Our blog as been a little MIA lately, and for that we apologize. But until now I have had little inspiration to write. However, we just finished an amazing 4 week vacation around the country and neighboring Zambia and an update is past due.
Service and life is going just fine. We have a lot of projects coming up this year and are very excited, however I will refrain from discussing them in fear that that they will not pan out exactly as planned. Updates will come as benchmarks are met and actions are actually implemented. For now we can discuss our amazing travels as of late.
2014 started off with a bang when Luke and I flew from our little city in the middle-of-no-where to Dar for the beginning of our vacation, an escape from village life for a while. First stop was Zanzibar; a beautiful island off the coast known for its ancient ruins, fields of worldly spices and long beaches. We stayed for 5 nights and did very little. We enjoyed the beaches, the down-time, and most of all we enjoyed blending in. Zanzibar is very touristy and we were just 2 of thousands of other white travelers-a nice retreat from the fish bowl that is normally our lives.
Here are some highlights from Zanzibar:
Sunrise on the beach.
Hanging out with my best friend!
Famous spice tour. Did you know vicks is made from the root of a cinnamon tree? Just one of the cool things we learned on this very educational tour. And they dressed us up in silly gifts made from the tree leaves.
Second stop on the trip was Mafia Island, a.k.a “true paradise”. Mafia is a much smaller island south of Zanzibar. It is less economical for the thrifty traveler but it was our gift to each other for making it this far. The island is still very rural, made up mostly of small villages and a handful of very expensive hideaway lodges. It is a marine conservation park and perfect for travelers who want to scuba dive, snorkel and view marine wildlife in a laid back, non-touristy environment. We fell in love with the island because of its local feel and lack of tourists. One day after snorkeling we asked our guide to take us to the village for traditional food (which we had been missing from our village) and we indulged in rice and beans with the locals while chatting up old farmers (in swahili of course).
Another reason many make the long and off-the-beaten path trek to Mafia this time of year is to swim with whale sharks. They only emerge this time of year, and yes you really do get to swim with them. They are the largest fish in the world (so I was told). We only swam with the babies and they were around 15 meters long! Unfortunately I have no photos to share because, well… we were too busy swimming!
Other highlights were snorkeling, visiting a smaller bay island for its ruins and eating and drinking things we have only dreamed about over this past year.
Some pictures from Mafia:
View from our front porch.
Ruins on Chole Island.
Beach view from the bar.
Drinks every night with this handsome guy.
And lastly…my first margarita all year!!!!
The third stop on the trip was back to Dar for a Peace Corps Mid-Service Conference. It was a week of sharing our experiences and struggles with other volunteers and trying to get pumped-up for our next and last year.
From there, Luke and I and some fellow volunteers decided to hop a train to Zambia for one last adventure while we still could. We were bound for the “Great Smoke that Thunders”: Victoria Falls.
Unfortunately for me, the journey took three nights on a train that looked like it was built in the 50′s. It was slow and dirty. Our bathroom was literally a whole in the floor that went to the tracks. I had several break-downs, as did the train, and many times I threatened to get off at the “next stop” before actually leaving TZ. But we eventually made it and the end was worth it…I guess
So here is what we saw once we finally reached our summit: Victoria Falls, Livingstone Zambia.
Victoria Falls is the largest Falls in the world, when measured in length and height combined. Here is a diagram of the small portion we actually saw with our eyes (it is the little circle on the picture)!
Our group of traveling companions.
Our friend Alex, literally standing on the edge of the falls!
And lastly the train…
I wish I could conclude this blog with a little more reflection and words but the travelling crew is hassling me to stop blogging so we can go eat crocodile (we are still in Zambia). In conclusion I just want to say that we have had a once-in-a-lifetime journey this past month, not including the year before (2013). 2014 started with a new journey and what a journey it was. But I could not be happier to be returning to our village to live the rest of 2014 with purpose and simplicity. I miss our simple home, our dog and most of all the satisfaction that comes from being a part of our village community. They still need us and I definitely still need them. Here is to 2014 and to growing with the people of the southern highlands, Tanzania. We miss you!