Hello, and welcome back!
Wow... where to begin? In my last post, I detailed the first days on my overland trip that too me through 10 countries plus Uganda. As I am still in Peace Corps and therefore in a position where I can get kicked OUT of Peace Corps, I cannot go into all the details of the trip. However, I am dead set on publishing an itinerary of my adventures, as, disregarding all the once in a life-time experiences I had to pay a pretty-penny for, the trip was incredibly affordable and very easy (in terms of the road being beautifully smooth and paved, the people being friendly and welcoming etc...). And, my god... the pictures. I've already posted pictures through Capetown on my Facebook page, and I'll post the rest from Capetown onward to Uganda once I get home and have more time and bandwidth.
Here's a quick list of things I did on the trip:
Bungee jumped off the bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe (a couple weeks later, that same cord snapped when I young woman jumped off... she lived... and if I had been home, Michelle would have killed me...)
Four-wheeled and Skydived (like dirt-bikes but with four wheels) in the dunes of Swakopmund, Namibia. Skydiving is probably the coolest thing I've ever done... and I'm honestly thinking of getting certified so I can dive solo.
Watched the sun rise and hiked around Namib-Naukluft State Park in Namibia, possible the most beautiful desert environment I've ever seen (and I am VERY fond of the SW in the US).
Climbed, in a day, Devils Peak, Table Mountain and Lion's Head in Capetown, South Africa and drank beers and good wine while watching the sun set over the Atlantic.
Pony Trekked, got pummeled by malaria for the first time (Ugh...) and hiked around Sani Pass, Lesotho, the most beautiful mountainous region of our entire adventure (and possibly in my life, for that matter).
Got PADI certified (i.e. I'm a registered open-water SCUBA diver) in Tofo, Mozambique, where every picture is a postcard.
Snorkeled and boated around Vilankulos, Mozambique.
Snorkeled and Kayaked in Lake Malawi... home to the most diverse collection of fish of anywhere on the planet.
And, the rest, aside from a brief stay with some snorkeling and some hilariously-tippy-canoing in Nkhata Bay, Malawi, was just travel, getting our asses back to site on time.
Again, pictures to come, but probably not until months from now. I'm busy.
On to the point of the post: COS Conference.
COS stands for CLOSE OF SERVICE.
That's right, folks. I'm damn near finished with two years of service. Soon, now actually, I'm packing up my bags and planning for the second stage of my Capetown-Cairo trip which will ultimate terminate in Tel Aviv, Israel at the end of May. From there, I'll fly back to the US for my best friends wedding (a great movie, by the way) and begin the first days of the rest of my life. In the middle of march, I'll leave Kyenjojo for Kampala. There, I'll do three days of medical and paper-work nonsense, and then I'll be, um... kicked into the pool of 200,000 + Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) that have served since March 1st, 1961.
The conference lasted two days. We talked about things we’d miss, things we wouldn't, what we were doing next, admin stuff, and in the end, we got give feedback about the good, bad and ugly about PC-Uganda from training onward to our Country Director (boss)... and by feedback, I mean verbal ravaging (this is not the place to talk about the BAD in PC, but my thoughts will be revealed when I am safely out of the axe...).
On day two, the last thing we did was all join in a circle, arms around each others shoulders, and we all expressed something we wanted the group to know. I’d been feeling emotions welling all day, but I just my hangover playing tricks on me (we drank pretty heavily each night).Well, I was third or so in line, and when it got to me, everything just spilled over. I looked to my left at Ashley, and was met with a “Don’t… if you do, I will…”
But I just couldn’t help it...
I choked up on my first words and had to turn away, my head resting on my close friend Elizabeth's head until I could catch a breath (I found out later that my tears eventually rolled down her nose like an Olympic ski-jumper, qualifying me as the most EXTREME cry-baby in the group). Back to everyone, look around, and I somehow got out, “It’s been an honor…” before breaking down again.
When I could speak, but not for long, I squeaked out, “It feels like my whole world is being turned upside down…”
Feeling a bit depressurized, I added on, “I just can’t BELIEVE that I was the first one!!!” to which everyone erupted into laughter (we'd had a bet about who would be the first to break down... the money was on one of the small, cute girls in the group. Oops!).
Everyone had something beautiful to say, and by the end there were very few dry eyes among us.
Things wrapped up that evening with after-dinner speeches and a slideshow documenting our two years together.
I lack the words to explain what it feels like to say goodbye to a family like this... I lack the motivation, at this time, to even try. For me, it is all so surreal. I believe it is nearly finished. I've accepted that. And still, I am a bit numb. Perhaps, in the time remaining I'll be able to write something up that better catches my turbulent emotions... but don't hold your breath. Instead, ask me about seeing a slide-show that I'll put together about the experience. Only with music and pictures can something so priceless be captured.
Oh! My small travel guitar that accompanied me to Uganda is now a MASTERPIECE! I brought it to COS, and I had everyone sign it. My instructions were, "You know, sign it, do whatever, just remember there are a lot of people, so keep it smaller..." The result? Well... see for yourself:
BEAUTIFUL!! Now, I just need a professional luthier to coat the surface with a thin layer of varnish to prevent any smudging from happening in the future.
It's time for me to run for the hills. I do hope to post a few more times before I leave the country, so stay tuned.
Thanks for reading.
I love you all (but especially you, Michelle!)