Tuesday, November 25, 2008

not all who wander are lost...


Tomorrow afternoon I fly into New York City! I have just spent a great week in England visiting family and friends... I'll spend the next few months in the USA reconnecting, resting, and getting organized for my next journey.

My years in the Peace Corps, and my months traveling through Southern Africa, are officially over. Which means that I'm not going to be updating this blog anymore. So, thanks for keeping up with me over the last few years.

Its been wild.

na upendo,
jen

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cape Town

On Saturday the 15th we arrived in Cape Town, South Africa. We checked into Long Street Backpackers and walked around town. I loved Cape Town! It is a beautiful city and really FUN as well.


There are lots of cool people, good shops, tasty restaurants, and amazing scenery. That night we went out to a hip-hop bar and stayed there, dancing, until well after our bedtime!

On Sunday we had a lazy brunch and then took the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain. It was unreal! The cable car itself was pretty cool because it spins around the whole time you are going up. And then, suddenly, you arrive at 1000 meters above the city and ocean below you! It reminded me of an English Moor up there - a lot of boulders, a cold wind, some fog, and some really eery but gorgeous hiking trails.




Maya and I decided to hike down the mountain on a track following Skeleton Gorge. We first hiked to Maclear's Beacon, which is the highest point on the plateau, and then we walked down the gorge (which takes about 3 hours). It was, again, stunningly beautiful.



It was also basically deserted, so we hiked alone past little waterfalls, over boulders, across streams, and down a few ladders! We ended up in Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden and had a quick look around before heading back to town. That night we saw some live music and had a quiet night.

On Monday we spent most of the day shopping and walking around town. The highlight of the day was meeting Ommy and Peter, two Tanzanian guys who sell Tanzanian crafts, paintings, and other souvenirs in Cape Town. Somehow Maya realized they spoke Swahili and within minutes we were - all four of us - smiling so wide! I think we were all grateful to speak some Swahili after being away from Tanzania for so long. We ended up going out that evening with them, outside of the tourist areas of Cape Town. We continued to speak Swahili the whole evening and I was thrilled that I was able to spend my last night in Africa hanging out with people from back home! It was the perfect end to a perfect journey.

On Tuesday morning, I picked up a dove of peace as a reminder of my adventure across Southern Africa and my time in Peace Corps. It's too early to ruminate much on the deep truths that Maya and I found in the last few months, but I think there is one thing that we already agree on: the journey is the destination...

On Tuesday afternoon, I boarded an airplane and left Africa.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Windhoek to Cape Town/ Intercape Bus: 19 hrs

Today, Friday, we woke up early at the flat and spent the day shopping around Windhoek. At 6:30 pm we boarded an Intercape bus to Cape Town. It's a long bus ride but a very comfortable one in these fancy buses!

I'm sad to leave Namibia... It's been a fun time, full of beautiful scenery and fun times with fellow PC volunteers...

--
Sent from Gmail for mobile | mobile.google.com

Sossusvlei and the Namib Desert

On Tuesday morning we rented a car in Swakopmund with an RPCV from Namibia named Ian. We then drove south, to the famous sand dunes of Sossusvlei. During our drive we took a quick devour to climb a big rock in the middle of nowhere.


After a few hours of driving through canyons and the desert, we arrived at the national park. We met a Dutch couple, Beerd and Michele, and invited them to share our campsite. It ended up being a great idea because it was great fun having all 5 of us to hang out... And we were able to use their cups and plates, too!




After getting settled in and making veggie burgers on Tuesday evening, we all watched our first sunset over the dunes. Then Maya and Ian and I went over to the staff quarters and hung out with a bunch of the Namibian workers. They were so much fun and it was nice to escape from the tourist-route for a couple of hours. We woke up before sunrise on Wednesday and headed into the park. We climbed Dune 45 and watched the sunrise from over the massive red dunes.




Then we headed to Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei, which are valleys formed at the base of huge dunes. In Sossusvlei, water collects in the pan every 5 years or so, after a rare big rainfall has caused the river there to run again. Dead Vlei, as its name suggests, is cut off now and so water never collects, as is apparent by the stark dead tree trunks littering the pan. Some of the others spent an hour climbing the biggest dune, while I spent time just wandering the pan. It was breathtaking.




We then went back to our campsite for lunch and a rest. We went back to the park in the evening for sunset. We brought wine and found our own dune to hike, just the 5 of us, totally away from other visitors. We watched the sun set and the moon rise from the top of the dune, then thoroughly enjoyed running down the dune at full-speed.





We then went back to the campsite before going to bed early, exhausted. On Thursday morning we woke up early and drove back to Swakop, dropped the car, and hitched to Windhoek. We stayed with Ian at his friend's flat, and we went out to a club called Funky Lab :)

--
Sent from Gmail for mobile | mobile.google.com

Monday, November 10, 2008

Random depressing thought of the day:

"The UN estimates that over a billion people lack access to safe drinking water, 1.2 billion have no access to any sanitation facilities and 1.5 million children die of water-borne sanitation-related diseases every year.

And all of that while people in the developed world - that's you and me - use hundreds of litres of drinking-quality water a day, flushing 70 percent of it down the toilet."

--
Sent from Gmail for mobile | mobile.google.com

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Opuwo to Swakopmund

We left Opuwo early on Saturday morning and caught a lifti to Kaminjab. We passed Etosha National Park and a lot of scrubland, so it was a beautiful drive. In Kaminjab we had lunch with two PC volunteers before catching another ride to Outjo. We crashed there for the night at a backpackers, and got on the road again early this morning. We were lucky enough to catch a free hike all the way from Outjo to Swakopmund!

After arriving here in town we did some grocery shopping and then walked down to the beach. Tomorrow we'll just be around town, finding a rental car so that we can head out on Tuesday morning to Sossusvlei... One of the largest sand dunes in the world!

--
Sent from Gmail for mobile | mobile.google.com

¡

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on others"
-Jackie Robinson

--
Sent from Gmail for mobile | mobile.google.com

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Opuwo and my Himba friends


On Wednesday, Maya and I arrived in Opuwo in the evening. We are staying with a volunteer here named Kate. The first thing we noticed when we walked through the town are the amazing tribal clothing that people here wear. There are a number of tribes in this region, but three of them in particular wear very, very unique clothing (the Himba, the Thimba, and the Herero)

Here are a Thimba woman and child I met outside of the supermarket:

Maya and I relaxed yesterday afternoon at a fancy hotel lodge on the hills surrounding the town. The view was unreal and we really, really enjoyed the pool!





Today we went with a local woman named Queen Elizabeth to visit her family's village. She is of the Himba tribe, and although she dresses more modernly than her other relatives, she was able to explain a lot about her culture and to translate for us while we tried to talk to the women who we made friends with. The village tour was a bit like visiting a Maasai village in Tanzania: somewhat disconcerting because, since you pay to tour the village, you feel slightly as though you are exploiting the people somehow... and yet, this family has found a way to balance tourism and to use it to their advantage. The money they earn from welcoming us into their village can help them with education and healthcare. And we also brought gifts of flour, sugar, and bread when we arrived. And because of the system they have set up, they are able to continue with their cultural traditions in a robust and proud way. I like it.

The Himba people defy simple explanations, and if I try to describe them, it will just sound cliche. So I will let the photographs speak for themselves:









Wednesday, November 05, 2008

the election and the road

We really enjoyed watching the election with some PC-Namibia girls. It was a fun slumber-party in Brie's school library. First we went to her homestead to see how she lives:



Then we set up shop in the library for the election vigil:



We didn't sleep a wink: Obama spoke to the crowd in Chicago at about 7 am, our time. As soon as we wiped away our copious tears, we drove back out to the main road, where the other girls dropped us off and we said our goodbyes:
Maya and I then headed west. We hitchhiked, as usual. There aren't so many other cars on the roads, after all....

!

It's a beautiful world...

--
Sent from Gmail for mobile mobile.google.com

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Today is The Day

I woke up this morning and - first things first - pulled my Obama tshirt over my head. It's gonna be a good day today. We're going to go to the open market here in Outapi today to buy some beads, and then this afternoon we are headed out to the village of Nakaheke. There is a volunteer out there (who I've never met) whose school received a donation of a TV with cable for their library. So tonight we have a slumber-party in the library! I never would have thought that I'd be watching this election in a small Namibian village near the Angolan border, in a school library. I'm a little bit sad that I wont be able to celebrate with a glass of champagne or even a beer. But it doesn't matter, really:

Today is The Day.

--
Sent from Gmail for mobile mobile.google.com

Monday, November 03, 2008

Outapi


The halloween party on Saturday night was really fun! Everybody was dressed up in ridiculous costumes and there were even a few Namibian friends who got into the spirit! We partied and danced at the once small shack-bar in the village, and then fell into our tents for a good sleep.





His village and school both reminded me a bit of Newala... Lots of sand and big trees (although they weren't mango or cashew trees, alas):



The next morning we jumped into a pickup truck again and eventually ended up in the town of Outapi. We are staying with a volunteer named Carly at her site for a couple of days. We were really happy on Monday to just relax at her house, read gossip magazines and get some laundry done. Sometimes it's nice to have a day of down-time, especially since we haven't really rested for a full day since... I don't even know! We also went to visit a famously large (and hollow) baobob tree in her town:


--
Sent from Gmail for mobile mobile.google.com

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ondwanga to Oshidute

Last night we hung out with some volunteers in Ondwanga and stayed at a guy named Paul's house. It was nice: its hot and desert-like here, but beautiful. We are in Owomboland, so most of the people here are from the Owombo tribe. There are a lot of traditional homesteads here, with small round mud houses and lots of goats running around. This morning we headed northeast and will soon arrive in a small village called Oshidute, really close to the Angolan border. We're going to have a halloween party with about 15 other volunteers deep in the village! We all have costumes, so I think it will be a riot...

--
Sent from Gmail for mobile mobile.google.com