Guest commentary: Saffas settling into and learning the Aspen way of life |

Guest commentary: Saffas settling into and learning the Aspen way of life

Will Norton
A South African in Aspen
Will Norton

Howzit! Will here, your friendly South African in Aspen.

In the most recent column I mentioned that our road through Aspen had just begun. Since then, some of the most incredible, interesting and exciting things have happened. There are endless stories to tell, but there are a few key ones that will enlighten you as to what us Saffas have been experiencing throughout our journey.

We hit the ground running as we arrived (on the 23rd of December) and we soon realized that we had barely celebrated Christmas, which is a special occasion in most of our households back home. To rectify this, we decided that a game of Secret Santa was in order. The gift-giving process that followed really did tug on our heart strings and remind us all of home. Aspen jerseys (or sweaters, as we say in America), beanies, journals and different varieties of makeup were gifted from one friend to another.

Keeping on the topic of reminders of home, nothing quite compared to Goldfish (a South African duo) coming to Belly Up. I found myself distraught when my name was down for that Thursday night shift when we had planned to go to a show. I schemed many ways of how I could possibly get out of work, but I came to the conclusion that it was one of those things and that it was meant to be. Luckily for me, the maître d’ on duty at The French Alpine Bistro (where I work as a back-server) understood how much this concert meant to me and the other South Africans. She cut me early from my shift and allowed me to have my most memorable night in Aspen yet. It was a night of celebration, and although the next morning felt particularly rough, I think the hangovers were diminished by an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Not just for the sheer experience of being in Aspen, but to be here with a group of friends, old and new, South African and not, who make this place what it is.

The Spazmatics, Sam Feldt and ASAP Ferg are other notable artists who we have been lucky enough to see at Belly Up, but a special mention must be made to 8th St Bus Stop — Aspen’s local boyband. Their manager and “hype man” also provide some good entertainment, but this is more in the form of dancing and drinking rather than music.

While the majority of our time here has been brilliant, we have experienced some sad moments. Most members of the group have finished studying, but some have decided to continue their higher education in SA. We have all grown incredibly close here in Aspen, and although it is not goodbye forever, saying cheers is always a sad affair. I have no doubt that they will be back next winter.

The final thing I want to touch on in this week’s article is the way many of us have fallen prey to discussing money, pretty much all the time. I feel as if it is something even the best of us haven’t managed to escape talking about.

At the beginning of our time in Aspen, questions like, “How was your day?” or “Did you enjoy your shift at work?” were replaced with “How much?” or “Good cash?” — which really did shock me. I don’t think any of us expected this to happen, as it is so polar opposite to what would ever happen back home. While we did come here with the objective to get good jobs, work them well, and make ourselves a bit of money to travel, to save, or at the very least, to pay our parents back, we’ve realized there’s more to being here than that.

I think we are all thankful to have learned the lesson that the money here is obviously important for us, but the well-being of close friends and the value of our experiences will always trump that. (Mum, Dad, if you’re reading this, please don’t make me pay you back.)

With just half our stay completed and Saffa Day coming up, there is undoubtedly much to look forward to.

More about the Saffas in two weeks.

Will Norton is South African born and bred, and loves home. He will be writing twice monthly for The Aspen Times while he’s here. It’s true, there’s no place like it, but Aspen with 30 of your mates is pretty good, too.