Tuesday, September 30, 2014

And in the blink of an eye...

It was over.

The last few weeks of my service in the Peace Corps and saying goodbye to the people and area that has been my family and home for the last two years flew by. I was busy with so many things to do that I never really had time to process everything that was happening. I was running (biking) all over the place trying to finish up meetings and projects and tell everyone that I'd been working with that I was leaving. I delivered all of my books that I had accumulated in my hut, full of teaching manuals, health lessons, english learning, information on conservation farming techniques, etc. to the local school where I've run a few clubs. I gave all of my health talk posters that I've made in the last two years, along with boxes of condoms, wooden penis models, anatomy books, and health manuals to my clinic and all of the health volunteers so that they could continue working and teaching just like I trained them to do in my health workshop last November. I was finishing up my World Map Project at the school, which took many long hours in the hot sun. I had to oversee the purchasing and delivery of materials and the beginning of construction stages  for the Health Clinic that we helped raise money to build. And I was also planning a traditional village wedding ceremony. On top of all that, I had to finish final reports, type up a summary of my service, disperse papers throughout the district and province, get things signed, get rid of things and pack up my entire hut. Lastly, I had to say goodbye to my best friend, Jones, and my best bud, Chewbacca.
Working on the World Map
All the supplies purchased from the gofundme fundraiser in the storage room to build the clinic!
Broke ground to start laying the foundation of the clinic!! Standing here acting like I know what I'm talking about...

Saying goodbye in Zambia isn't really what you'd expect it to be like. I think as Americans, we expect goodbyes to be sentimental. To them, they just wave goodbye then go back to cooking food or working in the field. It was quick and painless, which made it easier to not process what was happening. But I also had a lot to look forward to in the coming months, so my mind was set on the future a bit and less on being present in it all.

I rang out on Sept 5th. That consisted of going up to a tire rim with a metal rod and hitting it. Then Peace Corps gives you a hug, a handshake, and a Peace Corps pin. That's it, thanks for two years. You are no longer our responsibility, so go check out of your hotel room and be on your way.
All packed up (with too much stuff) and ready to go!
Pulling out the nice shirt to help us get a hitchhike.

So thats what we did. I stood around for 2 pictures, hugged a few people that I am sad to see go, then went and packed up my bags and hit the road. Literally, within the next hour, we were standing on a street corner with all of our bags, trying to hitch-hike up the country. After waiting for 4 hours or so, some little guy named Chris from Tanzania picked us up for a ride. We got to where we were staying that night around 11 pm, then woke up early the next morning and hit the road hitchhiking again. Met up with a friend in Lundazi, and continued our hitchhike over into Malawi and to Nkhata Bay.
The view from my pillow in our bungalow on Lake Malawi. Best way to wake up in the morning.

Chinteche Beach, Lake Malawi
We spent 2 nights there, then started hitching down the lake. Stopped off at a cool backpackers in Chinteche and spent the night camping on the sand. We walked into the local village and found a family that would let us eat dinner with them for a couple dollars. Ended up sitting on their porch while they fed us cassava sima and fried fresh fish and being entertained by the little kids laughing with us on the porch. Back at the backpackers we found out that there was a large Overland truck (the ones that people pay thousands of dollars to go on safari across Africa and all they do is sit in comfy seats and get driven from game park to game park) that was heading the same way as us in the morning. Everyone said we wouldn't be able to hitch a ride with them because of liability reasons, but we happened to convince the guy. So the next morning at 6 am, we loaded up into their truck with crazy stares from all the fancy rich white people wondering why these dirty campers were getting in their tour. It was a wonderful, comfortable ride with a lot of leg room as we headed further down the lake. 
Chinteche Beach, Lake Malawi, Malawi.
That was the beginning of our backpacking trip over the next 9 weeks in Africa. We have slept camping in the sand on countless beaches or cliff-sides throughout Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa. In Swaziland we slept on the forest ground under monkeys in the mountains near the Queens palace. We've had an actual bed about 4 different nights, otherwise we're on the sand or dirt or grass or even astroturf of every place we go.
Astroturf on the roof of a backpackers in the city center of Maputo, Mozambique.
Hitchhiking is the way to travel around most places here. We've met some really cool, really interesting, and really crazy people along the way. We've gotten rides in the backs of canters full of pcv pipes that fly around and cut into your legs, in the beds of pick-up trucks full of vegetables, a guy with $1,000,000 in his car and a license to kill, brand new hilux's, shitty little beaters, and, as mentioned, Overland Safari trucks. We've been stuffed into mini-buses where you have full grown adults sitting on your lap and on the back because they've put way too many people in the car, and we've had wind blow through our hair riding around in personal tuk-tuk motorbike taxis.
Hitching in the back of pick-up trucks through the mountains of Northwestern Mozambique.
Local bus transport with babies and adults in your lap.
Hitching with babies in your lap and no seat belt on the rim of a truck bed.
Motorcycle Taxis.
In Mozambique we stopped over for a few days and did our scuba-diving certification in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. It was an amazing experience, and from everyone we talk to I hear that we were extremely lucky to see all we did during our course dives. Being able to swim in a natural aquarium is magnificent. Despite a panic attack that I had when I inhaled a bunch of sea water 15m down, it was such a cool thing. We swam with whale sharks, humpback whales, dolphins, and saw manta rays, octopus, and many more underwater creatures. I can't wait to dive off of Zanzibar Island with some sea turtles!
Tofo Beach, Inhambane, Mozambique.
Whale Shark Selfie! Tofo, Mozambique
There was awesome fresh fish markets throughout the beaches in Mozambique. We would go down and buy from the fisherman and have someone cook it for us right then. Really cheap and really amazing!!
Fresh Calamari and lobsters!
In Mozambique we met a guy from South Africa named Dave who is helping to run a backpackers in Swaziland. We were planning to go through there, but were talking about cutting Swaziland out of our trip and just heading straight to South Africa. Dave not only talked us into coming and staying at his backpackers, but he had a vehicle and wanted company on the drive back to Swaziland (okay, that was a big factor). Swaziland was a really cool little country (Kingdom, under Monarch rule of a King), and I feel like it's a hidden gem in this part of Africa that most people skip when traveling through. It was such a sweet, chill place. The people were amazing everywhere we went, and the surrounding scenery was beautiful. Swaziland really has its stuff together. While we were there, Dave took us out on about a 3 hour hike up the top of Shieba's Breast. It was a beautiful, and tough at times, hike, but it was a perfect serene place to have a picnic lunch atop a rock overlooking valleys roaming with wild animals. After coming back down, we went and swam in some natural hot springs. 

We've traveled overland since Sept 5th, and recently picked up our own rental car when we reached Durban, South Africa. It's been so great to drive, even if its on the opposite side of the road and car than what we're used to in America. We've taken a few days to drive down along the Wild Coast, the Sunshine Coast, the Garden Route, the Whale Route, and so forth into Cape Town.

Did a wine tour in the beautiful wine area of Stellenbosch. And tonight we fly to Arusha, Tanzania.

Stellenbosch Wine Tour, South Africa
Table Mountain in the background. 
The overland route we've taken starting on Sept 5th. 
So here we continue, with the next phase of my blog being my travels through Africa, post-Peace Corps. Hopefully as we see more internet access along the way, we will be able to update about our travels more. We have met really cool people from all over the world, and are getting to experience and learn really fascinating. It's been a great trip so far, and we still have over a month left!! 

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