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January 18th, 2008
Home Again, Home Again
Well, we made it! Long flights (Swiss Air totally rules over Aer Lingus, btw, although Aer Lingus didn't really weigh our luggage at all). We made it to NY and John met us and took very good care of us for several days. We didn't go into the city...decided not to be more frazzled and exhausted and stressed. But it was great to see John's NY family and to get settled into America.
The biggest thing I'm struck by is all the space. Stores are SO big and you actually have room to move around instead of being smushed against everybody else. People are willing to give you directions and instructions (the airport people in JFK told us where to go before we even asked!). And there's entirely too much water in the toilets...you really don't need that much and it's such a waste.
We travelled down with John, and I'm amazed he had so much patience to meet my dad's side of the family (we saw all of them). He was amazing in terms of making sure we had everything we needed. And my family was great, too...taking us in, 3 unemployed bums, and feeding and housing us. It was good to see everyone. Not much has changed at all.
I really feel like I haven't been gone. I have a lot to re-learn (even banking is weird), but it feels like 2 years went by in a blip and I woke up with a husband here. I've already been to the gym once and the cabinets are stocked with organic goodness. We're spending time looking for jobs...good ones and temp ones to make a bit of cash. And my mother is occupied with wedding plans, so that's good for me, a person who doesn't like to plan.
Anthony's folks and brother are coming out next week, and then we're going up to Boone for a bit. (Scouting wedding locales...save the date, Oct 18th!) My parents have the beach house the week after that, so we're going there...not condusive to job finding, but lovely all the same.
Anyway, I love you all and hope you're all doing well. At least we're on the same soil again, eh?
January 7th, 2008
And the Countdown Begins...
So tomorrow we head out to the airport to begin our long flights back to the States. Anthony & I are both ready to be back in a famaliar place with food choices...we thought it'd be better here, but our lunch choices are pretty much a cheese pizza or a cheese sandwich.
We had a pretty good time in Italy. Had some issues with a B&B I'd booked online, but hopefully it won't come back to haunt me. My parents were once again stellar in being there and willing to do stuff for me, like call the bank a zillion times to get my card issues straightened out.
I'm trying to start uploading pics to this Snapfish thing Amy introduced me to but it's having issues with this computer. Then I have to repack...again. I hope we won't have luggage issues again.
Love you guys and will see you soon!
December 24th, 2007
The Stuffed Christmas Turkey
That's right, the stuffed turkey is me...sheesh...I think I've had a month's worth of food in one week! I can't seem to help myself! I'm glad I'm getting it all over with here, though, so I can get back to a normal life in America.
I did work out yesterday, and I did have a 29-minute run this morning around the base (I thought it was only 19 minutes and was mad at myself, and then I realized that my math was bad, as per usual).
We have a big Christmas Eve dinner tonight with Ornella's family...I'm really excited! I've heard it's a lot of fresh fish.
Anyway, I put up some more recent pics on MySpace and Facebook. My Webshots account has been moody, so I'm going to wait to deal with that. I'll probably change it to something else when I get back. We'll see.
I hope you all have Happy Holidays, whatever you may celebrate!
December 23rd, 2007
Good News, Bad News
Good News: I've satisfied almost all of the food cravings I've had in the past 2 years.
Bad News: It's pretty much all junk food and I haven't been exercising for a long time (since before my illness in Lesotho).
So Brandon & Ornella have been extraordinarily kind as host/hostess for us here. Tonight they drove us into Napoli proper and took us on a walking tour of the harbor and castles and then to dinner at a lovely seafood place, although it was pretty darn expensive. I had a good talk with Ornella for the first time and found her to be even more charming, intelligent, and beautiful than I had thought to begin with...even though I found her to be most of those things when I first met her.
Anthony & I are relaxing here for the most part but have made some reservations for places for later. We're having Christmas Eve dinner & Christmas day lunch with Ornella's family. On the 26th, Anthony & I are going to Pompei for 2 nights so we'll have a day just to relax and explore, and Ornella said she had the day off, so she might even drive us there. The 29th, the plan is for the 4 of us to go to Rome to stay with another of Brandon's pals. Then the 31st, Anthony & I will go to Lucca to hide out until the 6th. From there, we can get easily to Florence and Pisa, and we can do nothing but stay in bed if we like. We'll come back the 6th, pack the 7th, and get back on a plane on the 8th. We might not get to see all the touristy stuff you're "supposed" to see, but I've seen it all already and Anthony doesn't care too much about it, so no problem.
There is a problem getting Brandon to let us pay for things, though.
Anyway, I like being here where it's cold on Christmas and the moon's right-side-up. It really makes a big difference.
And who's that planet hanging out there by the moon? Mars? It's got a red tint, but I wasn't sure if it was Mars or the yellow tint of Venus.
Have a good night, guys!
(PS: I've found a lot of people on Facebook I never thought I'd hear of again...kinda weird, but nice.)
December 20th, 2007
The Moon is Right-Side Up!
Ciao from bella Italia...or, actually, What's Up from America? (I'm on a naval base.)
The moon is right-side up for the first time in well over 2 years, the air is crisp & cool, the people aren't staring at me, and we just finished some Taco Bell.
Oh What World is This?
Travel was horrible as usual, but not as bad as it could have been. We got to the airport in Jo'burg about 5 hours early because we were bored but actually had no time to spare. They told us at the check-in that we could take all our luggage to America, but since we were going to Europe first, we could only have 25kg of stuff each, and we had a total of 107kg plus one more carry-on than allowed. So they wanted us to pay over R12,000. I told them I simply couldn't pay that and asked for suggestions, pulling the Peace Corps card and trying not to cry in frustration, and a really nice guy from Swiss Air let us go for free.
So hooray Swiss Air!
Flight was uneventful. They remembered we had vegan meals. We watched "Stardust" and passed out. I slept until breakfast, albeit fitfully.
We didn't have to do customs in Switzerland, which is different than Germany, so we flew onward. We had a delay to melt the ice off the plane wings (it was a cool little machine that looked like an alien), but no problems beyond that. We had an AMAZING, SPECTACULAR view of the Swiss Alps...the clouds formed an ocean around the peaks so it looked like water with snowy mountaintops during the sunrise.
Brandon's friend Ace met us at the airport and got us on the right train and pointed in the right direction. Brandon had left us a letter with instructions and a charged phone with airtime and an Italian phrasebook to help us out. It was great, save for the fact that we're carrying an inhuman amount of luggage. Switching trains was a nightmare. But we made it, thanks to the helpful Italian men who helped carry our crap.
Brandon and his girlfriend met us at the station and brought us all the way to America. It's crazy! They have a bowling alley, Taco Bell, A&W, shopping mall, movie theater...Charmin toilet paper...internet in-room (though the computer's so newfangled it took me 10 minutes to turn it on), X-Box (wouldn't know how to use it anyway), et al...and he's giving us his room for the night and staying with his girlfriend.
I have amazing friends.
(And this includes the one who's getting us in NY and showing us around and taking us all the way to NC.... I have truly amazing friends!)
(Some of them, anyway...hehe.)
So, here we are. Happily out of Africa. But I'll be missing it soon.
Oh, something I didn't get to tell you about Swaziland...funny little thing...we went to a glass factory, and when we were leaving, a big peacock was in the lot. Anthony tried to scare it to get it to move, but it wasn't impressed and didn't react. So when we pulled out and it was too close, I rolled down the window and said, "Hamba!" which is "Move it!" in Zulu, and the dude curled his neck and let out this awful screech and then moved to the front of the car and kept screeching like he was going to charge us.
Don't tell a peacock to move in any language!
Anyways, hope all's well and we'll see you soon...now that we're under the same sky again!
(PS: You hear that, Amy?! Taco Bell!)
December 17th, 2007
Eating = Pooping
Basic knowledge, yes, but I think I'm pooping entirely too much. It happens when one is exposed to foods one has not tasted in 2 years...like really good Chinese food.
Have no fear, it's not food poisoning or the bout of giardia or whatever I had (Doc said my lab results came out negative, which I have a hard time believing, mostly because I got better the day after I took my medication)...but boy, am I pooping a lot!
Swaziland is HOT. And there are BUGS by the ZILLIONS. I'm SO glad we were in the mountains where the only bugs are ants and moths. Swazi has good grocery stores (better even than most of South Africa) and I could have stayed Macrobiotic, but damn...I couldn't handle the heat or the bugs.
Went on another game drive...saw more elephants, impala, warthogs, bok-things...saw rhinos for the first time (the White Rhino; the Black is endangered and not hanging out much).
Back in South Africa...Pretoria for our 2nd night, back to Jo'burg tomorrow before flying out (YAY! NO MORE AFRICA! ...can you tell I'm ready?) on the 19th. A bit of a sticky situation with lodging in Italy popping up, but Peace Corps put more money in our accounts than we were expecting...good and bad, I guess, as I think we'll be getting less later, but I'm waiting on an email from our Admin Officer before I freak out.
Anyway, it's been fun...good times with Anthony (with whom I am still madly in love) and our pal Amy. Just ready to get the hell off this continent.
I hope you all have a great holiday season...I'll probably be back on before it's over, but just in case.
December 9th, 2007
Sala Hantle, Lesotho!
Well, guys, this will probably be my last entry from the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, land of the children of Moshoeshoe, and right now, I couldn't be any happier about that.
I'm sick of the food. I'm sick of the people. I'm sick of the culture and the way that things work. I'm sick of not being able to walk around without being harassed every 10 seconds (not exaggerating). I'm sick of being stared at. I'm sick of things being unorganized and inefficient. And I could continue this list for a long time.
Yeah, there are things I'm going to miss, and I'll be crying to come back in a few months, but right now, I'm in a good mindset to leave.
I wasn't even sad to leave my place...and this is only because I was deathly ill. Good news is that it made me lose 6lbs this week, but it wasn't any fun. The lab results still aren't back from Bloemfontein, so I don't know what it was, but the nurse treated me for Giardia and for bacterial infections like Salmon-ela. I seem to be doing better, but we'll see as time goes and I try eating food besides white bread. (I haven't eaten much of anything since last Sunday night, but I plan to go to lunch today.)
Lots of people are here and stressed about all the paperwork we have to get done before we can go, but I planned ahead and made appointments and came in early for medical and haven't been hurried or stressed at all. That might also have been because I've been sick.
And it's funny...now that I'm leaving, everyone's getting back in touch. I've heard from 4 people in the past few weeks that I haven't heard from in months & months & months.
I'm REALLY excited about Italy. We just want to relax and eat some good food, and everything else is just icing on the cake.
Monkey's been worried about our digestive systems, but I don't think it will be a problem:
1) South Africa's a mini America. Most people from the PC go from 3rd World to 1st World without a middle step, which we have all around us. There's even a McDonald's, but I've only eaten there for breakfast...and they didn't have biscuits!!!!! :(
2) We're going to Italy first, land of the Tomato and the Cheese. I think if we're going to overdo ourselves, it's going to be there.
3) I had Giardia this week. And I don't care what anyone says, food poisoning / overeating / eating bad food...throw them all together, it wouldn't be as bad as this week.
4) Having Giardia this week and not being able to imbibe anything, even water, without pooping it back out straight in liquid form, I had to ride on a taxi from 7.30 AM to 4 PM and didn't stop. So being in a car with access to toilets everywhere...can't see a problem.
5) We don't eat meat, and I think that's where a lot of problems come in.
6) Him worrying about it and telling me every time I talk to him that I won't be able to leave the bathroom for 5 days is going to GIVE me digestive problems :P
Anyway, VERY excited about seeing him, too. He's been excellent about being willing to pick us up and cater for us for a few days and get us down to see my family again. But neither he nor I nor Anthony plan anything much and I know my family wants to know when I'm going to be where, so I hope someone figures that out for us soon.
I had Anthony pack me up (I suck at packing, Johnny packed me to come over here, and plus I was sick), so we're all ready to go. Rental car delivered at 8AM Tues, and then we're out for a week or so around RSA and Swaziland with Amy. Then Bonjourno, Italia!
See you guys soon....
November 28th, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
In a week and one day, I’ll be loading up all my luggage and heading down to Maseru to finish up paperwork and have exit interviews with my bosses, and then I’ll have a hole punched in my PC I.D. card that means I’m no longer on the payroll.
I can’t believe 2 years is over! Like I’ve been saying, it’s both flown and dragged by, all at the same time.
We (Amy, Anthony & I) went to Fouriesburg on Saturday to say goodbye to our pals Lola & Dion at The Old Schoolhouse. I thought they were going to have another one of their themed nights, but it turned out that they had a special night just for us, so we ate delicious Chinese food and chatted with them all night. They even made a little wedding cake for Anthony & I that was really cute and quite tasty, though not our favorite flavor (rum & raisin).
Courtney was supposed to go with us, but she decided to early terminate (ET) and will be leaving the country this week. There were a lot of problems at her school and she tried to get changed over to the other program (community health), but it didn’t work out, so she’s leaving. Sad, but she’s also from Iowa, so Amy’s glad to have someone to hang out with when she gets back…someone who can understand what we’ve been through here.
I’m all done with my schoolwork. My principal is buying my laptop, so this will be the last time I’ll be using this one. I’ve had it since 2001, I think…maybe 2002. I started writing a book on it, and I actually finished it the other day, although it still needs a good bit of work. (But I can say I’ve written a book! How cool is that?)
I’ve mailed a lot of stuff home and don’t think I’ll have an issue packing. We’ll see; I’ll probably have some unexpected problems.
Something funny today: I was at my window sending a text message to someone, and when I turned around, I had to chase a chicken out of my house! That’s a new one. (It crossed the street to eat my food.)
Anthony’s with me this week, and the other people in my district are meeting for a last lunch this Saturday. Then I’ll have a few days to pack, and off I go!
(I’m using the internet in Mokhotlong camptown, btw. Crazy how things always improve when you leave. Amy just told me about it, and she said it’s pretty fast.)
Oh yeah, in addition to internet and a fruit & veg shop that actually HAS fruits & vegetables, my family got a different rooster! Gone is the overly aggressive, constantly crowing annoyance and in its place is a muted version who crows for a bit at sunrise, but not piercingly enough to keep us awake, and then shuts up. I like this little bugger.
Anyway, I’ll be back with you in a week or so. I hope it isn’t getting too cold over there; it sure is heating up here!
All my love,
November 14th, 2007
Second-to-last Maseru Venture
I can't describe how happy I am that I only have to come down here one more time....
So we came down for medical on Monday, then were planning to go to Lizbeth's place down south in the national park down there, then maybe to hop by Tim's place on the way back for a visit. But Doc gave us a TB test and told us we had to stay at least until today so he could check the arm (COS medical requires them to check it, not anyone else), so that took Lizbeth's place out of the running (it's as far away from here as my place). We were still going to go to Tim's, but that requires a night stop-over between here and Butha-Buthe so I can get home Saturday, and EVERYONE in the tri-district area is going to a Cherry Fest in Vicksburg this weekend and is gone, so we decided to scrap the whole idea, which sucks.
Anyway, my medical is fine. I've got a lingering problem I have to wait until we get back to the US to deal with, but it's not life-threatening or anything. The rest of my exam cleared, except my reflexes. Doc said my reflexes prove I'm dead, but he's pretty convinced I'm not.
So we've been doing nothing but eating for a week. I did weigh in at 183 without my shoes on, and I came in at 182, which is weird, but I guess that's okay...even though my pants are still fitting less well than I remember. I dunno. Anthony still thinks I'm pretty, and that's all that matters.
What else...school pretty much over. Got exams, then nothin'. We're going to Fouriesburg next weekend (24th) to see Lola & Dion at the Old Schoolhouse one more time (they're having Chinese night at my request and are making a little wedding cake for us since we haven't really had one), and Anthony will be returning with me for a week because his school is closing early. (I'll still have an exam to mark, I think, but I'm not sure.)
Then on the 1st, I called a goodbye lunch for all of us in MKG, but the CHED PCVs won't be there because they have an IST (confused yet?), but the Ed folks will be around, and that's all I care about, honestly...the two other guys who will be gone for IST, I met only a couple of months ago. It's too late to be forming lasting friendships, I say.
(Incidentally, a girl put her stuff down in my room last night [4 beds to a room] and asked about me and where I was from. I said NC, and she's like, No way, where? And I said I was born in Raleigh but lived in Boone for a while, and she said she went to Enloe and grew up a mile from Cameron Village. I didn't want to talk anymore and went to bed.)
Having problems uploading pics due to the new systems, but I should have gotten a video to some people...hope you got it. We're thinking now we'd like to do the American wedding a year from this one, so that'd be around Oct 20th, preferably on that date but I don't know what day it is, so we'll have to see...and if I can get a job, etc. But hold the date.
And I want to say thank you to all of those who have kept up with me. Someone I haven't talked to in a while chatted to me on gmail the other day. I was here in the office with 3 others who are in my group. This guy said he was sorry he hadn't kept in touch but had been reading my livejournal. I repeated the conversation to the room and said that saying sorry doesn't mean I'm going to jump to reestablish ties. They all agreed emphatically and said they were disappointed with some people who didn't bother to write or email or anything, but we all have a handfull we can't let go of (like the lady I've known since I was 2 & she was 4 who hasn't really written, but we never kept in constant contact anyway; and Smurfy, of course).
I couldn't have done this without those of you who came along with me. Johnny in the beginning; John in the end. Keith & Marie and Jordan, especially in the beginning. Without question, my parents, who still call every time as soon as I send them a txt message and write me bi-weekly and send lots of goodies through the mail.
It's been nice to hear what's going on in the states, and it's been good to keep in touch so that we can continue to grow together, and not apart. I look forward to seeing you again and hope you'll be footing the bill for a dinner out! O:)
I guess that's it for now. Been applying for a few jobs over the 'net while I'm here and bored.
Don't send me any more letters (weird to say that) because I won't get them before I go. I might still send out a few to you guys, though, maybe even one from Italy!
I love you & hope you're all doing well. If anyone has found me a job, let me know...hehe.
Be back Dec 5/6...
October 22nd, 2007
What a Weekend!
All right, everyone, I'm now a married woman...kinda scary, isn't it?
I'm down in Maseru unexpectedly because I came down with 102 degree fever yesterday for the 2nd half of the wedding and wanted to get it checked out (nurse says it's just the flu, but that doesn't make me feel any better).
If you didn't know what our wedding was going to entail, don't feel left out: we didn't either, usually until right before or while it was happening. So here's a basic rundown of events:Thursday Night:
7.30pm: handed a list of things to buy for the feast and told to go to town to get them the next dayFriday:
7.45am: talked with principal and organized transport to return from town; were told we were to be given R300 from the school to help b/c the feast was also to serve as my going-away present
9am: went to town & brought a ton of food with money Antho had had to borrow
1pm: return from town and deliver food
2pm: (Allison did some laundry)
3pm: female co-workers showed up to help cookSaturday:
7am: woke up, exercised & bathed
12:30pm: PCVs from town showed up in taxi
1.30pm: Allison & Anthony separated; Allison told to change into her white clothes; female PCVs helped attach the "bridezilla" veil
2pm: Allison handed over to Anthony; they walked outside, followed by form Es, who were singing & dancing; they were stared at by an uncountable number of people and small children and couldn't stop smiling
Then they were returned to Allison's rondavel and not told what to do; so they waited until a lady came to say they were going to remove the veil; so they went outside and sat and they removed the veil & replaced it with a headscarf, then made Allison & Anthony take the walk again, again surrounded by singing & dancing Form Es
Again, they were returned to the rondavel, this time told to change; Anthony removed his blanket; Allison put on her Seshoeshoe (traditional dress); they went out and were paraded around the property for a third time
~3pm: Peace Corps staff & PCVs from other districts show up and demand Allison change BACK into her wedding regalia; they send over 'M'e 'Mampho, probably because they know Allison & Anthony can't say no to her; Allison changes back and they parade around a final time.
~4pm: lunch is served (big feast!)
~4.45pm: ceremony in Allison's dad's house where she is formally given over to Anthony's father by her own; principal says she's done excellent work and they are going to miss her and that marriage is not a joke and they have to love & respect each other
~5.30pm: Allison "kidnapped" by Anthony & taken with him and his co-workers back to Ha Sefako; along with Allison are sent 2 of her co-workers, whom she doesn't know very well at all (she would have preferred friends, ya know?)Sunday: [here taken over by Anthony b/c I have to do somethin]
2am: arrival at Ha Sefako, Ntate Polokoana (the principal of my school) tells us we need to put our stuff down, then come back to talk. So, when we come back, he tells us that according to Basotho tradition, the reason the two teachers from Allison's school came was to sleep with her and make sure the two of us were kept seperate. We refused, telling him we can't keep having people tell us these things the minute before they should happen, and had we known in advance that it was expected, we would have saved them some time and money. Allison said it wouldn't have been so bad, except that she didn't know these two ladies, and she didn't want to sleep on the floor with two people she didn't know. Anyway, they said everything would still happen as planned, except that we don't recieve the sheep parts (too bad, huh? no commemorative sheep pieces as proof of our love). We went back to my place after that, and Allison took a bath, before we finally went to sleep. If the purpose of keeping us apart on our wedding day was to prevent us from being "too friendly", they need not worry when we are stressed and sleep-deprived. Around 2.45am, we went to sleep.
6.45am We woke up, without any aid, thanks to our adaptation to waking with the sun. Allison didn't feel to well, but she swept the dirt outside my house, then I made breakfast and got some water (what my colleagues don't know won't hurt them, as those tasks are the responsibility of the new wife).
8.30am Allison was starting to feel a bit worse, so she lay down, and in the mean time, I went out to view the ram. It was shorn, and angry at being tied to a tree, and I'm not sure what (if anything) I was supposed to feel by seeing this sheep. [I'm back, although he should really be doing this since I was in the bed during all this time.]
10am: the deputy principal came in with the two Senkoase teachers and the men brought the angry ram up the steps and into the doorway of Anthony's house so that they could "give it to me" as a welcome to say that I can now "eat everything at Ha Sefako." The ram looked at me like it knew I was the reason it was being killed and that made me a bit uncomfortable. They gave me my new name ('Masophia Sefako: "Ma" means "mother of" and "Sophia" is what we'd like to name our first child, provided she's a girl of course.)
[from that time until 2pm, I was in bed with a fever of 102]
2pm: they come to get me; I change into my new Seshoeshoe which was made in Antho's area; put on my blanket; sit and wait for longer
Eventually Antho's students paraded around the house; some came in to sing a few songs, then were taken out again.
Then they take me out and give me and the Senkoase teachers brooms and they show me how to sweep the dirt; then they take me to the water pump to show me how to get water; then they "show me where the toilet is," except we didn't go to the toilet...we went between two of the houses back there.
I was taken back inside and sat for a while; they brought in the first pieces of the sheep that had been killed, which I and my two teachers had to pick up and put back on the plate (not eating it); then they went out and took out the two Senkoase teachers. The two other PCVs who were there came in, as well as Anthony's counterpart, and they ate the meat for me, since I don't.
Eventually after that, Antho and I were again paraded with the school children behind us singing & dancing. We went down to his main campus (very close to his house) and sat and watched a couple hours of singing & dancing from his students, then listened to a few speeches, including one guy repeating everything that had happened Saturday for the benefit of those who weren't there. Anthony danced with his kids once and also gave a speech thanking them for having the wedding and for being happy. We were supposed to stick around for lunch, but I had to go lie down immediately, so we went back while they prepared food.
And then they forgot about us and didn't feed us...they said they'd get us when food was ready, but they fed everyone and forgot us, so we had to go back and get our own food.
~5pm: Anthony went to try to call our doctor, who turned out to be out of the country, to tell him I might come in today
~6.30pm, we collapsed into sleep.
So that's a short rundown of what happened this weekend. We had lots of pics and videos taken that should be up pretty soon (prob when I come down in Nov., but def. by first of Dec.). Lots of our friends came out to support us and have fun at the feast, and it was definitely a memory that will last a lifetime. We're glad we did it, even through all the last-minute stress and strife of not knowing what was supposed to happen (that, also, is apparently part of tradition...). It was a fitting closure to our time here.
Anthony's mom had mentioned her church wanting to give us a wedding reception when we got back, but (1) I don't do church functions and (2) things in America are totally unrelated to this. When we get settled and figure ourselves out a bit more in terms of what we'll do, we'll have an American wedding (and know how to plan things!!!!!!!!!) & invite you all & celebrate all together again.
Until then, I'm going to go rest and hope my fever goes away.
Love to all,