Tuesday, December 13, 2011
I'm writing to you from the ridiculous town of Swakopmund, Namibia. We arrived here yesterday after 24+ hours of travel from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. After finding our place to camp, we scheduled our first adventure: Quad-Biking (Four wheelers) in the Namib Dessert right outside town. INCREDIBLE! We did it this morning, and I am sold on the bikes. Very cool.
In other news: I jumped off a bridge the other day, literally. The bridge connecting Vic-Falls Zimbabwe to Zambia has bungee jumping, so we bought a huge package where we did a zip-line, a swing over the gorge and a bungee jump for 155 bucks. HOLY SHIT. Greatest rides of my life.
And then you fall 111 meters into the depths.
We hung around Zim for a few days and got screwed out of a bus ride to Namib, but we got everything figured out.
Note: Zimbabwe is a FANTASTIC country with beautiful people... some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. We're all discovering just how bad Uganda has it by making these comparisons to each country we travel to. Botswana, Zim (Vic Falls, really... obviously not the whole country), and Namibia look just like America. It's truly unbelievable how progressed these places are.
Alright, times up. Just wanted to check in. We're having a blast. Almost went sky diving today, but they were booked. We're headed to Nakuluft State Park tomorrow then down to Capetown in a few days. It just keeps getting better and better.
Thanks for checking in!
I love you all (but especially you, Michelle!)
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Next, here is the summary of the trip thus far.
Day 1: We flew from Entebbe at 6:30 on Monday morning after spending the night with our friend Rob from the CDC. AWESOME guy! He hooked us up with great beer, BBQ pork and, um, more great beer before we all crashed WAY too late for the early flight.
Entebbe is a very nice airport, and we were through customs quickly. Our flights were VERY strange in that in order to get to Jo-burg, we had to fly first to Nairobi, Kenya, wait two hours, board another plane for Kigali, Rwanda, wait 45 minutes and finally board the final plane to Jo-burg, South Africa.
I got HORRIFICALLY ill on the way to Nairobi! Not a good way to start a trip... I was having heat waves crash over me, I was sweating profusely from time to time, my head was hurting and my mind was spinning. I know what you might be thinking: Malaria. Me too. But, thankfully, I don't believe it was anything more than motion-sickness. I puked a bit on the plane to Kigali (I FINALLY GOT TO USE A BARF BAG!!!!!!), puked a lot more in Kigali (they were offering me a doctor... sweeties!) and crashed on the final plane to SA waking in the middle feeling relatively stable and ravenously hungry. The fog cleared over the next two hours, and by the time I landed, I was bright, sunny and stoked to have just finished a small bottle of Concha y Torro Cabernet. For those who have never flown with them, Rwandair is FANTASTIC!
Jo-burg: Dave had a friend in the city who met us at the airport. Gaven. Freakin' incredible human being! He drove us to his place in South Jo-burg where we showered, unpacked and met his wife before heading out to dinner. Tasty food, good beers, great company. The night ended with a long, deep sleep. The perfect end to a strange first day.
Day 2: We rose early, had some granola and yogurt and headed to the airport. After a brief goodbye with Gaven, we went through the issues with money exchange (FOREX at the airport is criminal), and getting Dave squared away with his money issues (he brought no money... only a stanbic card... and STANDARD does not take STANBIC, so he was in trouble). Once that was worked out, Natalie and I got in touch with the Bus-man who gave us some brilliant, though horrifically convoluted directions from the airport to the downtown where we would be able to catch our bus to Bulawayo (our original plan was to go straight to Zimbabwe and then transfer there onto something that takes us to Victoria Falls). Long story short, he along with everyone else freaked the living hell out of us about Jo-burg. Let me explain:
Jo-burg is VERY VERY VERY dangerous. We were told this by every single person we met. "Jo-burg is DANGEROUS. BE VERY CAREFUL!" We heard stories about people getting jumped in broad daylight, jumped in stores, alley's, streets, everywhere... my god. And the city is HUGE! So we were on high alert passing through town. On the surface, it looks amazing... like Kampala might look after another 100 years. Smooth roads, big nice buildings, ordered streets. Perfect. But always in the background, that fear of getting jumped. So we got our business done with the busses ASAP... which took quite some time.
We ended up catching a but to Gabarone, getting there late at night, realizing we had nowhere NEAR enough money to stay in such a nice place and hopped immediately on another bus Francistown.
Day3: After a strange ride (hallucinations from lack of sleep), we pulled into Francistown at around 4 am and left to the bus park to catch another bus to Kasane in the northernmost corner of Botswana. After some tea and fried bread, we caught that bus and somewhere around 6 hours later we arrived.
My god, I have run away typing again... As of now, we are finished with 18 hours of travel in the last 24 hours, and we are about 70km shy of Victoria Falls. We'll be there tomorrow jumping off of the bridge with buyngee cords on our feet! YEAH!!! Then, we'll likely stay around another day before heading into Namibia and continuing onward.
So! I am safe and loving life. South Africa and Botswana look a lot like America... EXACTLY like America, actually. It's freaky. There is just that damn underlying fear. Ugh. And then there are the prices... if we were coming straight from Jobs in the states, we'd have a much easier time buying the necessities (beer, beer, a place to set a tent, beer and... oh, food). Unfortunately, everything here is two-times more expensive than the states, so we're pinching pennies.
But we're making it.
Life is good. I'm doing GREAT. This is already one of the greatest adventures I've been on, and I am only a tenth of the way through :)
I'm off... I just shut down an internet cafe with this post.
Thanks for reading!
I love you all (but especially you, Michelle!)
P.S. Next update, I expect, will come from Namibia!
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
These are my 20L jerry-cans. I use about 2.5 of these a week. I accomplish this by: (a.) Showering every 2-3 days (only on the days I work out), minimizing dishes (I rarely wash my pots and pans... you know... because the heat will take care of the germs!), and wearing the same clothes multiple times before washing them (I cannot believe I am admitting this... I'll wear a shirt boxers 4+ days before putting them into the "for work outs"-pile where they get a few more uses before going to the laundry pile. If I do that with boxers... imagine how I treat t-shirts and pants).
This is quickly becoming an article about how disgusting I am as a human being. Whoops!
General Ecology First Need Water Purifier: Hands down the BEST water purifier on the planet earth. Notice: I said PURIFIER, not FILTER. This bad boy takes everything out of the water all the way down to Viruses. Today is not only my 18-months-as-a-volunteer celebration, it is also the 8 month-a-versary since I put this particular purifying cartridge into the first need. The website rates these filters as good for around 150 gallons of water. But check this out: at an average of 4 liters a day for 8 months, I've purified around 960 liters of water or 253 gallons of water! And it is STILL going strong. (The trick, of course, is that I am purifying water that has been allowed to settle, so I am not mucking up the filter with large particles.)
The rain tank: My primary source for water. You would not believe how quickly a hotel where almost no one stays can empty this multi-thousand liter tank. A week?
The spring: My secondary source for water. As you can see, the spring often goes dry. Even when it flows, it is nothing more than a small trickle, so it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to fill a jerry-can. The good thing about the spring is that I've never seen it swarmed with people. As it takes so long to fill cans, people are more inclined to take their water from the borehole or the swamp. The benefit of using the spring is that I can kick back and read a book while technically fetching water.
The Borehole: My tertiary source of water. There are several boreholes around Kyenjojo where people go to get water. Boreholes are drilled by NGOS all over Africa, and they often fall into disrepair. In Kyenjojo, for example, I've come across three that are broken down. (The most common problem with the bore-hole occurs from broken handles. The next most common is from failures in the one-way valves deep in the hole.) Typically, as the community has no ownership of the hole, when they break they simply stay broken until (a.) the original NGO returns to pay for the repair or (b.) a volunteer from another organization comes in and pays for the repair. (c.) There are instances in Uganda where PCVs have organized water committees and pooled community funds to make the repairs, this in an attempt to instill a sense of ownership of the hole in the future. There is a committee for this particular hole, and members who wish to use it must pay a few dollars a year for access.
Women carrying 20L jerry cans from the bore-hole back to their homes. "A pint's a pound the world around!" meaning these women are carrying around 42 pounds of water each for a half-mile or more. Beast.
If all else fails, I could (but never would), get water from here: The swamp. This is probably the dirtiest water around, as it contains the runoff from the city and shallow latrines around the area. A layer of oil shimmers on its surface.
Friday, October 7, 2011
To anyone who feels that they can beat respect into the young: Damn you to hell. You've failed us all. Enjoy your Karma.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Mushroom(s) – Akatuzi , Obutuzi (1k, ($0.33))
This is how the average Ugandan cooks EVERYTHING. A small pot, clay or metal, filled up with charcoal, boils the water than steams their posho (corn meal), beans or ebitooke. I ran the numbers when I bought my last propane tank, and based on the price of charcoal vs. propane, it is far more economical for a Ugandan family to continue using these stoves or the three-stone fire method than to upgrade to gas. Why? Because everything they eat requires boiling water for hours on end. Gas stoves aren't made for that.
The results are disastrous for the environment: trees are being cut down at an astonishing rate that increases every year as the population explodes. The policy is: Cut down a tree, but plant two. But the policy is rarely if ever followed.