21 January 2011

Vacay, Part Deux

With another two weeks ahead of me before classes would start, of course I couldn’t just go back to Chibuto after my family left. What a colossal waste of a perfectly good travel opportunity that would be! So I booked a spot on an overnight bus to Joburg and a cheap airplane ticket to Cape Town, where I would meet Erica and her dad. I met a kind young couple along the way who recommended a neat hostel in Cape Town and, after swapping contact info, pointed me in the right direction. I had a day to get acquainted with our snazzy hostel and most importantly, its pool, as the day I arrived was Cape Town’s hottest summer day yet. Once the hottest part of the afternoon had passed, I wandered in and out of shops on Cape Town’s bustling Long Street, window-shopping, buying things I hadn’t intended to buy, spending money I hadn’t intended to spend, and generally having a good time. I even found a funky hipster restaurant to have a gourmet veggie burger—imagine that! Oh, the delights of the sparkly, shiny developed world. Back at the hostel, I met fellow travelers and was reunited with Erica and her dad later that evening.
The next day, we took off for the Cape of Good Hope with a new friend from the hostel. Along the way, we stopped to see penguins at the aptly named Penguin Beach and drove past baboons in the road (no namesake beach). It was a gorgeous drive, taking us past bluffs, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, ostriches, and yet more baboons. Since Erica’s dad was suffering from back pain, we three youngsters went out the next morning to hike up Table Mountain. For being a tourist attraction, I have to say, it was a pretty strenuous hike; although being from the Great Plains, I suppose I have a natural tendency toward laziness when it comes to hills and mountains and various slopes. Erica and I forgot to stretch out and felt that hike for days to come, but it was well worth it, and we even rewarded ourselves with slushies at the end of it all. We spent the afternoon recuperating by the pool, eating tropical fruits: mangos, bananas, grapes, papaya, grenadilla, and prickly pear. Later that evening, we went out to eat at a restaurant where the three meat-eaters of our party of four tried ostrich steak, crocodile, and warthog ribs (delicious). Day 2 in Cape Town, summed up: broke a sweat, ate like a king, slept like a log. I love vacation, and oh, do I love the developed world.
Since we had to eventually drive the rental car back to Joburg, we were crunched for time, so the next day, we left Cape Town to spend a day in the surrounding Winelands. We tasted wine at three vineyards and had a gourmet picnic by the river. We arrived at the last vineyard too late for Erica and I to take its rowboats onto the nearby pond, but considering the low alcohol tolerance we exhibited, it was probably for the best. Skipping stones was much less risky activity. That evening, we barbecued at the hostel, enjoyed the wine we’d bought, passed around the hostel guitar, and shared stories. And I tried my very best not to think of the imminent end of our time in South Africa and the upcoming school year, ever-looming closer. I was more-or-less successful.
We said goodbye to our friend the next day and began our two-day road trip back to Joburg. In Joburg, we took advantage of the last luxuries the developed world could offer us: fun restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, coffee, laundry, television, and internet. Sigh. We said goodbye to Erica’s dad, and later that evening, said goodbye to South Africa. So many goodbyes, but what naturally follows every goodbye is a hello—Hello Mozambique!
Now we’re back home, starting the new school year. Of course, the schedules for my school weren’t ready on time, so I’ll start teaching next week. As much as I’ve been dreading going back to work, part of me is excited to start a fresh school year. I start this year knowing more about the culture of my school, knowing my colleagues and students better, knowing more about how to be an effective teacher, and knowing more Portuguese. While I now lack the excitement of the unknown that I experienced at this time last year, it will be a pleasure to work feeling more confident about how things work and how I fit into that system.  I may be a cog in the system, but I'm an American cog, and it's good to know maybe not exactly what that entails, but what I can do with it.

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