Holiday Fun!

Travel Log for my holiday travels, Dec. 2008.

GTOT or General Training of Trainers
– I have been invited to help train the new volunteers joining the SA team in Feb.
– GTOT was held at the College of Education in Marapyane, where my PST was held and were the new volunteers will spend their first 8 weeks in country.
– We planned sessions on everything from how to keep yourself healthy to conducting community need assessments. The new volunteers will be part of the Community HIV Outreach Project, or CHOP.
– It was planning heaven! We had a whole wall covered in color-coded sticky nooks!
– It was really fun to spend some time with PCVs from others groups. And the flash backs from arriving in country made me realize how much I have grown in the past 6 months!

Holiday Travels with Kelly, Molly, Andrew, Jeff, Meg, LaTosha, and Kristy
Blyde River Canyon and Sabie:
– Andrew and I khumbied out to meet the rest of the group after GTOT.
– In Graskop, we rode the zip line across Blyde River Canyon (3rd largest canyon in the world)!
– Sabie is absolutely beautiful! Rolling hills, forest and lots of waterfalls.
– Jeff, Andrew and I went adventure caving. Our guides had us put on jumpsuits and helmets and let us on a 3 hour-long crawl through a cave- lit only by candlelight! Our guide, Robeck from Malawi, entertained himself by smearing me with “war paint” (i.e. mud) and pushing me into a giant mud hole. It was great!
– The next day all 8 of us dawned wet suits and went Kloofing (also known as Canyoning). Kloofing is basically rafting without the raft. In our wetsuits and helmets, we hiked down to the river where we made our way down the river by climbing over boulders, jumping off cliffs, floating through rapids and getting banged up in the process. It was AWESOME! At the end we hiked up the steep canyon wall and come up behind a fence with a sign reading “Danger- do not cross”. Needless to say, all of the tourists whose photos we interrupted were pretty impressed!

Maputo, Mozambique
– “Sped things along” at the bored by paying a guy to help with paper work. Worked pretty well!
– Got held hostage (sort of) at a sketchy backpacker. Well the manager wouldn’t unlock the gate when we decided we wanted to stay somewhere else. Did the American thing and threw money at the problem until it worked!
– Visited the PC office- beautiful ocean views! Lucky…
– Got lost, and then stuck, in a traffic jam at a local market.
– At dinner at the fish market. First you buy all of the seafood you want from vendors, haggling is welcome. Then you go around the other side and restaurants vie for your business. When you pick a restaurant, they cook all of your food any way you like it. It was by far the very best seafood I have ever had! Meanwhile, there is an on going parade of vendors trying to get you to buy their goods.

Tofu Beach, Mozambique
– Traveled about 7 hours north to the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. Camped in the sand at a backpacker right on the water.
– Lots of dancing, napping, reading, and beer.
– Got pretty good at haggling prices down at the local market.

Nisela Safaris, Swaziland
– Nearly ran out of gas after stopping at 3+ petrol stations and all of them out of gas!
– Woke up to Lucky the Lion roaring! Got to pet him when his keeper came over say good morning. That’s right, a lion nibbled me.
– Game Drive: saw springbok, giraffe, warthog, ostrich, zebra, and more. Also got to drive the big safari truck!
– Held an albino python. Ick.
– Drove through basically al of Swaziland just to visit a glass blowing factory.

St. Lucia, South Africa
– Camped with Hippos (Hippos are known to come up into town at night- very dangerous!)
– Celebrated Christmas with White Elephant gifts and Secrete Santa. I discovered my hidden talent for wrapping presents in stuff laying around (burlap sack, flowers, palm fronds, etc. Martha Steward would be proud!)
– More dancing!
– Visited the Estuary where we saw crocs and hippos in their natural habitat!

Eshowe, South Africa – Zululand
– Backpacker and brewery all in one!
– Arial boardwalk tour.
– Fun playing tricks on Andrew in the car.

Warner Beach, South Africa
– Great food at a hole in the wall restaurant.
– Karaoke talents revealed. Not mine of course, I can’t sing to save my life, but I am a pretty awesome dancer.
– Watched the movie Twilight. I love Edward!

Durban, South Africa
– Visit to the largest mall in the southern hemisphere. Woah.
– Great food and fun on Florida Rd.
– Discovered I am most likely allergic to Ibuprofen by throwing up for several hours on New Years Eve and breaking out with larger blisters. Happy New Year!

All in all, it was a wonderful trip and we all made memories that will last a very long time. It was really interesting to see some more of SA and Southern Africa because it helped to put into perspective the situation of our villages and schools. In a lot of ways SA is better off then many of her neighbors, there is stronger infrastructure and more economic development. Also the racial diversity in South Africa, especially in the larger cities, rivals any major metropolitan city in the world. But the scars of Apartheid still seem to hold people back in ways that no one could have predicted.
Back at home in my village, I am glad for a little down time but also am excited to get started back at school. I am going to be teaching computer classes to both learners and teachers, and also literacy classes to grades 5-7. I am in the mist of reorganizing the library at the higher primary school, again. But this time we’ve got lots of space to grow! One thing this vacation made me realize is that the people here are completely capable of achieving anything they want, and have many more resources at their disposal than they know. So I am going to do my best to push them to recognize their own power and encourage them to create positive change in their own lives!
Thank you to all who have sent notes, emails, books, money, prayers, holiday joy, etc. I don’t think I will ever be able to convey just how grateful I am. Being away from home for the holidays just reminded me how lucky I am to have such awesome family and friends. It was tough not being there to enjoy shoveling snow, white elephants on Christmas Eve, New Years fun and spending time with all of you. But knowing that I have your support and hearing from you makes all the difference in the world! Thank you again! Ke a leboga kudu kudu!
Also, after two years of tropical Christmases, I am planning to have an over the top, gooey Colorado Christmas in 2010. So get your ugly sweaters and wassail ready!

I love you all! Happy New Year!

One Response

  1. Hey Leah,

    We miss you!! The Christmas White Elephant gift exchange wasn’t the same without you, but we managed to have some laughs and ate well, as usual. The whip cream was as always a hit too!

    Your trip sounded really fun and wonderful. I would love to have experienced the canyoning as well as all the beaches and haggling. Good thing you had some prior experience with that in China!

    I’m starting to read Power Lines. Very fun to learn a bit more about what you’re experiencing. Africa is facinating and I again am so impressed with your bravery at embarking on such an adventure!! Many kuddos to you, Leah!

    I also just finished Dreams from My Father. An awesome book as I’m sure you’ve already read it. I cannot believe today is the first day America has a black president!! What an exciting day in history. I just woke up Logan (his classes start today) to the sounds of NPR’s footage of the inaguration and my dancing around in his room from excitment for the day.

    Keep those blogs and pictures coming when you can. We’re all thinking about you.

    Be well.


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