Our long summer break has ended and my second year of teaching is about to begin. I can't say I'm not depressed about this vacation coming to an end but it has definitely been a crazy adventure. I began my travel with a trip up to central Moz to Chimoio in the province of Manica. Prior to November this trip wouldn't have been allowed due to the ban on overland travel through the province of Sofala. Since my arrival here there have been attacks on the main road there and the only way to pass through was in a military caravan. Thankfully peace accords have been signed by the leaders of the two major political entities (FRELIMO and RENAMO) here and attacks have since ceased. This also meant that I got to spend Christmas with volunteers and friends from the north and central parts of the country whom I normally never see. The trip is about ten hours usually but I made it in eight with a nice ride from a CDC worker and his friend who's apparently built the road that goes through Panda. On the way we saw aftermath from some of the attacks that happened, including a burned down trailer and bus and a bridge destroyed by explosives. After arriving I spent some time at my friend Thelma's house in Vanduzi, a mountain village about 40 minutes outside of the city. Her site is home to the farms of a big fruit company here, so she can get fruit like grapes, plums, peaches and apples (fruit that is normally exported from South Africa and very expensive) for cheap. We headed to the city for Christmas Eve and cooked a dinner of lasagna, mac and cheese, pigs in a blanket, hummus, pita chips, glazed carrots, and plenty of dessert and sangria. Volunteers came from all over the north and central regions to celebrate together and we definitely had a great time.
After our celebration Thelma, Matt (another PCV) and I began our long trek to Cape Town. We had great travel luck and made it to Maputo, the capitol city, in one day. The next morning we hopped on a bus that took us to Johannesburg where I met my best friend Sarah who came all the way from Georgia to hang out in South Africa with me. After a night in Joberg spent catching up we all boarded a plane for Cape Town on New Year's Eve. I can honestly say this was the best NYE I've ever had. We crashed a yacht party, watched fireworks for the first time in a year, and watched the sun come up. Cape Town I always a blast and we definitely took advantage…plus when Sarah and I are together we always have a blast. It was the highlight of my year getting to spend an entire week with her.
The rest of the week was spent mostly relaxing on the beach, eating delicious food and generally enjoying the beautiful land of beautiful people. We also played with spider monkeys, hiked to the Cape of Good Hope where a baboon stole my Camelback, and I finally got to dive with Great Whites! The shark diving was the most exciting thing I've ever done in my whole life. We went out on this two deck fishing boat into one of the harshest tides in the world. We hadn't been out there but five minutes when the first person started to look a little green. Our guide was standing there saying it could be hours before we see a shark, and before he finished his warning of the possibility of not seeing a shark at all the skipper yells out "shark in the water!" I looked over and saw a dorsal fin and then a set of jaws come up for the tuna head bait in the water by the cage. I snapped a picture and ran down the ladder to pull on my wetsuit so I could get into the cage first. I made it in first along with three other people and we watched the shark thrash and breach around us as they teased him with the bait up top. It was awesome. We had about 15 sightings in all, the largest about 5 meters, and I got two hours of cage time since about half of our group was hanging over the edge too sick to even think about the Nat Geo grade fun the boat veterans were having on the other side of the boat. Never have I loved my iron stomach more.
When we headed back to Moz we had about ten days before our midservice conference, but Thelma and I decided it made no sense to go back just to turn around and come back so we set out on another adventure. We visited some friends in Gaza province and slowly made our way up to Vilanculos where we spent my birthday on the beach. My friend Lisa was house sitting in a house right on the beach there, and some other PCV's came out to celebrate with us. It was the perfect end to our vacation and from there we headed once again down to Maputo for our conference. While the actual conference was tedious as conferences go, it was the first time my group was all together since we left training for our respective sites. Needless to say it was a great time. By the end though, even though I didn't want to leave the air conditioning and delicious food, I was ready to get back home to my own bed.
Yesterday I arrived from a solid month of travel and adventures to find my house completely taken back by nature. The spiders and roaches are much more abundant and much less shy than before I left and there is a solid layer of dirt and sand covering every surface. Our yard looked like a desert last month but there must have been an obscene amount of rain because it now looks like a jungle of weeds and I need a machete to Indiana Jones my way to the latrine. It's not all bad though because in addition to the weeds our okra and pumpkin plants are crazy big….the pumpkin vine even has two decently sized gourds growing on it! Must be that fertility is in the air because I also returned to find Lua extremely pregnant. I expect our house to be filled with puppies in about a month, which I can't decide if I'm excited for or dreading. Vamos ver! One of the things I realized at the conference is that I'm ready for whatever this next year throws at me. It's been a long year filled with ups and downs, some very extreme, but it's gonna be an adventure this time around. I'm already feeling like my time in paradise is slipping away too quickly so I've got to take advantage of the rest!