Monday, November 05, 2007

Just find me a clean floor

I went to the library over the weekend to return a travel book I had borrowed from the library. Rather than simply drop it in the book return slot, I stood in line. I could tell the older women just ahead of me was glancing at the book. She then asked me, "Are you planning to go there?"

"Yes, actually I just got back." I replied cheerily.

Then she started to ask me a little bit about the trip - how long I went, what I saw. Then a clerk came free at the counter. I gestured towards the counter so that the older lady could step forward. Just as she reached the counter, another clerk waived me to approach.

As I walked by the older lady, I could hear her recounting to the clerk how she'd talked to me and commented that she didn't understand why people look at travel books after a trip. "I always want to read up about the place I will be visiting," she remarked.

Funny interpretation I thought. She assumed that I was waiting in line to check out the book. I almost never go to the counter to check out books these days; I always use the self-checkout computers. Little did she know that the reason I chose to stand in line was because my book was four days overdue and I was here to pay the fines.

So yes, I'm finally back. It's taken me many days to readjust, especially considering the nasty cough that I acquired during the trip. It was nice to spend a little time at home to recuperate. Of course, there are still dozens of little items, paper stubs, laundry, and mail strewn about the place.

The trip was fantastic though I must admit there were times during our grueling hikes when I asked myself why I signed up for this adventure rather than get a nice hotel on a beach somewhere. After you've hiked 10+ hours, part of the brain really questions the logic of using vacation time for such a demanding activity.

The scenery was very interesting. I knew I was visiting a third world nation and yet it didn't seem that bad. Some people find it shocking, and yet it didn't surprise me. Sure it's easy to say that when I get to stay at a "modern" hotel. I'd like to think I spend enough time outdoors to appreciate what it could be like to live without technological conveniences. I certainly have enough friends who would freak at the thought of having to live in lesser conditions, even for half a day.

The view from our hotel says it all. You have this vast, flat land. Even so often, the earth sent up a large volcano and left behind earth that rises up thousands of feet. From a far they literally seem to appear from nowhere. I didn't climb this mountain but our guide told us that people hike this in three to four days. We all loved seeing the jacaranda trees in bloom with their purple flowers.

No matter where you go in the world, children are precious souls. At one of the parks we visited, a headmaster had his group of preschoolers out to meet tourists. He was basically trying to solicit people to send donations, be it money or supplies, to fund a new classroom for the kids. I wanted to help, but at the same time it bugged me a little that he would spend their time standing in a parking lot. It felt a little wrong and I couldn't help wonder how much of the cash donations were ending up in his pocket versus the kids' classroom. Still, the kids seemed well taken care of, so I had to believe he had the best of intentions. You have to wonder how seeing these tourists affects their impression of foreigners and their own situation. I thought of all those silly pens we pick up at hotels, stores, and work. We treat them like junk and don't think of them for a second when they get lost. Yet, here, they would be so helpful to have for writing. This is why I hate wasting anything and don't take things I don't need.

We were on safari for several days during the trip. I could post dozens and dozens of cool pictures, but most of them you could easy find on the web. Instead, I share with you one of my favorites. There's a little animal called a dik dik. It looks like a gazelle or deer except for the fact that these guys stand about two feet tall. Their small size and big eyes make for an absolutely adorable creature. I am very curious to see how tiny the babies must be. They are very shy creatures. They hide the moment they hear the car noise.

All in all I had a great time. I can now say that I can survive one week sleeping in a tent, not taking a shower, and having to pee in all sorts of inconvenient places. I can even survive a night of sleeping on the floor at Heathrow Airport (thankgoodness it had just been cleaned and waxed). It was a cultural experience, a peek into nature, and a true test of endurance and determination.


mini said...

yay! you're back! welcome back :) glad you had a good time.

zerodoll said...

welcome back! it sounds amazing, and yet, something i could probably never do, so even more amazing!