Saturday, November 26, 2011

Family, Falls, and Full Bellies

Happy Thanksgiving! It is hard to believe that it was my second Thanksgiving in Mozambique, and it certainly was one to remember. In light of the holiday (and as a way to update you on what’s been going on for the past few weeks), here is what I am thankful for Thanksgiving 2011:
1.       A wonderful end to the school year with the English Theater competition. 6 am Saturday after the last day of school, I took my ten students, along with one other teacher, down to Moatize for the big competition. Our Tete province branch had 8 schools competing, most of which were first timers. The competition was a huge success. The students all arrived safely, and we started by singing both the Mozambican and American national anthems. After, each school sent up one student to draw a number for the order of presentation. Kaunda drew lucky number 1! I was so nervous for them. We had practiced it many times, but never in front of a big audience. No need to worry, though, they did great! They were so proud of themselves afterwards, and that was so great to see. We didn’t win, but didn’t finish last either, which was great for a first year in the program. One of my girls did win the Best Actress Award, though! About half of my group is in 9th or 8th grade, so they’ll all come back next year, and I know they’ll be excited to do an even greater job.
2.       A chance to hang over the edge of some of the biggest waterfalls in the world- and living to tell about it! As I mentioned before, my sister came out to visit me for Thanksgiving. Molly arrived to Livingstone, Zambia last Sunday, and we have been having a blast together for the last 2 weeks. She left yesterday, but the trip was a huge success. I was able to meet her at the airport in Livingstone, and after a tearful greeting, we headed to a backpackers to get settled in. Livingstone is the town closest to the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. The first day, we headed out to “Devil’s Pool,” which is within the National Park for the Falls. Because it is the dry season, we were able to follow a guide all along the edge of the falls, which is normally blocked off by water. Once we got out to the main waterfall, we got to a spot where there is a natural pool blocked off by a rock ledge. You can jump in here, and then go sit LITERALLY on the edge of the falls. Then, to top it off, the guides will hold your feet while you inch over the rock ledge to be hanging over the falls! You look down and just see white water. Talk about a natural infinity pool! It was a little scary, but for sure a once in a lifetime experience.
3.       Another survival- this time from an on-foot rhino encounter. The second day of our visit, we headed to Mosi-ao-Tunya National park for a “game walk.” We followed a guide (and chaperone with a gun…) around the park and took pictures as he pointed out footprints, animal droppings, and the actual animals! We saw elephants, impalas, baboons, giraffes, a waterbuck, and finally a herd of white rhinos. It was pretty scary to be so close to something so big, especially on foot, but definitely very cool.
4.       A chance to show my sister my site. Of all the super cool, exciting things we did on the trip, this was really the most exciting for me. She got to meet a lot of my colleagues and friends, see my school, and stay in my house. She even got to take a wonderful bucket bath, which she described as “pretty cool and refreshing… but I can see how that would get old after a few months.” Ha. She loved my site, though, and it’s just so great to have someone back home that has seen it and can picture where I am every day.
5.       A sunburn… but only because that means I was at the beach! After visiting my site, we headed down on one of the wonderful 11 hour bus rides to Vilanculos beach to see the Indian Ocean. We had a great group and a really fun time.
6.       A great Thanksgiving feast with a huge group of volunteers at Gorongosa National Park. For the last leg of our trip, we made it up to the park where a fellow PCV had set us up at one of the education centers where she works. We had access to a huge kitchen and were able to make all the Thanksgiving staples. Turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie… It was really good! It was so great to have Molly meet so many of my friends here, and they all really enjoyed meeting her.
7.       Finally, I am thankful that 3 weeks from today, I will hopefully be plopped on my couch in Midland, Michigan, watching Bravo TV marathons, eating nachos,  drinking a Diet Dr. Pepper, and talking to my parents.  And petting my dog. All of that just sounds wonderful. 
On the way out of Africa, I’ll spend a few days in Cape Town with some other volunteers, so I’ll update again after that fun vacation. I’m looking forward to a great break and hope I will see many of you while I am home.
The song for the post is “L-I-F-E-G-O-E-S-O-N” by Noah and the Whale. Molly and I played some trivia at the backpackers and this song came on name that tune… and I had never heard it! Really sad considering Noah and the Whale is one of my favorite bands. Must mean it’s time for a trip home to catch back up on the music scene!
So, Happy Thanksgiving! Happy start to the holiday season!!!