Part 3: coming home

Tuesday, May 10 – Zach and I got up early in the morning to go and buy tickets for our train journey back home that night.  1st class was full (which is the only place where you can get only four beds in the cabin, with sheets included as well), but the train manager came over and decided to help us out.  He looked at the seating plan and decided that a few people could move around.  “Come back at 6pm and get tickets then.  We’ll have this cabin just for you.”  So that was a nice start to the morning!

Another early morning adventure: Zach had been wanting to buy a Zimbabwe flag, but one of the street vendors told him that it was actually illegal to sell full-size flags there!  Zach wanted one, however, so a couple guys told him they would try to find one and then meet him outside the hotel at 8 in the morning.  So sure enough, they did.  As Zach negotiated prices with them, I watched from the sidelines, amused simply watching what looked like people drug dealing.

flag-dealing

Once again, Renna and I snuck off to get ice cream and have a really good conversation.  I knew I was going to miss her a lot after this trip!

Renna and I with our floats

When we got back, we made plans to go see the Zimbabwe side of the Falls.  Tyler decided not to go, so he stayed with the group of six other Americans that were camping out at our hotel for the day.  Zach, Renna, and I really enjoyed the Falls once again.

entrance to the Zim side of the Falls

Zach was in LOVE with this side of the waterfall, but I personally liked the Zambia side better.  I came to the conclusion that the Zim side was more majestic because you could see the whole length of it, but the Zambia side was more fun because of that little bridge where you get soaked.  My favorite thing, though, was simply watching Zach have a BLAST.  He was literally running around shirtless like a little kid, getting soaked, yelling at us to come over and see whenever the mist would blow past and we could catch a good glimpse of the Falls.  It made my day.

the clearest view of the waterfall

Zach just beginning to get excited...

it was like being in the middle of a rainstorm, while waiting for the mist to blow away so we could see glimpses of the waterfall every so often

Renna and I also loved seeing rainbows everywhere we looked.

taste the rainbow

Also, earlier on in the week I had read out some random facts to the others about Victoria Falls and David Livingstone (the Scottish missionary who first discovered the Falls).  Renna decided that I had an obsession with Livingstone, so because of that, just for fun, I actually started to be “obsessed” and would always say random facts I learned about him.  Best thing ever when we found a huge statue of him for me to climb on and hug!

David Livingstone!

We stopped at Chicken Inn for a late lunch, and then Renna and I did a last walk around town so she could give away some clothes.  We picked up a packed dinner at Pizza Inn (Oh, and the ice cream place we always went to was Dairy Inn.  Something, I don’t know what, tells me that they’re owned by the same company) and then took all our stuff to the train.

in town, just a minute from our hotel camp

We saw the pushy street vendors for the last time (Zach and Tyler were always really friendly to everyone we met, always asking people’s names, so we knew several people personally by this time), and said goodbye to the warthogs that wandered around the station.

warthog passing through town

Then it was time to board the train, which was much nicer than our first train!  It was all the same size, but the walls were shinier and cockroach-free, the windows had screens, the door opened smoother, the bathroom door closed all the way, and everything was just 100% nicer.  And guess what?  We actually left on time!

the nicer train's shiny walls

Hilariously, we met ol’ Peter again, who sat down in our cabin with a beer bottle in hand and proceeded to tell us once again about the beauty of the Zambezi Express for 15 minutes.  It’s times like those that I hope I never forget.  We ended the night by playing a game we made up in order to learn childhood stories about each other: someone would give a subject like “superheroes,” “dessert,” “trees,” or “foods you don’t like,” and everyone had to tell a childhood story about that subject, seeing who had the best one.

Wednesday, May 11 – The night had been a lot better than our journey there (although I suppose that’s not saying too much).  The morning was slow – we had been stuck at one station for two hours before moving.  We passed around our Cheerios and donuts for breakfast, and realized that in our hurry to leave the camp the evening before, we had somehow left all our PB&J stuff, apples, and granola bars!  Sad day.  Around lunch time we arrived in Bulawayo, where Ben was once again there to pick us up (and had even taken the rest of the day off work to do so!).  We ate lunch, took showers, and watched Hancock at his house before picking up an early Chicken Inn for dinner, taking a group picture, and then saying goodbyes at the bus stop.

picture with Ben before leaving

At 4 pm, the Greyhound left.  The trip was mostly uneventful.  We watched a few movies – most were terrible like the earlier bus trip, but one was actually okay – until they turned it off before the climax!  I also discovered that, surprise surprise, I was useless at making bracelets (Renna: “Honestly, I’ve taught a lot of people and you’re the first one that hasn’t gotten it.” – That sounds harsh but honestly it was just funny).  If this whole semester has reinforced one thing in my mind, it’s that everything artsy is “not my calling.”  After going through the whole border-crossing-back-into-South-Africa ordeal, I actually managed to sleep a few hours through the night (I’m never able to sleep in moving vehicles) thanks to some sleeping pills that decided to work on me for once.

Thursday, May 12 – The bus actually arrived half an hour early, at 5am.  Candida and the kids came to pick us up, and we had a relaxing, unwinding day at their house.  We were able to shower, use the internet, unpack and repack (we had left most of our stuff at her house during the week), share photos, and nap.  During all that free time, I came up with some conclusions about the Vic Falls trip:

1. It felt like a completely separate thing from the rest of the semester.  It felt like months ago that I had been with the 55 taking classes in South Africa.  Whenever someone had mentioned someone’s name from our group, it always took me a while to even picture their face!
2.  That week was the longest week of my life.  It felt like at least two weeks.  Maybe because we were traveling so much, or maybe because we packed so much in each day.
3.  We did such cool things.  We went to Zimbabwe and Zambia.  We saw the largest waterfall in the world and got soaked by it.  We swung 233 feet down over the Zambezi River.  We rode elephants on a safari.  We rode a night train – twice – and had the worst night of our lives on it.  We planned the whole thing, from accommodations to transportation to activities.  We had an amazing time with unforgettable memories.  And most of the stories I tell people back home about Africa are just from this one week.
4.  I didn’t expect to have so much fun with the activities, but I also didn’t expect that there would be so many disagreements with only four people.  But for some reason, it didn’t take any fun from the trip at all.  It showed me that I really was putting to use what I learned during the semester – that it’s impossible to always be friends with everyone, so I need to put my effort into simply getting closer with those that I already get along well with.  It sort of sounds like a sad lesson, but I know that it’s what God has been trying to teach me for a long time and I’m only just getting it now.
5.   I wasn’t homesick anymore!  That was weird, because only 8 or 9 days before, I had been exploding with homesickness.  I think it was because I had what I was missing the whole semester – a small group of people who cared about me and actually wanted to include me.  The homesickness had just melted away right at the beginning of our extra week.

Before going to the airport, Candida dropped Renna and I off at a shopping center so we could stock up on Cadbury chocolate as souvenirs (and we did buy a lot of chocolate!).  Then we packed up all our stuff, said some sad goodbyes (we felt like we had known them for so long!), and were off for our 10:00pm flight.  In the car on the way to the airport, it finally hit us – we were leaving the place we had called home for the past four months.  It was a weird feeling.  It was finally over.

with the family before we drove off to the airport (minus Grant)

8 hour flight to our short stopover (where we couldn’t leave the plane) in Dakar, Senegal.  Renna and I once again had a good conversation, trying to figure out exactly what we each had learned on this semester-long trip…how they were hard lessons, but they each had a positive aspect to them (ie. “people will always let me down, but I can rely on God,” or “I can’t get everyone to like me, so I should appreciate those who do even more”).  It was good for both of us to be able to talk about it all out loud, because we knew that once we landed in LA, everyone would be asking us the same questions.  Then 8 1/2 more hours to our stopover in Washington D.C., and then 4 1/2 hours to LA.

Coming home was slightly disorienting, but not as much as they had prepped us for.  But yes, things were different.  There were a few words that I had learned to naturally say differently.  For example, in the D.C. airport someone had been eating French fries and I had called them “chips” out loud without even thinking about it.  I said “just now” about ten times in that first day back with my parents.  I had gotten so used to counting Rand cents that it was weird to see American cents.  I was scared of driving again because it was on the right side of the road, but when I did actually get to drive, there were only a couple of times where I was a little weirded out.  Although, I’ve noticed that I do walk on the left side of the sidewalk when other people are passing…

The whole drive back home from the airport, my family asked me lots of questions about my extra week, and I talked so much that I got a sour throat.  “I haven’t talked this much in a long time,” I told them.  I felt like a lot of my semester had been about listening (mostly because I didn’t know who to talk to), and it was strange to talk this much.  Things were just disorienting all over, but that may have also been because I only had seven hours of sleep in three days.  But overall, it definitely wasn’t nearly as weird as the reorientation class had prepped us for.  The weirdest thing of all was visiting APU and finding out that my group of friends had made some new friends, and I had to figure out my relationship with these “new” people!  But when I saw my other friends, like people from church, it was comforting to realize that it felt like no time at all had passed.  After all, what is four months in the scheme of life? : )

Well, that’s about it for reflecting…  In the plane, I made a list of things that I missed about America and things that I would miss about Africa.  It’s kinda fun, so I’ll post it later as my FINAL blog.

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