I have returned from training and vacation and am back in the cold Lesotho. I have spent the last few days catching up and even had a (test) consolidation. All is good here in the Kingdom but, for now, I want to tell you about my vacation
After five days of sessions and idea sharing, we set out for the boarder crossing from our training villages at 5:30. Hannah, who housed in another village, stayed the night with me so that our entire group could leave together. There are certain times when I feel really Peace Corps-y, such as that morning walking into the sun rise which a stuffed backpack, my Chacos and a bandanna for a headband.
We made it to the boarder and met up with another group going our way. We hadn’t planned for their group of 5 and ours of 8 to be at the vacationing in the same places, let alone the staying at the same hostels, but it worked out that way and we decided to get a rent out a taxi together. For the 30 rand extra, it was worth it and we had a nice comfortable ride, breaking out into song every now and then.
We reached Durban in the afternoon and then rented another taxi to a tiny town along the Wild Coast. Other PCVs had recommended a backpacker (or hostel) called the Mantis and Moon. It was the cutest, hippiest little place. The entire place was built in a jungle with large green leaves flowing into walkways and tree trunks thrusting into the sky. There were hammocks and dogs everywhere with rock pool and hot tub that the staff insisted needed tons of soap. We were set up in dorm rooms and then headed out for an inexpensive differ and drinks at the hostel.
Despite the number of beers I consumed the night before, I got up before 7 a.m. to run on the beach. Running on the beach is not as glamorous or possible as it seems, especially with a pounding headache. So, instead I watched the waves roll in and thought about how I make life decisions until I gave into my body demands for water, greasy food and aspirin.
After those items were accounted for, our group went to the beach. Our entertainment was watching Kevin teach himself to surf. The ocean beat up the poor guy, but he has more courage than I to even try. The rest of us played with the waves as if we were children and laughing like it. We giggled more than of the kids around us. There is something about the beach that just makes people happy. Go to the beach and you won’t see one unsatisfied customer. We were grinning ear-to-ear most of the time.
That night we chose to make use of the hostel’s barbeque pit, or brie as it is called South Africa and Lesotho. James, a man proudly from the south, took over the chicken and made the most delicious BBQ sauce to go with his perfectly roasted chicken. Nick, a Wisconsin-ite who knows his beer, cheese and brats, cooked up brats that tricked me into thinking I was at a ballgame. We added vegetable shishkababs and roasted pumpkin for nutrients. It was so wonderful we had to hide the food so people didn’t pick it away.
This is the night we acquired Thomas, a Dutch traveler who spent the last three months volunteering at a game reserve. He was by himself and James, being the sharing southern that he is, insisted he hang out with us. We even had extra beds at our next hostel in Durban so he came along and joined our American fun there too. We lovingly called him “Netherlands” and he said goodbye to each of us with “See you in the Netherlands.” He was a hoot.
I learned my mistake for the day before and drank one beer with our brie. Sobriety allowed me a nice morning run (not on the beach) followed by more thinking on the beach. I tried to do yoga, but couldn’t get into a proper position with the sticky sand, so I meditated, prayed and sang out loud to myself. I returned home before most were up so I showered and began making breakfast.
We finished cooking right as our taxi to Durban showed up so we “gobbled and go” as my father says. This is where our groups split for a night, the other five remained at the Mantis and Moon while we headed to Durban; however, we all had reservations for the same backpacker. Right after we checked, Shanelle arrived and joined our party. She lives way into the mountains in Lesotho and wanted to stock up on supplies in Maseru but didn’t want to haul those things on vacation so she decided to return to site and enter SA through a different boarder gate and meet us in Durban.
We hit the beach immediately, where there was more people and rougher waves than the Wild Coast. We stopped along the way for beers and I tried to teach everyone P&A, which I played a lot of in college. They were not impressed.
We had our hearts set on Mexican for dinner but not of the backpacker staff knew of a place, so we decided on Indian. Best Indian food ever. So rich, so creamy. Bellies full, we hit a few clubs and danced until some people, ok me, were falling asleep. I really lived up to my old lady status during the trip, always the first one to bed.
More beach, but this time with a picnic. We bought cheese, crackers and other snacks at a local grocery store and enjoyed the sun and more wave giggling. This is when we met up with Caitlin, who was traveling with her German boyfriend and staying at another backpacker. I got a little too red but I claim it as a souvenir.
It was Caitlin’s birthday and we had found a Mexican restaurant the night before so agreed to meet there. The other PCV party arrived and we all put on our best clothes. The cheese covered vegetables, the guacamole, the pitcher of sangria that Katie and I split: heaven. Our cravings were finally satisfied as Shanelle brought a chocolate cream cheese cake she had made for Caitlin. Shanelle has a way with pastries. Naturally, we needed to dance and hit up the same place we did the night before. I invented a new dance, called the Heather. It’s pretty remarkable.
On Easter morning, a few of us decided to go to the nearby Catholic church for Easter mass. It was a nice service and in English.
We split ways this day. Some went to the beach, others an aquarium and I to the mall. On most vacations, I would do anything but go to the mall, but I was on a mission. One of my only goals for the vacation was to buy new running shoes and I was told there was a large mall in Durban. So a group went and I bought my shoes along with an April South African version of Runner’s World and a micro-fiber camping towel. My terrycloth towel had taken on an undesirable stench and many volunteers have and like the camping towel. It changed my life. It dries so quickly and, better, it dries me quickly.
At the hostel, we met for a big family Easter dinner. We had roasted chicken, macaroni and cheese, salad, scalloped potatoes and glazed carrots. As much as I miss my family, I love these holiday celebrations. They are truly one of the best parts of Peace Corps.
Speaking of my family, I bought some wireless time so I could Skype them. It was really on a whim but it worked out and I got to see everyone. It made me so happy.
Long, uncomfortable taxies brought us back to Lesotho. I wanted to make it all the way back to village, but night came early and I couldn’t so I stayed with Hannah. I made it back the next day and it was nice to finally sleep in my bed.
My vacation was the perfect breather. Our traveling group was absolutely wonderful and we had no major mishaps. I even came back with a bit of money. It was great but I am excited to be back in village.
For the first time ever, I was on vacation and not thinking about how unhappy I was with my life back home. I guess that is a true sign of progress.