PBDS 601

Friday, March 10, 2006

3.10 *narrative*

I am fortunate enough to have amazing friends all over the world. My good friend from college, Irene, is one of the best writers I have ever met, and she has won many awards for her work including the North Carolina State Poetry Prize (she beat out her professors for this one!)

She is currently working as a teacher in Namibia with the Peace Corps, and she sent me an email to tell me about her travels to a major canyon in a jungle. Excuse some of the crazy formatting issues, because the translation from Namibian computers to Baltimore computers isn't great...:

"On Monday we left Swakop for Windhoek, where we stayed atJason's hostel for a couple nights before Reconnect, which is the bigconference all the PCVs have to go to during their first break to talk aboutteaching techniques and basically re-live the joy of training. It took placein a beautiful location, though, a hotel on the top of a mountain 20 minsoutside of Windhoek, and we got to go into the city to do shopping and goout at night a couple of times. And the hotel had wonderful things like hotshowers and meals which were served to us three times a day, so I can'treally complain. It was really nice to see all of the other volunteers toobecause I only ever see the 13 who live in Omaheke. So during the day we satthrough workshops and sometimes after workshops we hiked up into the hillsto watch the sun set over the city, which was amazing. THe part of the citywe spend time in when we're in Windhoek is actually very small, the partwith big buildings and western restaurants and shops. But looking at it from
middle of an enormous location, and at the edge of the location is an evenbigger squatter camp. At night when all the city lights come on, thesquatter camp is lost in darkness but for the dotted campfires; they don\'thave electricity. In the morning, the squatter camp remains in shadow longerthan any other part of the city. Anyway. At night we acted like idiots, andsometimes the funny old couple who own the hotel made us hot spiced wine,and sometimes the electricty went out, usually right in the middle of ashower, killing the water, and all in all, it was 9 days well-spent.After Reconnect we hiked Fish River Canyon. Some things I\'ve read say it\'sthe largest canyon in the Southern hemisphere, but WIll says that\'s a lie. Idon\'t know how it compares to other canyons, but I can tell you that I\'vebeen there and it\'s freaking huge. But I\'m getting ahead of myself. So we(10 of us) took an overnight train out of WIndhoek to Keetmanshoop, wheretwo volunteers live in a hostel. THe train was freezing cold and we were inEconomy sleeper, and it moved at a snail\'s pace, but we had wine andsleeping bags so it was all good. Keetmanshoop is in the south and it\'s veryvery dry. Jay says living there is like living on the moon, and I can seewhat he means. THere is nothing but black sand--no grass, no trees, nobushes, nothing. ANd it\'s completely flat except for a single line of hillsoutside of the city like a tidal wave. We spent a day there buying food forthe hike and figuring out transportation, and at 5am the next morning wetook a combi the 4 hours to the start of the canyon. And I think it wasabout one half hour into the descent into the canyon when I realized that,yes, my pack was freaking heavy, yes, my feet were not prepared for this,and yes, I have no balance whatsoever. Despite these setbacks, the hike was",1]
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above reminds you that you're in Africa. The city center is a dot in themiddle of an enormous location, and at the edge of the location is an evenbigger squatter camp. At night when all the city lights come on, thesquatter camp is lost in darkness but for the dotted campfires; they don'thave electricity. In the morning, the squatter camp remains in shadow longerthan any other part of the city. Anyway. At night we acted like idiots, andsometimes the funny old couple who own the hotel made us hot spiced wine,and sometimes the electricty went out, usually right in the middle of ashower, killing the water, and all in all, it was 9 days well-spent.After Reconnect we hiked Fish River Canyon. Some things I've read say it'sthe largest canyon in the Southern hemisphere, but WIll says that's a lie. Idon't know how it compares to other canyons, but I can tell you that I'vebeen there and it's freaking huge. But I'm getting ahead of myself. So we(10 of us) took an overnight train out of WIndhoek to Keetmanshoop, wheretwo volunteers live in a hostel. THe train was freezing cold and we were inEconomy sleeper, and it moved at a snail's pace, but we had wine andsleeping bags so it was all good. Keetmanshoop is in the south and it's veryvery dry. Jay says living there is like living on the moon, and I can seewhat he means. THere is nothing but black sand--no grass, no trees, nobushes, nothing. ANd it's completely flat except for a single line of hillsoutside of the city like a tidal wave. We spent a day there buying food forthe hike and figuring out transportation, and at 5am the next morning wetook a combi the 4 hours to the start of the canyon. And I think it wasabout one half hour into the descent into the canyon when I realized that,yes, my pack was freaking heavy, yes, my feet were not prepared for this,and yes, I have no balance whatsoever. Despite these setbacks, the hike was
so, so beautiful--the huge canyon walls that changed color with the changingof the light, the river that we had to cross about 10 times, that we swam inat lunch and bathed in at night, the open meadows filled with yellowwildflowers as far as I could see, the stars at night. THere was no one elsedown there (except for one other group of Afrikaners who we usually ran intoat river crossings, and who had these blow-up floatation bags for theirbackpacks, and they would float across the river with those daggone bagswhile we were cutting our feet up and falling into the rapids with our packson our backs, we really sort of started to hate them by the end). I mean itfelt like there was no one else but us in the whole world, it was so big andempty. We saw a few zebras on the drive to the canyon, but in the canyon theonly animals we saw were birds and baboons. THere were hyena tracks but wenever saw them. At night we sat around the campfire and ate too much anddrank whiskey and fell asleep at about 7:00 under the stars. It was overalla wonderful trip, but I tell you what I have never seen so many blisters ona person\'s feet as there are on my feet right now, and they are DISgusting.I even have them UNDER my big toenails, don\'t even ask me how that happened.Anyway, we ended 90 km hike at the hot springs at Ai-Ais, which is onlyabout an hour north of the border with South Africa. It\'s a popular resortfor SOuth Africans and most of the people there just came for the hotsprings and didn\'t actually hike (losers). We never made it to the hotsprings, because we found the hot indoor pool first and just stayed there.But there had been other hot springs on the trail that we swam in, and theysort of burned and smelled bad, so the pool was fine. We stayed in a bungaloand ate a real dinner and acted like idiots and slept in beds and it was",1]
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amazing. I have never in my life seen anything like that canyon. It was so,so, so beautiful--the huge canyon walls that changed color with the changingof the light, the river that we had to cross about 10 times, that we swam inat lunch and bathed in at night, the open meadows filled with yellowwildflowers as far as I could see, the stars at night. THere was no one elsedown there (except for one other group of Afrikaners who we usually ran intoat river crossings, and who had these blow-up floatation bags for theirbackpacks, and they would float across the river with those daggone bagswhile we were cutting our feet up and falling into the rapids with our packson our backs, we really sort of started to hate them by the end). I mean itfelt like there was no one else but us in the whole world, it was so big andempty. We saw a few zebras on the drive to the canyon, but in the canyon theonly animals we saw were birds and baboons. THere were hyena tracks but wenever saw them. At night we sat around the campfire and ate too much anddrank whiskey and fell asleep at about 7:00 under the stars. It was overalla wonderful trip, but I tell you what I have never seen so many blisters ona person's feet as there are on my feet right now, and they are DISgusting.I even have them UNDER my big toenails, don't even ask me how that happened.Anyway, we ended 90 km hike at the hot springs at Ai-Ais, which is onlyabout an hour north of the border with South Africa. It's a popular resortfor SOuth Africans and most of the people there just came for the hotsprings and didn't actually hike (losers). We never made it to the hotsprings, because we found the hot indoor pool first and just stayed there.But there had been other hot springs on the trail that we swam in, and theysort of burned and smelled bad, so the pool was fine. We stayed in a bungaloand ate a real dinner and acted like idiots and slept in beds and it was
drive back was uneventful (there was absolutely nothing but bush for fourstraight hours to Keetmans), except for one stop by an electric fencebecause the driver saw a jackal on it (it had attempted to jump over thefence and had not made it), and he pulled over to get a closer look. Wethink he wanted to pick it up for dinner but maybe thought better of it. Wetook the overnight train last night from Keetmans to Windhoek, which was,again, freezing, but we had bottles of wine and, as an added bonus, cheetos,so we were cool. TOday we\'re in WIndhoek staying at Jason\'s hostel. I\'llprobably hang out here for a few days before I go back to my site. School"starts" next Monday, but it won\'t really get going for a couple more weeks.I don\'t want to think about it right now. I\'m scared, scared,scared to goback... but also excited that I know some of teh basic things now that, hadI known them back in January, would have made Term 1 go a lot more smoothly.I would write about my plans for teh term but I think I\'ve rambled enough(and made enough typos) for one email.I hope you are all doing well. If you want to send me something, I accept chocolate in all forms. And no, it does not melt in the mail, so that is notan acceptable excuse for sending inferior forms of candy. I miss you tons!"

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