Saturday, April 10, 2010

a life on the road

What a whirlwind life has been and it's not over yet. After working very hard to finish a grant application in mid-March, we were off to a Peace Corps training focusing on HIV/AIDS, grant writing, and project design and management. It was a great time, and a very valuable learning and networking experience for our counterparts who are doing a learnership (like an internship) through the Dept of Education. It was great getting a chance to go through the process of designing a project with them. We planned out what we'd need to do to build a community park which would be quite a fun project if they weren't so busy with starting the old age home. Maybe next year...

Then it was off to the Longtom Marathon (thanks to everyone who donated!). Even though we walked the 21 km, we were pretty sore by the end of it. It was fun to see lots of other PCVs and meet a bunch we hadn't met before, but it was kind of rushed because we had to leave at 7 the next morning to make sure we'd make it to the airport in time to meet my parents.

The trip to the airport was remarkably smooth even though it involved 4 taxis and 7 hours. We got there in time to grab some falafel before they got in exhausted because they really didn't sleep the whole ride. We took a couple of days to recover and see the village. They got to meet our host mom as well as some of our friends and co-workers. Though it was quiet around the village because of the school holidays, we did end up introducing them to a lot of people.

Then it was off to tour South Africa...first we headed to Pilanesburg National Park where despite lots of rain we saw a ton of animals up close...elephants, giraffes, zebras, a warthog, rhinos, jackals, monkeys and lots of different kinds of antelopes. It was pretty amazing. From there, we headed south towards the coast. We stopped for lunch in Ventersdorp (where just a few days leader former AWB leader Eugene Terre Blanche would be murdered on his farm) and spent the night in Britstown in the middle of the karoo (an arid area that takes up most of the west of inland South Africa). Most of the people there are coloured (which is the classification given to the descendants of the Afrikaaners and black South Africans). They've been a separate group for so long that they are seen as one of South Africa's racial groups, and a child in our village with mixed race parents wouldn't automatically be considered coloured. Anyway, it was our first experience in an area where the majority of the population is coloured, and it just made us even more aware of how culturally diverse this country is.

Then it was off to Knysna on the garden route. Along the way, James did a cliff jump into a pool next to a waterfall and we attempted to eat lunch in Outdshoorn (the ostrich capitol of ZA) but the town was overrun by an Afrikaaner cultural festival. Knysna was a bit too built up for our taste, and the garden route really felt like another country because it's so developed and touristy, but it's definitely beautiful. We hiked along the first part of the Otter Trail in Tsitsikamma National Park and saw duikers, dassies, and dolphins. It was breathtaking, but I got some killer blisters from putting my sandals back on when my feet were wet.

The next day we headed to Swellendam, an old Dutch town in the Little Karoo. It was super cute and right up against the mountains. We got some of the best food of our trip there (my parents said the restaurant where they had dinner was one of the best they had ever been to in their lives, but we skipped it for ramen, but the lunch was pretty darn tasty too). It was a good day to kind of relax before heading to Cape Town.

In Cape Town, we kept busy...went up table mountain, saw the penguins, took a day trip to Stellenbosch and winery, went to the botanical gardens, walked all around the city, visited the Jewish Museum, hung out at the waterfront, ate bagels, Ethiopian, Cuban, Indian, and Thai food, shopped for crafts, etc, etc. It was beautiful and felt a lot like an American city, definitely much more hip and safer than Pretoria. But I think if we lived there, we'd spend a lot of money.

We were pretty exhausted by the time we got home, but it was definitely worth it. Now we've got another training this week and then have to get to working on making this camp happen because we've got only two months to go. Then it's time for Liberia and Namibia, wow our time here is flying by.

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