Close of Service and Motorcycles!

by ryan on December 18, 2011

So I’m officially in Maseru with Parker for our COS(close of service)…sitting in the VRC(volunteer resource center…aren’t anagrams fun?), waiting for tomorrow when we can get things started.  It’s nice having free internet, which comes with the added luxury of enabling images…Parker just came in all the way from the rural mountains of Mokhotlong…currently he’s telling me how awful the Miami Marlins’ new uniforms are…as if the new alliteration weren’t enough.  There are only two more COSing volunteers from our group after me and Parker, and one of them is Nate(there are also three volunteers from our group who have extended their service).

For those of you that don’t know…myself, Parker, and Nate are taking a motorcycle trip through Southern Africa…we’ve been learning a lot about the route and the bikes we’ll be taking over the last several months, getting everything together to make sure we can make the trip as safely, efficiently, and as adventurously as possible.  Originally the plan was to go all the way to Cairo, but the political situations in Egypt and Kenya make traveling through northern Africa a bit of a gamble that we aren’t willing to take(especially considering the 200% vehicle deposit to enter Egypt with our own bikes).

Our current(but very flexible) route is taking us north from Lesotho’s Sani Pass, through the South Coast, up through the eastern(not-so mountainous) region of swaziland, through the coastal towns of Mozambique, then dipping into Malawi, taking a route on the western shore of lake Malawi, northwards through Tanzania to see Zanzibar, heading as far north as Kilamanjaro and possibly seeing the mountains of Rwanda(for a free visa, how could we say no?).  From there we’ll head southwards through Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia, before returning to South Africa to sell the bikes.   It will be the trip of a lifetime, and we feel so lucky to have the opportunity.

COS is strange…i really can’t quite get my mind around the fact that i’m soon to be leaving Lesotho.  This week Parker and I go through the motions of COS… busy getting paperwork signed, working on our DOS(description of service), getting medical checkups, and enjoying a lot of the great food that maseru has to offer.  It’s amazing how quickly being in a town will suck your wallet dry after living in a village for so long…i don’t know how the volunteers that live in the towns do it, as they make the same living allowance as us mountain men/women.

I keep trying to let myself reflect, but my subconcious is fighting pretty hard.  It’s difficult to acknowledge the friends and family i’ve spent the last two years of my life with will soon be an ocean away.  It’s very much like when i left America, going to this crazy new place that i knew so little about.  What is this ‘America’ like now?  What’s happening in politics?  Is Blink 182 popular again?  Is The Arcade Fire really as overplayed as Parker/this wikipedia stub make it out to be?  Will i be shamed for not having a smart-phone, or what?  I feel like i know so little about the America I used to know…it’s like playing catch-up with an old friend…trying to find a not-so awkward way to break the ice and find out what’s happening in their lives. 

Not to mention the same thing will be happening on a much deeper and intimate scale with my friends and family back stateside.  My older brother, after being married for two years…in which ways has he changed?  My younger brother…while I hear a lot about how he’s doing…i really have little idea as to who he’s grown into over these last few years.  My sister, my Mother, my Father, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, my friends…all of these bridges I get to gap in a relative instant…i’ll be playing catch-up with every single person I know for MONTHS!  When i put it in those terms, it honestly sounds a bit daunting.

But don’t get me wrong…i’m tremendously excited to start the next phase of my life.  The motorcycle trip gives me a lot to look forward to…i’ll hopefully be able to get out my ‘wild and free’ bug after living a life with so many rules for so long…then i’ll be ready to discipline my way through medical school.  I truly have been blessed with an incredible life with such great opportunities to explore, and i’m stoked that i’ve been smart enough to take what opportunities life has thrown my way.

In the end, my service with Peace Corps has had a lot of ups and downs, but i’ve seen things and learned lessons that i could never have figured out anywhere else in life.  It’s hard to measure growth in one’s self, but i’ve no doubts that i’m very much a different person than I was before i stepped on that plane to Southern Africa more than two years ago.  I know i’ll always look back on my time here with a kind of tender nostalgia that will always come with a smile.  The old Peace Corps slogan…”The toughest job you’ll ever love”…i don’t know if it could possibly be any more accurate…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Meredith December 18, 2011 at 9:34 am

Hi Ryan!

Thanks for the update! And IT IS hard to believe that your group has completed the original 2 year assignment. Many kudos to you all!

The motorcycle trip should definitely give you guys the time you need to face reality back in America! There have been some changes; I suppose some that we take for granted and will be a bit surprising to you. Don’t ask me what specifically, because it is just daily life for us 🙂 But the one thing that has not changed, is that your family and friends anxiously await for your return!

Enjoy the next few weeks in Lesotho and have a Merry Christmas.

All my best to you, Parker, & Nate! Safe travels!

🙂 Meredith

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