The morning of January 10, we are off for a 24 hour jaunt to Zimbabwe. We are hoping to see Zambia and Botswana as well. We are already over 20 new Visa stamps in to this trip and there’s more places to go! Victoria Falls is the 7th wonder of the world and a place that was a must for all of us to visit. We stayed at the Victoria Falls hotel with no car. We took a local taxi into town where the heat was so extreme that the power was down. The local casino had no gamblers. The gas station was closed. The banks were shut down, “Due to weather.”
Getting money was a bit interesting. We first had to walk to the end of town from our hotel where we ran into a handful of locals attempting to sell us anything they could. One of them called himself Stevie and the other, Christopher Columbus. Not wanting anything they were attempting to sell, they began asking for things to trade. Instantly everyone wanted plastic bracelets we had much like the “Live Strong” bracelet. We had no reason not to trade these, but it was confusing as to why something plastic would be so important to them? The only reasoning was to have something American and fashionable. They asked for our shoes, which I gladly would have given them if I had anything else to walk home in. Last, but not least, they asked for pens or any type of writing utensil. This struck me as most interesting as I had noticed the increasing sensitivity of each immigration point we had gone through when we would ask to borrow a pen for something. The entire process made me wonder where exactly they bought their pens. There aren’t exactly any Office Max type stores in South Africa, let alone the surrounding countries which are significantly more poor. We had even spent some time in a South African grocery store which didn’t have the “student isle” which is typical in the United States – no pens, no poster board, etc. What does one do with their life if they cannot write? Everything is handcrafted. The things these people make with their hands is amazing, but nothing that I wanted to attempt to stuff in my bag and carry back home with me.
The people are incredibly smart and ambitious. They will sell or trade you anything. If you’re English, they know English. If you’re Spanish, some speak Spanish or Portuguese. Many people even speak French. This is all in addition to their native tongue, depending on the villages some of these people came from. I questioned my own ability simply because I am a spoiled American. I know no other language fluently. My struggles have not been pleasant, but they have all been self-imposed by my own choices to be on my own. Despite my years of couch surfing homelessness, I have never had to stand hours in over 100 degrees of baring down sunlight to make a living. At the same time, there is nothing spectacular I can do with my hands. I cannot make a piece of wonderful art. I cannot take apart anything mechanical and piece it back together with precision. The idea of how people live, everywhere else, made me feel incredibly guilty and not the least bit “special” like we are made to feel as a privileged American.
Together, the four of us spent the morning of the 11th walking to Zambia which was just a short distance from our hotel. Exiting Zimbabwe we were caught in an tourism line. Once through the gate, we had an extremely long walk to the bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia, where you can still feel the spray from Victoria Falls. This is the bridge famous for bungee jumping. Little did we know that just a couple days prior, a girl had bungeed here and the line snapped. If we had enough time and the strap was anything but around the ankles, I probably would have considered a once in a lifetime opportunity of jumping from the bridge simply because my friend Noah had done it. And if Noah can do it, I can do it. But we were in a hurry now. We had to beat the tourist-trap of people to the immigration office at the Zambia border. We barely made it there on time, just steps ahead of the bus which roared past us and was unloading as we literally ran into the office.
What was suppose to be a pleasant morning of hiking the Zambia side of Victoria Falls, down into the Falls and back up and wading into the Devils Pool – became a 30 minute jaunt through the Zambia side of Victoria Falls which is still much more glorious than the Zimbabwe side (which is mostly just for viewing, no wading into the river or hikes down the canyon are on the Zim side). We ran into the park, took a pictures like we were part of a race, and ran back out where we had to take a taxi to the Zim border – going through the exit process at Zam once again and rushing through the process to be let in to the Zimbabwe side. At this point we had only a few minutes to return to our hotel where they were keeping our luggage and had another taxi waiting for us to go to the airport.
The rest of the day consisted of flying from Zimbabwe back to South Africa, going through customs, – in and out, in and out, in and out – and then catching our final plane home from South Africa back to the United States. By night time our “pod seats” on our Delta flight would be most welcoming with their full sized blankets and down pillows. As food was sparse in Zim, we ate anything we could for the remainder of the day – taking one last visit to the airport’s Nando’s. Soon we would be on layover in Atlanta where we could use their Delta crown room to shower off the adventures of the passing day and get ready for our return home.
For the next week, JM and I woke up at 4:30am, attempting to find a usual sleeping pattern. It is only now, at the end of January, that we are finally able to “sleep in.”