Monday, February 25, 2013

We're back from Durban and Moz!

Dearest Friends, Family and Other-Interested-Parties,

As we progress into the “dog-days” of summer here in Lesotho, we hear that many of you continue to battle snow and cold temperatures. In any case, we hope you are doing it in good health. It has been a few weeks since I last posted, I had started the previous one and then the power cut out before I could actually post it! Since then, we were busy preparing all of our projects for us to go on vacation, actually taking vacation and then getting back and getting caught up with everything.

We are doing quite well, Shane just had a birthday that we enjoyed celebrating with homemade 3-layer chocolate cake (thank you very much...) and our neighbours from Wales. This was also immediately after we returned from an 8 day vacation that was much anticipated (for about a year now!) and much needed. I’ve created a new page (Durban and Mozambique Vaca) for the photos, please enjoy them.

We spent 3 nights at a guest house in North Durban, we went clothes shopping at the “Gateway Theater of Shopping” which is supposedly the largest mall in Africa – it was ridiculously huge, we spent all day there and were exhausted. We got some great scores, for very reasonable prices. Our everyday clothes are also really suffering after nearly two years of handwashing and life in Lesotho, but we enjoyed getting some nice formalwear and Shane got Vibram 5-finger shoes that he’s been really excited about for awhile – you can look for all of these things and even my HAIRCUT! In the photos, we enjoyed wearing our finds on our CRUISE to Mozambique!

We got on the MSC Opera on February 11, and enjoyed 4 nights aboard the quite luxurious ship with all-you-can-eat food included in the price of our tickets, breakfast in bed, evening entertainment, turn-down service, hot tub, steam-room, sauna, gym, pools, hot running water and we didn’t even smell raw sewage once! You can check out the photos of our time on the ship as well!  We stopped in Maputo and did a city tour where we saw the train station, designed by Gustav Effiel of Effiel tower fame and where a lot of the movie Blood Diamonds was filmed, we saw several statues, the Museum of Natural History and Fort Sebastian which is now a military museum, we finished at a handicrafts market with loads of beautiful things at the usual rip-off-the-tourists prices, it was a nice sampling of the city and very efficient and unusually luxurious for how we usually travel, in our air-conditioned van...

Back onboard the ship, the captain headed north to the white sand beaches of Inhambane, which we tragically anchored in the bay and looked at the beaches all day, but the waves were too big for us to reach the beach from the boat! The “Entertainment Team” substituted the day on the beach for cheesy games and group dancing, and BINGO which was quite popular on the ship. There was quite a bit of nice evening entertainment which is really lacking in our everyday lives in the rural highlands of Lesotho. The shows included a lot of good singing, flashing lights and dancing girls – even a musician. We also spent time in the piano bars and the nightclub, staying up much later than our usual bedtime of 9pm! The restaurant had several theme nights including “gala night” and “tropical party” and of course, Valentine’s Day – when we recruited both South African and Italian sparkling wine to help us celebrate.

We disembarked at 6:30am on Friday the 15th and went to Port Shepstone on the “South Coast” and enjoyed one last night of vacation at a much less luxurious backpackers, right on the beach. We enjoyed a bit more non-cabbage and lentils food, with a drizzly walk on the beach, before our 8 hour ride on public transportation to come back home.

It was a lovely way to celebrate Shane’s Birthday and Valentine’s Day and all of the other holidays that we’ve celebrated at home since our last vacation in June. We did many toasts throughout to Christmas, Anniversary, Thanksgiving etc...

We also want to offer a disclaimer about vacations during Peace Corps. We are quite lucky to be able to vacation in South Africa, which is a pretty cool place- that it seems is distinctively off the radar of most American travellers. So, yes, we’ve taken vacations to some pretty cool places, at the same time, remember that we get less than $300 a month, to live on and to take vacations from – unless we have money coming in from the states. We’ve been saving for this vacation for about 9 months, and haven’t been outside of Lesotho in 8 months. We also cannot express the appreciate for the helpful gifts we received for Christmas, as you will see from the photos, we really enjoyed the holiday! Some PCVs take shorter, backpacker style vacations, we’ve been taking longer vacations, that are along the lower end of the mid-range; but we really pay for this in our day to day living. This disclaimer is primarily for Peace Corps Invitees or those who are considering joining Peace Corps, to give you an idea of what you are getting into on the vacation front – and suggest that you consider putting some money aside in your US funds for vacations, because they will be a much better part of your service.

We hope you enjoy the photos on the vacation page!

Hugs from back in Lesotho,

Carol and Shane