What I’ll Be Up To This Summer (Beginning of Malawi, 2011)

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So it’s about time to start blogging again about my travels in the motherland.  As I’m typing this it’s Saturday night and I’m sitting in my near empty apartment.  I just want to let you know about what I’ll be up to this summer, so you won’t be completely devastated when I ignore your invitations to be the life of your party.

I’m spending 30 days in the beautiful country of Malawi in southern Africa.  Specifically I’ll be sharing my time between Mulanje, Blantyre, and ending with a week-long safari at Cape Maclear at Lake Malawi.  After my stay in Malawi, I will be returning to South Africa to visit Tish in Joburg, and all of my Stellenbosch friends in Cacpe Town/Stellenbosch.  I’ll be accompanied by Ms. Chelsea who is a brave soul who volunteered to be my travel buddy without knowing me really at all.  I think that we maybe spoke 3 or 4 sentences to each other before she decided to come along.  Very brave.

So the entire length of my stay will amount to exactly 37 days.  I’m truly very excited about this trip.  I see it as an opportunity to broaden my horizons even more and learn more about this incredible continent and it’s awesome people.  Part of me also likes being able to throw off the chains of facebook (I’m lying, I love facebook) and all of my stresses and just appreciate what life is like for the vast majority of the world.

During my stay in Malawi I’ll be taking classes every morning with Dr. McCusker who has been without question my favorite professor here at WVU.  The afternoons are given to us (us=~16 fellow WVU students) to do with whatever we please.  I have been very blessed in that Dr. McCusker was able to secure internships with the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust so many of my afternoons (though not all) will be in the service of this World Bank-funded NGO.  Weekends we have off to do whatever we please, and at least one of these weekends will be used to climb Mt. Mulanje (~9-10,000+ feet).

What I think will make this trip special is that I’m not being sheltered by a university’s international programs office.  I loved Stellenbosch and will be forever grateful to all of the fantastic people there who enabled me to meet some of the most remarkable people in the world, as well as to safely explore the beautiful country of South Africa.  However, I like how raw Malawi is and how Malawi is much more of a typical African country than South Africa is.  We’ll be sleeping under mosquito nets, no TV, sporadic internet, frequent though not guaranteed electricity, and a diet that will be almost entirely based on rice, corn, eggs, fruit and chicken.  Our primary transport to the village will be us walking the 8 kilometers to the town center, or if we’d like to go to Blantyre, we’ll take the 2 hour minibus ride.

This is going to be the kind of trip that is going to test my character and push me outside of my comfort zone and I don’t think there’s any better way to learn about yourself than to do just that.

The week in South Africa will be split between Johannesburg/Benoni (3 days) and Cape Town/Stellenbosch. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to reunite with some of the people from the best summer of my life.  Additionally I’m excited about being able to show Chelsea around and share my experiences from last summer in person.  Not to mention that after a month in the bush, the relatively luxurious accommodations of the South Africa will be a much needed plunge back into civilization.

I leave Tuesday morning at 2:30 am to catch our flight from Pittsburgh to JFK and from there onto Joburg.  Why we have to leave so early for a drive that lasts around an hour is beyond me, but whatever.  I’ll just have some beers with my graduating friends and then grab my bags and go.  I’ll keep everyone updated on my trip when possible and will have some AWESOME pictures to share with everyone.  I got a new camera after I was overwhelmed with jealousy of everyones cameras last summer (Lily in particular could sell her photos to the NYT) so I’m in the process of organizing a flikr account to share with everyone.  I’ll post a link to the album once it’s created.

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