"Living a truly ethical life, putting the needs of others first, and providing for their happiness has tremendous implications for society." -Dalai Lama

"Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us." -Sargent Shriver

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A New Chapter

So that's it...the end is here.  I am officially an RPCV, or Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.  No more teaching, village life, or government stipend.  I feel so alone.  Leaving Newala was hard.  There are so many people there that I care so much about.  I spent about a week trying to get through all of the goodbyes.  Some tears were shed, but we had a happy going away party at the beach house in Mtwara.  Lots of beer, food, and friends.  After that, adventures really started happening.  A group of 9 volunteers all joined forces and made the trek to Pemba, an island just north of Zanzibar.  After getting doped up on motion sickness meds, we took the ferry to Pemba and then a bus to the north of the island.  We then had the pleasure to stay at Swahili Divers.  There, we took a 4-day scuba diving certification course.  The fish and corals were amazing as were the staff.  And we all passed with flying colors!  Hooray for us! After getting certified, we headed back to Zanzibar to hand out for a day and then on to Dar es Salaam for our close-of-service.  Over three days, I had to poop in sample jars, pee in 1, get a TB test, blood work, dental, close my bank account, and meet with our country director.  As of October 24th, 2012 I finished all of my work and got my "R," becoming an RPCV.  After that, I just hung around hanging out with friends and sadly watching one person after the other leave.  Fun, but a little depressing.  After entirely too much time in Dar, 3 other volunteers and I boarded the train for Zambia.  We traveled in class, having a first class coach all to ourselves.  We passed the 2 days on the train by playing almost non-stop card games.  The ride went incredibly smoothly, besides having to deal with not-so-nice immigration around midnight until the end.  About 10 kilometers from where the train ended, we just so happened to hit a lorry, or a truck, carrying tons of corn.  We only hit the trailer and no one was hurt so it was all good.  We were delayed a hit though because everyone, villagers and all the train employees, went nuts pillaging all of the corn.  It was mass chaos with everyone filling bags and buckets and anything they could get their hands on with corn.  This in turn started a bit of looting so we just locked ourselves in our cabin and rode out the chaos there.  After all the corn had been had, we rolled in to Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia around 8:30 p.m. only to hop on another bus to Lusaka.  We finally rolled in to Lusaka around 12:00 a.m and made our way to the backpacking hostel there.  The next morning, we boarded another bus to get down to Livingstone, where we were staying to see Victoria Falls.  We got in a little late so we just hung around the backpackers hostel in Livingstone, drank a couple beers, and crashed early.  The next morning, we headed to see Victoria Falls.  In one of the many Zambian languages it is called Mosi-oa-tunya, which means "the smoke that thunders."    Our first stop there was the bridge that crosses the Zambezi River.  Halfway across the bridge is the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe so we had some fun hopping from one country to the other.  Right at the border, you can also bungee jump 111m, do "the swing" which is a 70m free fall into a swing, and zip line.  The rest of us didn't have the money for that day, so Colin was up first, going big and completing all three of the jumps.  After getting pumped full of adrenaline, we headed into the park area and walked around, looking at the falls from the Zambia side.  We then hopped on over to Zimbabwe and saw the falls from that angle too.  Words of wisdom: if you end up at Victoria Falls during dry season, Zimbabwe's side is far superior.  The next morning, we headed back to the falls to walk to "the Devil's pool."  During dry season, the water gets low enough that you can walk across the falls to the area that is still going full force.  Once there, there is this one little area of the falls that has a natural wall and a slow enough current that you don't plummet to your death when you jump into it.  Once into the pool, our guide held our feet while we each took turns leaning out over the falls.  It was incredible and I would highly suggest it to anyone wanting to make the trip.  After "Devil's pool" we headed back to the bridge for our turn to jump.  Kathryn and I both went for the triple combo.  First, we zip lined across the gorge, which was not at all scary and despite the harness riding up in to uncomfortable places was super chill.  After that, it was time to step it up a notch.  Kathryn and I decided to the swing tandem.  The got us each in our harnesses and then hooked us all up.  We creeped our way to the edge and on the count of 3 made the jump.  I have one word to describe it. TERRIFYING.  Basically you just step out into the air and then we were instructed to keep our legs together and try to stay vertical.  Lets just say that my legs don't listen when I'm freefalling 70 meters and they decided to do some sort of bicyle-esque jig in midair, twisting me this way and that.  I figured it out right at the end though and we went into the swing part smoothly.  After that, you swing over the Zambezi River rapids for a while until they make it down to pick you up.   After our swing, both Kathryn and I were a little shaken and said we needed a bit of a break.  We went for a short walk and sat a bit in the shade before I had to tell my brain to shut the heck up and get back there for my next jump.  I volunteered to be first to bungee.  After getting into my harness, they sit you down and wrap your legs in towels and a strap that looks entirely too puny to support you.  They then hook your feet to what is essentially a giant rubber band.  Next, you awkwardly waddle to the edge, avoiding looking down at much as you can.  The last step is pretty obvious right?  You swan dive off the bridge.  Bungee was so much more fun that the swing.  There is something way more natural about jumping head first off a 130-meter bridge than feet first. After the initial down, you get about 4 good bounces after that, going almost halfway back up for another little drop.  You then just hang out upside down until they come get you.  I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head there was so much blood up in there.  Pretty much its been an incredible few days in Zambia/Zimbabwe and it makes me even sadder to leave Africa.  I almost considered cancelling my flights and catching a bus to Namibia instead, but my friend I'm meeting up with would kill me.  So tomorrow, we head back to Lusaka and then Tuesday I'm heading to Rome for 4 weeks of Europe.  I might update about that, might not.  Stay safe.  Peace out!

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