Hello everyone! Because I want to cut down on the number of boring posts, and because we spent basically all of Tuesday in the air, I am doing one post for Monday and Tuesday.
Monday morning and afternoon was SO hard. I hate saying goodbye, but we had a lot of stuff to get done before that. We began our morning walking to Maramba Market to pick up a backpack Elle had made. Luckily, they were there waiting for us and the backpack looked really good. We then stopped by Shoprite to pick up some necessities for our trip to China. Toilet paper, toothpaste, etc. Our last visit to Shoprite.
We then had our exit interview with Kath. When she was asking all of the questions about our internship, I was blown away by all of the wonderful experiences we have had. We had so much fun, learned so much, and taught people some wonderful things. Overall, the opportunity to study abroad with Elle has been one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. Being able to have such a hands-on experience in a new culture has been very rewarding. I have learned so much about the Zambian people and about myself. I definitely plan on returning to Africa to perform more humanitarian work. One day.
The rest of the afternoon was a mad dash. We headed down to the tourist market to spend the last of our kwacha before we left. We ended up buying a few beaded figurines. . . because that was about the only cheap thing we actually semi-wanted. Right as we were purchasing the last of the bead figurines, crazy stuff went down. Elle decided to go one last time to look at a painting she’d been very interested in from day one. We’d asked them the price before, and they told us they wanted 3,000 kwacha (about $270 dollars) for it. That would have blown up our budget for souvenirs, so we put that thought to the side. When she went back today, they were asking a lot less for it. Thus began the mad dash for another painting.
Because we didn’t have enough money for the painting right then, we called an audible. We negotiated a price with the man, then we took off towards backpackers to get the money for the painting. It was already 10:40, and we needed to be ready to leave by 11. Basically, the new plan was for Elle to finish the packing while I ran to get the painting. Our plan worked. We got the painting and had plenty of time to get in the bus to get to the airport. I was just sweaty and gross for the flights, but as the saying goes, “Happy wife, happy life.” And she’s very happy about the painting.
After that, we had to say good-bye, and it was SO hard. Because our transport was running behind schedule, everyone was getting back from projects as we were leaving. I didn’t cry, because I’m a man, but these people have become SUCH close friends. Kath and Sjeel (our managers) have done such a great job coordinating our efforts, Benny and Andrew have been wonderful drivers and caregivers, we’ve had great conversations with Justin and Kathy from Australia, we’ve made great friends with Sophia and Kathryn (the other medical volunteers not from BYU), and we absolutely adore all the other volunteers. As we were driving away from the compound, all of them were lined up and waving good-bye. They were just standing there for the minute or two as we were leaving. It was so sad to be torn away from them. They have definitely left a big impact on me; I hope we’ve left an impact on them.
From there, it was a mad dash to the airport (Because we were very late) and then our series of flights began. We first traveled from Livingstone to Johannesburg. That was only an hour flight. We enjoyed our time in the airport. We bought ice cream, a souvenir for Jake, and some mangos. The next flight was the long haul. We flew from Johannesburg to Hong Kong. It was about a 13-hour flight. I barely slept a wink, but I watched a bunch of great movies and the flight was basically empty, so no complaints. Finally, we landed in Hong Kong.
Our three-hour layover became a six-hour nightmare. First, our flight was delayed an hour and a half. Annoying, but not crazy. When they finally announced our gate, we discovered that it was on the opposite side of the airport. It took us about 15 minutes to just walk over there. After waiting there for a little bit, we boarded according to the delayed time. We thought we were off. We weren’t. We ended up sitting on the plane for two and a half hours. Apparently, there was bad weather in Beijing and the weather in Hong Kong was also iffy. Again, I watched another movie.
This whole experience was getting me SUPER nervous. I emailed the tour company and let them know that we were going to be even later than expected. They informed me that they would still be able to pick us up before 10, but after that we would have to get a taxi. We were definitely going to land RIGHT at 10. Long story short, after finally getting to Beijing around 10, it took us over an hour to get through customs. Luckily, it all worked out, and we got outside the terminal at 11:20. That’s when I about cried for joy. As we were getting outside customs, a man was standing there with a sign that had our names on it. This meant multiple things. Not only were we going to get a ride to our hotel without stress, but we weren’t scammed. Ever since we booked our travel, I have been worried that the website we booked our guided tours with was really a scam. Even though I spent countless hours doing research on the website, I always had a slight nagging in the back of my mind that it was all a hoax. Finally, I was at peace. We were safe in China, the tour company was real, we were going to see lots of great things, and we didn’t have to worry about the details of the rest of our trip.
After that, we were driven to our hotel and went right to bed. We are excited for the coming days of adventure.