Monday, September 10, 2007

The Home Stretch

As of now I am close to reaching my mission of reading, on average, a book each week for my two years of service. Only seven to go after a reading blitz of 34 books from May through the first week of July! The highlight was doing all seven Harry Potter books in 12 days. The books are BY FAR much better than any of the movies. In fact, it frustrates me now that I know how much the movies cut out of the books.

Before term two finished I worked on teacher computer training (teaching them all how to do their marks on a spreadsheet), the updating the computer lab network and trying to fix up some old computers, including my laptop. Oh, did I mention my laptop broke back in April and have been working to fix it since? Got it working about a week before term two break but it went down, possibly for good, last night ... hard drive failure. Hopefully I can resurrect it once again.

The brief tales of South Africa

A 16 hour bus ride to the Cape. Cape Town is not Africa at all. I felt like I was walking around in San Francisco. The waterfront, Table Mountain, botanical gardens, the smells and sounds, completely opposite of my village. Did a tour of the cape, on which I met some interesting fellow lone travelers. Reading Long Walk to Freedom in two days, finishing just before doing the Robben Island tour. Just before going on the tour I ran into a group 25er who was doing the tour a couple hours later. Reading the book made the tour so much better.

Yes, the country still bears scars from apartheid, but I also saw many more reasons for hope than I did while in Jo'burg last year. I will admit I still got lots of strange looks when I walked around Cape Town greeting the people I met on the street. That lasted for all of half a day. I'm not in the village anymore.

The week in Hogsback

A 20 hour bus ride to East London and Intercape was two hours late, so I missed the shuttle to Hogsback. We had some issues with the oil pressure and a leaky ceiling which just happened to dump onto my lap, looking like I had a bladder accident. The nice woman sitting next to me requested a wet suit for me from the attendant. The delay was thanks to switching buses.

Anyways, II called them to tell of my dilemma and it turned out the owners were in town and they gave me a ride! Talk about luck. Planned on spending only a weekend there and it ended up being five days. The hikes are incredible. It feels just like you're in a scene for any Tolkien book. All the waterfalls are fed by natural springs. There was mud everywhere – I nearly feel full profile into a huge mud pit on more than one occasion. The waterfalls, moss-covered ground, gnarled tree trunks and mountain scenery were breathtaking. I watched a family of monkeys savage a tree just outside my bedroom window! Living in a desert for two years makes you appreciate the smell of moisture and plant life. An invigorating experience.

I would go out for hikes in the morning and then spend the evenings watching cricket and rugby with fellow backpackers. I got along so well with the owners that they upgraded me from my dorm (a room with a bunch of beds) to a private double bedroom, called Frodo's Room, with a fireplace and fantastic view. I got a ride back to East London with the owners, stopping by a maximum security prison – they were having a silent auction and he was bidding on a vehicle. Yes, we walked right in the prison yard. How many vacations can boast that?

The journey home

Decided to come back a little early, riding 36 hours on a bus over two days. Not as much fun as you'd think. I spent the time reading and listening to my “Last Term of Service” mix on my iPod. They showed Hitch on one leg of the journey. Not so much fun when we crossed the SA border. The police brought out the x-ray machine and scanned all the baggage. That happens when you are the first or second bus through, not the sixth as we were on the way into SA two weeks ago.

My ticket was from Cape to Keets, but I was able to beg and plead my way to getting dropped off right at the Tses B1 hikepoint, and the two liter of coke I bought for the crew didn't hurt either. I am much safer walking home at 2am in Tses (completely safe) than walking around in Keets. The best part was that I got to ride shot-gun on the Intercape (double-decker bus) for the last leg. The funniest moment happened in Cape Town as I walked out to queue with everyone else. As I walked out of the Intercape building I heard someone yell out, “Mike!!”. It was another group 25er heading back to her site too. So funny.

The closure of service conference at Midgard

I took the train to Windhoek, so in the past week I've spent over 46 hours on buses and trains. Midgard is a weird place, like Greiters insofar as they have the feel of belonging in some kind of horror movie, though Greiters has more of a Psycho feel to it being that it's on a hill. Huge chess set, some pools, bowling alley, volleyball and tennis courts, a ping pong and pool table, car museum, amphitheater, but all at the cost of an hour plus down a bumpy dirt road.

The first two nights I spent my time with people I normally don't. We played volleyball, a lot of billiards, swam in the icy cold, mildew-smelling pool amongst other things. One of the volunteers in our group also teaches tennis and we wanted to play sometime before leaving Namibia. Although we didn't get the time to play on the tennis courts, on the last night we did get in some good table tennis time. He beat me every time, but had some great rallies and close matches. One of the older volunteers strolled by and joined in, saying she wasn't that good and nearly beat both of us. It was a lot of fun.

I had the worst insomnia there as well. I got about seven hours of sleep in three days. The hardest part was knowing that this is probably going to be the last time I'll see most of the people in the group. Most are completing service early to travel, while I'm going to stick it out to Dec 15th. Also add in that I'm down in the “deep south” and most of the group is a seven plus hour hike away on a good day. Afterward I'll be staying to help out Group 27's teachers at model school from Dec 10th (with a break to do some closure of service PC stuff) until Christmas-ish or so and then traveling to Vic Falls and possibly to Tanzania and a bunch of other countries along the way. Depends on if my credit card works and some other things. I just noticed the other day that my Wells Fargo ATM card expired in May...oops. If all goes to plan I should be home sometime in January, February at the latest. After that...

Right now I'm torn between six different short/long term career options of which three involve teaching, however only three of the six options are in the United States.

Only something like 95 days to go until I'm officially an RPCV.

Take care and I'll see you soon

p.s. - I've put in 26 hours of sleep in the past three days since leaving Midgard.

p.s.s. - If you're thinking about sending a package specifically for me, don't because I probably won't get it. With the probable delivery time, I'll be finished with service and gone from my site. If it's for the school/learners, great! Send away!


At 4:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just wanted to know if the packages arrived.



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