everyone's friend, he is actually funny and kinda smart?!”, Molly was still figuring out the situation herself.
“Well... do you feel ready?”, Amy said supportingly.
“I really want to. I think I actually like Jared?! I can't believe I'm saying this! Amy, am I going insane?!”, Molly was talking faster than ever.
“You're the smartest person I know and you sound pretty normal to me. I mean you liked Nick and... yeah, he was Nick.”, Amy reminded her to make her feel less insane.
“Is this my thing? Dumb dudes?”, Molly asked, really more herself than Amy.
“Don't be mean, neither of them is dumb. They just aren't as academically educated and smart as you are.”, Amy encountered.
“I love you, Amy.”, Molly just said and you could hear the smile on her face even with the ocean laying between the two best friends.
“You go girl! But use protection!”, Amy mothered her.
“I will call you tomorrow.”, Molly promised.
“You better!”, Amy laughed.
And just as Amy wanted to go back inside she saw the bright night sky. You could see every star and Amy felt like they were shining for her best friend right now. Suddenly she missed home more than ever. Missing out on Molly and Jared being a thing? Well, she clearly was still a part in Molly's story but not talking to her in person about this intimate moment made her sad. She sighed deeply.
“You okay?”, someone approached.
“Oh, it's you!”, Amy said as she saw Jacob sitting down next to her.
“Yeah, it's me. I saw you as I just finished my night jog.”, he told her.
“You jog at night? Why?”, Amy asked confused.
“I prefer it that way. It's cool outside, I'm all alone and I get to admire the stars.”, Jacob explained. “But why are you out here?”
“Molly called.”, Amy answered simply.
“Is everything alright with her?”, Jacob asked kindly.
“She is fine, more even.”
“Why the sad expression on your face then?”
“I miss home.”, Amy admitted and teared up a little.
While they stayed out a little longer talking about their homes, Amy knew that she never met a person like Jacob. He listens carefully and tries to see your side of the story from his own and your eyes.
“Have you decided what you want to do after you get back?”, Amy asked curiously.
He said that he had finally decided. Jacob was sure his future awaits for him in Toronto majoring in journalism because – if he was being honest with himself – he always loved his country but he always wanted to live in the city. Toronto seemed to be his favorite choice even though he had never been there.
“Thank you”, he added after being quiet for a few seconds.
Amy had to look confused – which she was – but Jacob told her that hearing her stories from high school made him realize that learning and seeing something new can be really fun and marvelous.
“I actually miss studying in the library.”, Amy admitted and laughed about herself.
“You are such a academic weirdo.”, Jacob joked.
As her flight back home flew over the ocean, she already missed him. He really was the hardest goodbye – harder than Molly and her parents if she was being honest – because she might never see him again. Trying to keep that thought aside, Amy laid back in her seat and listened to some music trying to sleep – it was going to be a long flight.
Three hours before the plane would arrive in Los Angeles, she scrolled through her contacts and saw Hope's name scroll by. Would it be a terrible idea to text her now because she is being back?
Amy wasn't so sure and tried to think about some encouraging speech Molly would give her in this moment: “Amy, you deserve the world. Honestly, you fucked her butthole and she gave you her number which was clearly a 'I wanna do that again sometime'. Be the brave human being I see in you. Who decided to go to prison for some high schoolers she barely knew, who dances in public without music and couldn't be more smart and outstanding”. Amy felt her confidence rising and finally texted Hope.
Amy: Hey Hope, it's Amy. I'm coming back from Botswana today.
Amy immediately thought the text was way to formal and kind of suggested that she wanted to see Hope even though she didn't even know how or where she is. So she added:
Amy: How are you doing and where are you?
After sending the message, she felt like Hope will probably think she couldn't keep it in her pants. Which wouldn't be true.