Here we are again friends.
It's been nearly 4 years since I left Africa and since my last blog post. I've had many American adventures since: moving to California, leaving and moving back to California, a few cross country vacations and a few mountains climbed. But the travel bug is real, the wanderlust is real, and it was calling me back to a crazy venture to be had.
So when I found out my school was offering a class in Cape Town, I jumped on it and knew I'd do whatever it took to get there. It was only a bonus the class offered was an International Health class. I probably would have gone regardless of the class. ;)
I've met a lot of people in the last four years, new people I've described my African adventures to, who joined my friends and family who took the first journey to Africa with me in showing exactly zero shock in learning I was going back. Zero shock, but all excitement. So I thought I would restart the old blog, especially for those who aren't on Facebook (MOM) and show everyone the Africa I'm so in love with, and my second "crazy venture beneath African skies."
I'll be here in Cape Town for 3 weeks, then mosey back over to Swaziland for a few more weeks to meet up with an old PC friend for Bushfire and some Swazi adventures before heading down to Magubheleni to kaShabalala to see my family that I stayed with for 2 years there. It'll be a great time and I'm so stoked to be back. Here's how the trip has gone so far.
The journey started early on Saturday morning from San Francisco. (Huge thanks to B for making the late night / early morning trip with me and for his bro for putting us up for the night.) The last time I went to Southern Africa, we spent the night in Atlanta, then took the 17 hour flight to Joburg, where we spent the night again before hoping on the plane to the Swaz. Needless to say the breaking up of the trip was important - and was lacking in this current trip. I flew direct from SF to NY and for those who have done that trip, you know how long that is. With the early start, I slept for a bit, chatted with the guy next to me who was headed to Milan, read the chapter for the first day of class on Tuesday, put some flash cards together for my comprehensive exam in June, and by that time we were maybe over Denver. *ugh* Fortunately those long flights have personal TVs and I was able to catch up on a few episodes of Downton Abbey before I landed in NY. I hoofed it across JFK with enough time to snarf a pizza and send some final love from America before I was on the next plane within an hour. No bueno for the legs, but I just wanted to get there. For as long as O thought the NY leg was, the Paris leg was much longer - again, zero recollection from the last trip across the pond. Maybe it was the time difference that made it drag on. This "overnight flight" that left NY at 5pm and landed in Paris at 6 am, was really a late afternoon, evening flight Pacific time. We landed in Paris at 11pm Pacific and I had now slept a total of 2 hours tops when it was technically the next day? Who really knew where I was and what time it was, but there was no time to wonder and I hustled through security and back onto the Air France flight to Cape Town. Fortunately this one was delayed a bit, so I could pace by the gate trying to do the math on what time it actually was and how long this flight would be. Surely it wasn't really 12 hours, was it? There had to be a time change in there... No? No. No there wasn't. There was, however, no one on the plane. And no one in the entire row with me. The travel Gods were definitely looking out for my jet lagged self. I struggled to stay awake long enough to be served lunch (no I don't want more aperitifs French man, just give me the damn food so I can go to sleep!!) Mercifully, it came and on went the eyeshades and earplugs and out went Megan. A four hour, glorious nap later and we were still in Northern Africa. Fine. With slightly less enticing movies as Delta, I spent the rest of the trip (another 6+ hours) alternating between studying and sleeping and pacing the plane to circulate the blood in my legs that were tired of sitting for the 30th hour. But soon the lights appeared below: first, the familiar glow of fires that burn the grass in the villages (what do you do when you don't have a lawn mower?), then the larger, grid like lights of the townships, each light barely enough to cover 10 houses, and finally the lights of the city, the freeway and the airport. It was pitch dark when we flew in, but the lack of lights in the middle of the city told us the unmistakeable mountain was there. As Ali said, they didn't move it while I was gone. ;)
The travel Gods were with me again as I was put in a dorm room of the hostel with no one else. Perfect to quickly shower from 40 hours in the same clothes and pass out. For a few hours anyway. It was just beginning to be morning in California as my head hit the pillow in Cape Town. So my eyes thanked me for the nap and at 330am I was wide awake. After tossing and turning and trying to sleep, I got up and was down for breakfast at 7am when they opened. The hostel provides breakfast (score!) Greek yogurt and muesli (granola) or a croissant and a coffee of your choice. Flat white for me please (Starbucks pretended they invented a new drink that's been in every other country forever. And better) The class wasn't coming until late that night, so I ventured off into Cape Town with my list: Rand, adapter, towel. Kloof street turned into Long street snd I saw the familiar sights of my trips here in the Peace Corps. McDonalds, obviously, turned into the familiar cafes and bars next to various hostels that brought back many memories. I walked to down town and was reminded that thought this is Cape Town, it's still Africa and nothing goes quite how it should here. I walked into the first Bureau de Change to find out they were out of Rand. I was reminded of the restaurant AMG and I went to in who knows what town in what country of Africa and the restaurant we went to for lunch was "closed for lunch." "But you're a restaurant!" She said, "I thought I'd seen it all..." An exchange place out of cash, I thought I'd seen it all. She helpfully pointed me to an American Express exchange place. I walked to the counter to a nice lady who smiled and said, "we are offline, sorry angel." No idea what that meant, but I took her compliment, looked to the sky, found the tallest bank building and walked towards that. Good old Standard Bank, I knew they wouldn't fail me. Rand in hand I wandered around to where I thought the PEP store was in the map in my mind. You can tell how this story is going: they must have moved the streets. But I wandered into a Clicks Drug Store for towels and, I couldn't believe I had forgotten about them, a Top Deck chocolate bar. White and milk chocolate Cadbury in a delicious bar. Mmmmmm. I was back in my happy place for sure. I wandered back up the streets of Cape Town (and past the PEP store in its obviously new location, lol) and back to the hostel. Tired from jet lag but determined to push through, I grabbed some food at the restaurant below the hostel and enjoyed the sounds of Cape Town while I waited for the group: the South African accents, the kids screaming in the school across the way, the sounds of horns "tooting," and the khumbi conductors driving by searching for passengers...
The rest of my school group arrived that night, frazzled and jet lagged. The travel Gods smiled again as the other grad student, also named Meaghan (we'll forgive her the spelling) also from California, and I were given (accidentally I'm sure) a dorm room to ourselves. Our mouths have stayed shut since as we've enjoyed our extra space.
I'll update on yesterday's events and today's later. But now it's breakfast time for Day 3 in Cape Town.
Lots of love from the Mother City!