Not really sure where I should start with this post...so first things first. Thank you everyone who has followed along this past year!!
This year, 2011, started with my retirement. The process took a while and to be sure I have not convinced myself I am retired, but if I am truly retired, I hope it never ends. And I am ending 2011 in Tanzania, soon to be joining friends for a little New Year's celebration. Today I purchased a 20 litre gas can for my return to Malawi, a new head lamp, and had beef stroganoff flavored with vodka for dinner.
My travels through Africa have been nothing short of amazing - from when I first rode my bike off the ferry into Morroco up until today. I now understand how different it is to be a traveler rather than a tourist. First one must take time to shed the skin, like a snake of one's old self. It takes time, but when traveling starts to really take hold and you let yourself get under the skin of the places you travel, you will never look back. I am always planning my next adventure.
I am on a bike, but it's not the ride - the palm trees, beaches, animals, or mountains that make it - it's the people I've met along the way. So so so many people and so many stories that will never be forgotten.
Here are some that impacted me:
In Ghana, a teenager was going to school and was ousted by his parents because they felt farming was more important than education. Paying for his fees and his books that term, we have a connection. He still emails me regularly 8 months later with questions (I call him question man)... and the last time we spoke, he said, "Please never forget me."
A sobering visit to Rwanda. It's been 17 years since the genocide and it pains me to get text messages from a man named Joseph I met, asking, "What do I do, my heart is so empty?" At 18, he has no parents, or extended family that he knows of. Joseph lived on the streets until he met an American a few years back who pays for his education and boarding.
Stuck in my head I will allways remember the thousands, YES THOUSANDS, of kids, men and women who heard the sound of the bike and ran to the side of the road to smile and wave!!!
In Nigeria, I was asked to," Please tell Americans to visit. We are not all as you see on TV."
I met Elvis, a local Tanzanian man who is starting a bicycle ride next month around the world from Chile to Kili ( Kilimanjaro).
I'll not forget chewing the stimulant Kat with locals in Kenya, going to church in the Congo, visiting a local still brewing moonshine in Malawi, stopping time after time to give people rides to the market, school, church, or the next village .
I have no ideal what God has planned for me in 2012, but the most southern point in the world you can drive to is in Argentina. Hmmm....
Happy New Year!