Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Journey Continues

Well here’s the second episode of my Christmas adventures. I figure I should probably get caught up to the current before next Christmas comes around. So after we got down to my parents’ house we left the next day to go with a volunteer group from South Africa to build a church way out in the boonies. We spent a few days there, stayed for the dedication and then headed back to Maputo. During this time I got to do some much missed driving, even if it was on the wrong side of the road and I had to shift left handed. Once we got back home the days became extremely relaxing. We’d wake up and then spend the day not having to do anything. Got lots of internet time in, watched pretty much all the seasons of Cosby show, and went swimming a few times in the pool.

We went to the beach one day. We drove up north of Maputo to a beach that you have to take a ferry to get to. The ferry was a really old boat that held maybe four cars precariously placed. Once we crossed the river we got to drive over a few kilometers of REALLY muddy roads. It was lots of fun going into mini lakes and hoping the truck didn’t totally submerge. At the beach we used a surfboard and a boogie board we had borrowed from my uncle to have some fun in the waves. My attempts at surfing never ended up amounting to much. Maybe next time. It was a steep beach so there were some large waves landing right on the beach. Each time trying to ride up to the beach ended up with one of us getting rolled through the water and bouncing of the bottom. I imagine I know what it would feel to get flushed down a toilet now.

Christmas was lots of fun. My mom gave us tons of food stuff to bring back up here which has been highly appreciated. On the 30th of December we drove over to South Africa and spent four nights and five days in a game park. We got to see pretty much all the good stuff. I got to see my first cheetahs in the wild, we saw lots of lions, a couple of leopards, lots of elephants (one herd numbering over a hundred), white and black rhino, and all the other ones. A couple of our campsites had hyenas walking on the other side of the fence, only a few feet away. Loads of good pictures and then we were back in Maputo. Our border crossing on the way back happened the last day of South African holidays so the line waiting to cross from the Mozambiquan side was like 10 km long. Ours thankfully wasn’t too bad. The next day my dad and I went to the US embassy to see if I could get more pages put in my passport. I was down to only two and a half blank visa pages and Neil and I still had a bunch of borders to cross before we go back to the States in June. When we first showed up they wouldn’t let us in because we hadn’t made an appointment. Then we were told that the lady who adds pages wouldn’t be in till later. So we drove all the way home and then a couple hours later we learned that she was in and could help us if we got right down there. After checking in to the embassy I only had to fill out one piece of paper and then twenty minutes later we were leaving and my passport was 25 pages thicker. It’s kind of crazy how they put in more than it comes with originally.
The next day we packed up our stuff and left super early in the morning in order to make it all the way to Johannesburg in time for our flight. After a goodbye and my mom giving us even more food to take we sat in the airport for a couple of hours until our flight left. Our flight into Dar landed at 7 or something and we cleared through immigration easily with our residence permits. Before leaving Dar on our way down we had made a reservation with the YWCA, where we were staying, for some nights in January on our way back. Upon arriving there the guy couldn’t find our names in the books but was nice enough to just let us sign in and then he gave us a room key. The next day we went to the airline office to try and get a flight back to Kigoma because after our train ride Neil had decided he wasn’t interested in ‘experiencing’ the train again:) We managed to pick up a couple round trip tickets without too much hassle, and then spent a couple more nights in Dar till our plane left. Once we got back to Heri everything settled into its normal routine except for a couple of changes. Two days after we got back Milton and Shirley left for Arusha up north and we were in charge of the construction for two weeks. Another difference is that there are a couple of new people here from Denmark, a doctor and a girl interested in becoming a doctor, and a doctor from Germany who just finished her schooling there. All those people are only here for a couple of months.

Well I hope this wasn’t too disjointed and some sense can be made out of it. Maybe in May I’ll put up another post of everything we’ve done:)....or maybe before then.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Planes Trains and Automobiles

Well I guess it’s safe to say that a lot has happened in the life of Justin since my last post following Thanksgiving. Instead of writing a ten page essay to talk about it all I’m going to write a bunch of different posts about different parts of what’s happened.
From Thanksgiving to December 11 when we left Heri for Kigoma to get on a train not much happened out of the ordinary. Because of that I’m just going to start off with the train escapades. We had made bookings a few weeks in advance and we had reserved a first class room which we were told would have two beds and we could be by ourselves. On Thursday December 11th we rode into Kigoma in the hospital car. Although we had been told that it would leave at 6:30 a.m. it of course didn’t end up leaving till several hours later:) Once in town we dropped off the doctor who was flying to Dar es Salaam and then went down to the train station to find out just when our afternoon train was going to leave. The station master informed us that the train wasn’t leaving that day. That was a surprise! We came back a little while later with a guy from the hospital who could translate better for us and we learned that the train had broken down and would be arriving and then leaving the next morning. After that cheery bit of news we found a place to spend the night and then the next morning arrived at the station early enough to end up sitting around for a while with hundreds of others. The train actually did end up leaving within an hour of its scheduled departure. Once in our ‘room’ the unique experience started. The mental image I had created about what it was going to be like probably belonged to a US train ride because this was far from what I had expected. The room had two beds, one on top of the other, a window with a stick to keep it shut, and a sink that didn’t drain and had bugs floating in it. So yeah, it was the Ritz Carlton. But I was still really looking forward to this whole train riding experience. The trip is usually supposed to take two nights and one day but ours wasn’t the ‘usual’ trip:). We ended up being on the train for 50 hours.
Soon after leaving the station I was standing in the hallway with my head out the window when a guy came up and started talking with me. He was pretty nice and didn’t seem like the serial killer type so we talked for a little while. Then I realized where this was heading when he started to tell me how he was such a poor man (riding first class) and then he told me I should give him my watch. I declined his generous offer of my donation to him and then later he wanted to come into our room and talk with us. That didn’t end up happening because I didn’t figure it was a smart idea to let him see all of our other stuff so he could start asking for it. It’s nice that he was a friendly con man. The mean ones are just no fun.
Due to the 50 hours we spent on the train even though we left in the morning we still ended up with two nights aboard the Polar non-Express. The first night wasn’t so bad. We had the window open and it was actually kind of cool so besides the fact that a big rat had run through our room all was good. The second night however was entirely different. We still had another rat run through but this time it was incredibly HOT and then the train stopped in a town and didn’t leave a half-hour late like usual. After talking with some people we found out that there was another train broken down on the tracks ahead of us so we’d have to wait till it got out of the way. I ended up spending the hours from 1 to 4 in the morning outside sitting in this train station because it was cooler than our room. I got to meet a 17 year old guy named Edward who came up to me and said that he hoped he wasn’t bothering me but he wanted to practice his English. We ended up talking about all kinds of things. It was pretty cool. After the train finally left and I got back to sleep I was awoken by something biting my foot. Not a mosquito kind of bite but more like something sinking its fangs into me. I came to the land of full consciousness quite rapidly mostly because I thought it was the same rat that had run across me the night before. I kicked my sheet off and found that I wasn’t missing any appendages so tried going back to sleep. When I got up later in the morning I found a HUGE bug in my sheet that had been trying me out for taste.
All the fun didn’t end with our arrival in Dar though. We had asked the doctor to make a reservation for us at the YWCA before we arrived. He had called us while we were on the train and informed us that the YWCA and the YMCA were fully booked. We weren’t sure what we were going to do when we got off the train but we grabbed a taxi and went to the YWCA in the hopes that something had opened up. God is amazing and lo and behold they had a room we could have for a few nights till our flight left for Johannesburg, South Africa. That was the end of the excitement of our trip to my parents’ house in Maputo Mozambique. My dad met us at the airport in Joburg and by that evening we were eating enchiladas that my mom had expertly crafted:) Well that’s the end of the travel down. Read the next post about what I did over the few weeks I spent in Mozambique.