6 A.M. Safari Lodge, surely I am the first one up. Bus call is not until 9:30. I woke up to harmonious alarms of the Lion King theme song “Circle Of Life,” emanating from both my iPad and iPhone. Both of which were strategically placed in different locations of the room. On our final night I was lucky enough to win the bedroom to myself, while the other two guys shared the second room. My room could comfortably sleep four, but last night it was just me. I never minded the room sharing routine the three of us had. A simple alternating arrangement, changing with each location. One would get a room to themselves, and the other two shared.
It is the last day of our journey; a month study abroad in Namibia. The photos have been taken, the lessons have been learned, the fun has been had. There is nothing left to do, but go on back home to Texas. It is a bittersweet feeling. I sit here at the foot of one of the twin beds in my room, picking a song idea on a cheap guitar. A purchase we made early on in trip back in Windhoek. A $550 Namibian dollar pawn shop purchase. A three digit number that would buy you a pretty decent instrument back in the states. In translation, it is roughly $55 US, which will buy you a toy that you might give to a small child in hopes of kickstarting the career of the next Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn. However this guitar served as entertainment on many desert nights of this trip. This morning it does it’s job one more time. A few final country licks to a song about a girl in Nashville. Completely irrelevant to our trip in Africa but somewhere in my head the song makes sense. All the bags are packed; all the unneeded hygiene products disposed of. Nothing left to do but pick a few more songs, watch a muted TV playing bad South African programs, and just mentally recap the last couple days to myself.
The study abroad has been more like a vacation since the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Finally a time for rest. We have been going and going since the beginning. A few days of relaxation here and there, just enough time to catch our breaths, then back out we go. I am not complaining, it has been one of the more memorable moments in my life. If you asked me last summer what I’d be doing the next year, I guarantee Africa would not have been on the list. I thank Tobin Redwine for putting the idea in my head.
We spent the last few nights at the Schneider’s Farm Habis. See Micah’s blog for details on that. Aside from fish hooking half my ear to a thorny Acacia tree, there was nothing but happiness at the farm. Good conversations with good people, many of which helped make this trip possible. We are forever grateful to the entire Schneider family. It was hard returning to the city after leaving their middle of nowhere utopia. Did I mention the star photos? A most magnificent sight. I wish I had my photos edited to share, but it’ll be a few more days before I get around to that. If you do not have a reason to come to Africa, come just to see the stars. Grab a beer, go stand outside and look up. Take it in. Sadly, you’ll never see it in Texas.
Our final dinner was memorable…I think. We ate at a place called Joe’s. not the crab shack, but a much more decorative place. How can I explain this? Hmm…we ate in what looked like a military tent, similar to one you’d see on M.A.S.H. Yet, the interior designer was Ted Nugent, with a special endorsement from Jaegermeister. Everyone else’s food was fantastic. A little advice to a rookie of African touristy foods. Don’t order the Zebra steak. It is pretty tough. Maybe I just got a bad one. I need a second opinion. I would eat the leftovers but silly me, I forgot to turn on my room’s mini fridge. Another trip tip, in the southern region of Africa, all wall plugs have an on and off switch. Might be a good idea in the States, but I am not here to go into my “Save the world, turn off the lights” mode. I am just going to finish my second cup of chicory coffee…I can’t wait for real coffee again. I am sure the morning buffet will have “coffee” that at least taste like coffee. The funny thing is back home I never drank as much coffee like we have been here. I also never regularly woke up before the sun came up. I must be sick. I think it is the zebra steak. Haha, I kid. If I can really give a future tourist any advice. Stay open minded, experience everything (…and pack enough Folgers to survive the whole trip, ha!) Break out of your comfort zone a bit, your personal ostrich shell. Learn to not rely on anything.
I think we came into this trip expecting to have all the amenities of home, but being able to see lions and other beasts. It is true we had all of this most of the time, sans Internet. Yet, I have not made real communications with my family back home in over a week. Surely they do not think me dead, or worse, in jail. I have made enough appearances in other’s Facebook pictures to verify I am still alive. Not to mention the ongoing Instagram battle between Dr. Wingenbach and the students to see who can get the most and best pictures posted. Follow us at #TAMUsafari. Back to the technology aspect. It is true that we weren’t quite roughing it as some might expect in a trip to the Bush. We stayed clean-ish and had lights and what-not. I do however think we have come to a group conclusion that our lives need not rely on technology as most American lives tend to. I say this of course while I write this blog entry on an iPad I purchased days before coming on this trip. I do think I can learn to live without checking the Internet every five minutes. Hell, I did learn to function midway through this trip after quitting a nine year smoking habit. Anything is possible.
If there is one thing I actually learned from this trip, it is that everyone should take a moment and learn about the world around them. As an American especially, even if you have no ambition to help someone else, somewhere else. Just know that there are people out there that do not even know where the U.S.A. is. Education is easily the most important gift Americans have and can use. Even though I did a lot of thinking about my life and future while on this trip, I still have a lot of thinking to do when I return home. I would normally say it can wait until next week, I am going to need my rest. However I think it is going to be on my mind for awhile. I do not think I will be able to let the sleeping dog lie this time. It is true I have created a to-do list when I get home, such as eat hot wings and enchiladas, play the banjo and see my dog. As soon as that is done, it will be time to turn my life around. Make a positive impact on the world around me, somehow someway.
I want to personally thank my family, friends, professors and those involved with making this trip possible. It was more enjoyable than I could ever imagine. A once in a lifetime experience. (Possibly a twice in a lifetime experience if they invite me back next year.) Surely they are bringing out the many dishes for breakfast by now. I have rambled long enough today, I must eat and mentally prepare for the 30 hour trip home.
In the immortal words of Ace Ventura, “Thank You, Dark Continent. We Love You.”
Over and out,