Time has wings, towards the end of the semester.

Trip Start Jan 09, 2011
Trip End Dec 04, 2011

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Block 5

Flag of Botswana  , South East,
Friday, October 21, 2011

It's been a long time since the village, but a lot of the same things have still been in occurrence. I'm still in school, and although it's coming to an end I still realize each day a little bit like I'm at home. I chose some difficult classes this semester, and an all-nighter is an all-nighter, regardless of the Continent. Forgetting the present though,(which is hard with finals looming just ahead) I want to go backwards and fill the space between my last entry and now with useful information and a story or two. 

The two weeks leading up to break were hectic. The way classes are structured here gives students a routine that can be a little bipolar. We can be doing nothing for what seems like forever, and then be bombarded with a workload that makes us remember that we're still college students. In my case I'm in a few science courses, and the course load for those classes can be rough. I've been stuck basically(and some times actually) sleeping with my calculus and my soil science books. It's a good thing because I feel like I'm grasping a lot of information, but at the same time, like I said before, it can be tough because I'm abroad, and I'm trying to balance being here and experiencing it with not failing classes like human settlements. It's an interesting dance, and I'm pretty bad at it. It's the same as my behavior at home. You can re-take classes, you can't retake life experiences(although you can re-do them, but nobody really plans on that a lot of the time). I guess this is what separates me from some serious college students, as I often try to go for everything, instead of picking just one path and following it. My blog isn't a metaphysical discussion though, It's spring break time.

After equipping myself with a mustache and most(all) of my money, I set out with my fellow students Tim and Emma on a mission to reach 3 Countries in 10 days. Our plan was to head to the Salt pans, then up to Zambia to meet up with our friend Eric, once there we would see Victoria Falls and get the most out of being in Livingstone(which has a  Mexican food place) before heading over to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe to see the best band at singing about fermented grapes, UB40. It was something that sounded like a good journey in the begining, nd by the end felt like a good measure of how a somewhat rough spring break plan turns out, awesome

From Gaborone we bused to Francistown, the second largest town in Botswana on the east-most border of the country. There we stayed the night before heading up to the salt pans the next day. Our night in Francistown was interesting, mainly because the guest house I found in my guide book ended up being about the most 70ish era place I have ever slept in my life (and my parents were/are hippies). The place had wood paneling, and I'm sure the TV was imported from the US around the time that Nixon resigned his presidency. It was fun though, mostly because we stayed up and explored the city a little, having conversations on human rights philosophy while concurrently purchasing a homeless man dinner, I found myself having a lasting memory with good friends. 

The next day we bused up to Gweta,  which is a someone deserted town bordering the largest group of salt pans in the world. We found a hotelish place and were able to book the family hut(everyone got their own bed!). The place was great and had a really good feel, and about the best food I've had in Africa, we stayed there 2 nights, and we made some good friends with these people from the UK, who apparently had lived in South Africa for a period of 15-20 years. They were wells of wisdom, and enthralled us with stories, one of  in which they explained  traveling in a Volkswagen bus all the way from South Africa to Europe. Tim was inspired, I was stunned. They drove through the Congo and the Sahara, back when instead of paved roads they just had tracks. We were in the presence of demigods, and we had a good time learning about their journey as a couple. I could see they loved each other very much, and imagine that had never changed, seeing how far they traveled alone as a couple, they probably could have given any of us lesson or two about being in love. 

While in Gweta we had a opportunity to book 3 seats in a safari truck full of German tourists to see the salt pans, they were awesome. The salt pans on the other hand, were unbelievable. I wish my pictures could do it more justice, but imagine a land barren of life, for as long as you can see, and imagine the feeling of walking about fifty yards and only having a car further from you to prove that you have moved. I was amazed. The drive was also breathtaking, I was happy to see squirrels that stand like meerkats, apparently they live in the same burrows as the meerkats (which are a little more hard to spot) and have picked up on their behavior in a Darwinian manner to see possible predators from a better perspective. The Baobab tress were also unforgettable, I'm a big tree guy, and they looked really, really cool. I actually heard a myth that may be a little off topic, that the reason the baobab's look the way they do is because a god was mad and actually turned them upside town to make their roots above ground. Thinking of them this way makes them look really, really cool.

Leaving the Salt pans and Gweta, we headed back to Nata(1 hour east of Gweta) early in the morning to catch a bus to Kasane, there we were hoping to make a ferry journey across the Zambezi and reach our planned destination of Livingstone, Zambia. We made a friend in Nata, who we grew to know well as our bus was delayed for four hours for reasons we still have trouble understanding. Our friend was a student pursuing her doctorate in Seattle, who I learned wanted to be a professor in Humboldt State eventually(Represent!). She apparently had been given scholarship of 20,000 dollars to travel the world for a year and see as much as she could. There was only one catch to her scholarship, she couldn't work, and she couldn't do any scholarly work...hard life, right? Anyway, while sitting in the back of this bus waiting to go to Kasane we realized we were probably not going to make it to Zambia that day. While it seemed logical, me and Tim, being men, refused to believe such nonsense and went to try and get the bus to leave sooner. We were persuasive enough to get the driver to hurry to the border, and we reached a border post around 8, that closed at 8:30. We cheerfully rushed to the desk of the border official who informed us that this was the border to Zimbabwe, and the border to Zambia had closed at 6:30. Demoralized, and nearly plan-less, we booked  a cab to a 3 star lodge place that advertised camp sites. Kasane, being a popular tourist destination for most people coming to see Chobe national park, had very high prices for hotel rooms, prices that made us accept that we would be sitting in a campsite until daybreak, very unromantic when in the situation. 

Luckily we met a game-worker at the lodge, cosmos. He saved us. He offered us an extra room he had at his place, and we were lucky enough that night to stay with our new friend in the village, sharing a queen bed and avoiding mosquitoes at all costs. The morning came(not soon enough for some of us) and we thankfully departed from our friend and ventured quick over the border, entering Zambia, we booked a cab to a backpackers lodge called Jollyboys in Livingstone, and met Eric. 

Zambia was different, even when we reached Kasane we began to see Elephants crossing the road and more greenery than southern Botswana. We were now in the jungle, and jollyboys was a jungle oasis. It was 15 US a night and the food was so cheap and delicious. I felt like I was a rich business man on vacation. Victoria Falls answered every question I've ever asked about nature, and every answer was almost always yes. I couldn't believe seeing it with my eyes. The earth is unbelievable, and truly nature is so beautiful and mystifying that we have to take moments like these, and see that all of this is a lot bigger than we are. 

We booked a "guide" to show us the coolest spots on the falls. Because the water level is so low at this time of the year, it's possible to walk right up to the edge, and on some parts of the falls, the constant swirling of water has eroded rock making swimming holes(enclosed of course, we're not crazy), which our guide showed us. I was so happy with how cool of a guy he was a gave him my bandanna. He was really cool. He gave us a hour tour of the falls and took pictures for us. He charged only 20 dollars, and when I asked him how he found out about all of this stuff he said he was a fisherman, and him and his friends, while fishing had discovered all of these amazing places, he apparently makes a better living as a guide than a fisherman, splitting business with all of his friends. I was thrilled that we met him, and we made a friend that day. Surprisingly, we met up with our fellow students the same day on the falls, including Elijah, who I was really stoked to see. We made sure to get a group picture to remember the coincidence. 

Being in Livingstone reminded me of East Africa, I walked through markets again, and smelled the smells of poverty and dried fish that I had become accustomed to while in Dar es Salaam. I missed it, I realized that when I saw it all again. There is nothing more important to me than seeing authenticity. I saw more real life my few days in Livingstone than in Gabs entirely, or rather I saw more of Dar es Salaam in Livingstone... Me and Tim had a great time meeting people, and even bought a few bootlegged dvds.

Our time in Livingstone was good, but we had a concert to get to, and we needed to find a way to get to it. We did some research and I found an overnight train to Bulawayo, which was about 4 hours from Harare, our destination. We agreed to head over to the station and crossed into Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, we found the train workers to be striking when we crossed the border, and found ourselves stuck in the town of Victoria Falls. 

Our luck quickly came back to us as our taxi driver informed us of a overnight bus to Harare; he explained it as luxury and said it was 35 dollars. We were instantly sold, and we prepared for the nine hour journey ahead of us at a local hostel. There I met a few primary school headmasters who were on a conference at the falls. I was happy to sit town and talk to them before we left, and they even invited me to their home villages. I really want to go, but I'm not sure If I will have time, they were great to meet though. 

The bus, described to us as a quick(ish) 9 hour trip, lasted 14, and the luxury of the bus was definitely debatable, especially when I woke to people standing and sleeping in the isles at 2 am. I couldn't believe how crammed and hot the bus had become in my sleep. I was a little uncomfortable, but moreover; I was uncomfortable for these people forced to sit on the floor. Over the next few hours I had grown a disdain for the driver, I couldn't believe he let people do this. They looked miserable, and I was sitting right next to them. I just couldn't understand, that should never happen. Nobody deserves to stand or sit on the floor of a bus for that long, and nobody deserves to be given that as their only option to get from A to B, especially at 2am.

After the dramatic and revealing bus ride we arrived in Harare, and went to a local hostel to regain ourselves. We were a little drained, but eager to see the city, and more eager to see UB40. Unfortunately, as we quickly learned the concert had been canceled. I was bummed, as I was really excited to tell my friends back home I saw UB40 in Africa, but we got over it(eventually) and headed out to explore Harare, and meet our friends who had been here for a few days. Hannah, Elizabeth, and Lily. 

We met up with them in a craft market, which had been converted from a parking garage. It had pretty much the coolest crafts I had ever seen in my life, and I finished all but my traveling home money here buying the coolest things, ever. I ventured around and met these painters, who had even more of the coolest art I have seen in Africa. They were trying desperately to sell me this painting for 25 dollars. I couldn't believe, it. It was an original painting, and it was beautiful, it probably took this guy a while to paint it, and here I am in a position to get it for 25 dollars. I told him I would pay him a hundred if I had it, and he should wait and sell it to the next guy. He refused and told me he just wanted me to have it for this cheap.I felt like it was stealing,  I told him that if he ever comes to California he's good enough to be a millionaire. I feel like I made these painters day, I hope I did, they made mine. 
Soon our group split between those who were going home early and those who were heading home the following day. Myself, being broke, had no real reason to stick around, and parted ways with the others. Elizabeth, Emma, and Felicia(who joined up with us in Livingstone) along with myself were leaving Harare. We got a bus that was playing about the funniest music videos I had ever seen in my life to Bulawayo. It was storming and me and Felicia sat in the back and tried to contain our self from laughing to wake everyone up who were sleeping. Elizabeth was sleeping and Emma was also pretty entertained by what we were watching. The videos were hilarious. Eventually, I found myself watching the lightning in the night outside the window for the first time in a while, it was really perfect. I love rain and storms. We ended up in a YWCA in Bulawayo for the night and I felt like we had entered a very creepy place. It was a old building and would of been the perfect set for a horror movie or ghost special; with the long hallways and all that. 

The morning came quick and the manager there showed all of us how to get back into Botswana, we met some people who took us over to Francistown, where we grabbed a bus and headed back to Gabs. It was a really long trip back, as our bus broke down right outside Gaborone, we had to hitchhike into the city and take cabs. I ended up home around 4pm on Sunday. My break was over, and I was happy to finally be able to relax. 

  That week was a true adventure, and I saw a lot of land. It was a lot of travel, but it was so worth it. See the artists in Zimbabwe just made me realize I want to come back here. Africa is beautiful. 

Getting home was a big relief, but returning to school felt like something foreign. This was about 3 weeks ago, and since then I've gotten back into the flow of things. Classes have started to become a big commitment, but I'm making a strong effort to do well in all of them, I'm learning a lot. I'm happy to be with my group here, but as the semester winds up in the next 4 weeks I'm sure coming home will be on my mind too often. I feel like seeing my family and friends again will be great. I miss them all a lot, and i miss a few a whole lot. :) . I'm glad that I get to do all of this amazing stuff still, I love being in Africa. 

Thank you all who just read this whole thing, I know it's big, and I have a lot of trouble trying to package it all into a text blog entry. I'll update again soon as school is coming to a close(as long as finals studying doesn't absorb all the daylight). If you have any questions about my trip feel free to shoot me an email, I check it like a million times a day when I should be doing productive things, so of course I'll hit you back: grant_ivison@yahoo.com Check my pictures from spring break, they're all on facebook and i took a lot so everyone could see them for that reason. I don't need them to remember, something like this is unforgettable. 




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