Sunday, November 25, 2007

Africa or Bust

Did I forget to tell you guys that I'm going to Africa? See, I might have. Well then, here it is: I'm taking a 13-day trip to South Africa with my dad and brother. Right now. As in, I'm leaving in about an hour for the airport. And after 26 hours of traveling (with a long layover in London), I'll arrive in Cape Town, South Africa.

I've kept the trip under the radar screen for no good reason. Partly because it feels so separate from this other journey I'm about to embark upon, and partly because it was put together kind of quickly, and I wanted to make sure that all of the pieces were in place. And also because up until I arrived in Philadelphia today, I sort of didn't really believe that I was going. But my dad's putting the rest of his stuff in his bag as I type this, and I've packed enough DEET to eradicate the entire mosquito population of Africa, so it seems like I am actually going. Today.

A brief outline of our trip: we're flying to Cape Town and will spend about 5 days there, checking out the city, hopefully learning more about South Africa than I currently know (which is, I'm ashamed to admit, precious little). Then we're going on safari for a few days in Kruger National Park. And then we're flying home. I'll have about 10 days between the time I get back from Africa and the day I leave for Thailand. Luckily, my bags for Thailand will already be packed, and, as Matt said in that last post, we don't have much left to do. Of course, there IS that pesky little task of packing up all of our worldly possessions and moving them to a storage unit, but seriously, we're pros at that. Rather, MATT is a pro at that and he assures me that he doesn't mind the work.

So there you have it. Africa or bust. I'll be taking the camera with me (of course!) but I won't be posting pictures until after I get back (because I'm sadly not taking Matt with me, and among other things, that boy knows his way around a computer and a camera). I've heard that my pictures will be incredible. So stay tuned. And stay tuned anyway, since I'm hoping to post from the Southern Hemisphere while I'm down there.

I hope you all had a tremendous and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I do know how very much I have to be thankful for. My cup overfloweth.

And yes, all you worriers, I promise I'll be safe and I won't feed the animals.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ra Ra Sis Boom Bah!

Well, it's finally one month before we are wheels up and headed for our Asian adventure. Frankly, there's not a whole lot left to do. We've been to the doctor; we've got our shots; the last of our visas arrived earlier this week. We've purchased any new gear that we need. All that's left to do is to pack and get excited. We're already excited, but in this next month, a lot of things can happen. Second-guessing, doubt, and last-minute freak-outs are quite likely. Last-minute details like "should we treat our clothes with Permethrin?" may overshadow our excitement.

The packing thing we can handle on our own, but here's where we'll need your help. We need cheerleaders. We need you to help remind us that we are doing something brave, wonderful, and adventurous. So, please, drop us a line, leave a comment, wish us well.

In other news, Lizzi's dad has sent us another safety announcement. We'll add this one to the collection.

Monkey injures several people during rampage

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

For Proust, Whose Work I Don't Know At All

The voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

I woke up today with that quote playing over and over again in my head, mantra-like. The voyage of discovery, I thought, as I sat up in bed and scowled at my alarm clock. Having new eyes, I reminded myself as I brushed my teeth. Voyage AND discovery, I whispered silently as I turned on the shower. New landscapes, new eyes, I thought, as I washed, and headed through the misty too-warm-a-day-for-November air to start my day.

The voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

I asked myself as I walked hastily to my dentist appointment, do I NEED new eyes? Am I thirsting for discovery? Of course I am, I answered myself. Isn’t everyone?

This mantra, this mantra repeated itself over and over in my head today as I went about my day. It repeated itself as I wandered into store after store, buying things for the trip. It arrived in my head for a simple reason. The mantra planted itself in my brain because I was reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book is very self-involved. Naturally, you say, it’s a memoir. But no, this book is self-involved because it’s more like a journal than a memoir. It’s self-involved because the author decides she needs to be self-involved for a year before she scatters into a million unidentifiable pieces, and then after her journey, she shares her story with the world. It was hard for me to get into this book, even though I know so many people who told me that they couldn’t put it down. But really, it was hard for me to read at first, hard to tap into someone else’s selfish rants. But somewhere just after her time in India came to an end and before her time in Indonesia was fully underway, I woke up with a Proust quote in my head, and over and over it played.

I finished the book today in a coffee shop in Shadyside. For those of you who don’t know, Shadyside is in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is this place where I have felt the greatest moments of self-doubt, even a twinge of self-loathing, in my young life. It is a city that has caused me to reexamine myself, to answer some difficult questions, to grieve some difficult griefs. But I finished the book in this coffee shop in Pittsburgh and I went to the bathroom and as I washed my hands, I looked in the mirror. Rather, I should say that I saw myself in the mirror. No, I NOTICED myself in the mirror. And while I am not a woman who regards her physical appearance with much esteem, what I saw in the mirror surprised me: “you look better than you thought you looked, Lizzi. You look pretty good. You look pretty. You look pretty.” And there it was. I was standing in a bathroom in Pittsburgh, all by myself, with nothing interesting to look at except myself, and I was having new eyes.

I left the coffee shop and spent more money on things that I will surely fail to use on our trip. I left the coffee shop and walked about the streets of Pittsburgh, in misty air that smelled faintly of latkes, and people smiled at me as I walked by them. And I smiled back. Which was when I realized that I was actually smiling FIRST, which is why THEY were smiling back at me.

It occurs to me now, as I write this, that this voyage of discovery on which I am about to embark, it is my chance to look through my old eyes, my eyes that have carried me through these 29 years, so far, and to see what new things they will show me – about myself, about my partner, about my friends and family, about the rest of the whole wide world. It is a chance to look through these old eyes, and to experience this amazing (not crazy) voyage of discovery. It is a chance to look through old eyes and see through them as though they are new, as though someone gave me a gift of new and clear eyesight, and a voyage with its sole mission of discovery. As it turns out, I am ready.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Our Route

After many months of debate and poring over guidebooks, blogs, and travel web sites, we finally have a route. Behold, the route in all its glory!

View Larger Map

Thursday, November 8, 2007

One Down, One to Go

Just before leaving for New York this weekend, we found a note in our mailbox to pick up a package at the post office. The note lacked any sender information whatsoever. All it said was Express Mail, Large Envelope. What could it be? The camera that Andy got us? No. Our plane tickets? No, those came a few days ago. Worried, we called the post office to make sure they would hold it for us until we got back. The very patient woman I talked to assured me that the package would remain at the post office for 15 days before they send it back. Fears allayed, we drove to New York for Andy's marathon.

When we returned on Monday, we went straight to the post office, note in hand. As it turns out, the big Express Mail envelope held our passports, each with a freshly minted visa, allowing us entry to Vietnam. Not a camera, but definitely exciting in its own right. Somehow having the visas makes it that much more real that we are going on this trip. That IS actually going to happen.

In that vein, we sent our visa applications and passports to the India consular services organization yesterday. And today we each received an email, saying that the applications were received and will be processed in 5 business days. And then, all of the pre-trip bureaucratic work is done. Then, all we have to do is get on a plane. Easy.