Tag Archives: St. Lucia

August: The Last Month Abroad

An afternoon of collecting rubbish in Khula township with African Impact volunteers and local Zulu ladies.

I can’t believe it… after 22 months living outside of the U.S., this will be my last month abroad.

My original plan was to return to the U.S. in December, but issues with the Department of Immigration in Mozambique weren’t able to be resolved and the African Impact project in Vilanculos has yet to be reopened.  As my time working in St. Lucia, South Africa draws to a close, a decision had to be made: potentially transfer projects again or head home four months early.

And then I remembered that everything happens for a reason.

Beach day with Eswenelisha Afterschool Club kids. The little ones were waiting for the waves to touch their toes.

So for the first time in 22 months, I’m going home.  But not before I savor the last 12 days of my last month abroad.

Elephant Interaction with Carla at Thanda Private Game Reserve, South Africa

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Four Years with a Ninja Paleontologist

The ninja paleontologist covering one of the FIFA 2010 World Cup games in Durban, South Africa.

He looks more like a handsome journalist, right?

When I met Morgan in 2008, he had been a professional journalist for over three years: one year in radio and at the time, two years in television.  But one afternoon shortly after meeting him, he showed me a magazine article written about him in which he confessed that his childhood dream was actually to be a ninja paleontologist.

From my understanding, this is a martial arts expert who also enjoys discovering fossils.

Four years later, I am still completely in love with the grown-up version of the South African kid that once aspired to be a ninja paleontologist.  (*To read the awkward story of how we met at a Zimbabwean refugee camp, see An African Boy and an American Girl.)

Morgan and Kassie in South Africa December 2008

As detailed in the blog post linked above, it’s not the easiest thing  in the world to date cross-continentally.  Visits are few and emails and Skype are the ‘meat and potatoes’of your relationship.

Morgan and Kassie in Times Square NYC: December 2009

But over the past four years, Morgan and I have shared the most amazing experiences together.

Morgan and Kassie at uShaka Marine World in Durban: December 2010

We’ve dived with sharks on the South Coast on KwaZulu Natal.  We’ve roadtripped the entire east coast of the U.S., seeing all of the sights of New York City on a day-pass and finishing with dinner in Chinatown at 3 a.m.  We’ve border-hopped into Malaysia, rode a motorbike around most of southwest Thailand and climbed a volcano in Bali, Indonesia.

Morgan and Kassie riding our motorbike around Phuket, Thailand: July 2011

We island-hopped in Mozambique and my ninja paleontologist prepared lunch in a straw hut over fire for 80 preschool children in Vilanculos.  Most recently, he’s ‘hippo-hunted’ with me in St. Lucia after we went on a game drive through a UNESCO World Heritage site to the Indian Ocean.

Morgan and Kassie trying to spot a hippo in St. Lucia, South Africa: July 2012

Basically, I’ve gotten to travel around the world with my best friend.

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One Month in St. Lucia, SA

Opening ceremony of Inkanyezi Creche

If I think back over the past 21 months I’ve been living outside the U.S., I can think of many curveballs life has thrown my way.  These include (but are not limited to): being homeless, being jobless, working illegally in three countries, bribing border officials to get out of one of those countries and most recently, being transferred from Mozambique to St. Lucia, South Africa for work.    With the following photos as evidence, the latter has been one of the most rewarding curveballs to be struck by.

See the large WILD elephant to the far left? Yup, I stuck my hand inside his mouth.

I must admit first and foremost that I miss my African Impact project in Mozambique.  I miss the preschool, the orphanage, the adult English classes and the beach.  Most of all though, I miss the people I worked with and the friends I made while living in Vilanculos.  It’s a small town with a big heart.

But in its own special, very different way, so is St. Lucia.

Face painting at holiday club in Khula township.

Like starting any new job (again), it’s a process.  It takes time to learn the ropes, the roads and the protocol.  My first two weeks here were spent on the highways between St. Lucia, Richards Bay and Durban trying to sort out a South African visa. [T.I.A.]

African Impact-St. Lucia staff and volunteers playing Bingo with kids at holiday club in Eswenelisha township.

Week #3 was my first week on projects here and with the help of the St. Lucia African Impact team (Carla, Alanna, Sofie and honorary team member, Michelle), we’ve guided 25 volunteers around two townships and ten project activities.  These activities include: holiday clubs, clinic visits, home-based medical care, adult English classes, creche-building, gardening, HIV/AIDS classes, support groups and teaching at both preschools and primary schools.  Pretty amazing stuff, no?

Look at who came to visit me!

Last weekend, Morgan drove the three hours from Durban to come visit.  We sampled the St. Lucia cuisine, drove through a game park (and in doing so, ran into friends from Thailand!) and helped paint the inside of Inkanyezi creche.  My partner in globetrotting couldn’t resist seeing another part of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

Mama Gumede unlocking the door to the newly-built Inkanyezi creche.  Over 200 people were in attendance at the opening ceremony.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in St. Lucia for a month already, but like any other day working with African Impact, I am constantly amazed by the potential for positive change in Africa.

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African Authorities and Birthday Stories

The first of many African roadtrips: Mozambique to Swaziland to South Africa.

First things first: Africa, at least what I’ve seen of it, is breathtakingly beautiful.  It has mountains, it has ocean, it has animals, it has some of the most vibrant cultures that still exist today.

…But being able to stay in Africa is not always a piece of cake.

Er…cupcake.  Compliments of Tex and Lulu from Shongweni Farmer’s Market.

It was time for another visa renewal, but this time I had to leave Mozambique.  Luckily, the timing couldn’t have been better: I was going to need to leave Mozambique and enter South Africa just in time for Morgan’s 27th birthday!  I had put some forethought into this and not only arranged with Tex and Lulu for my arrival to be a complete surprise, but I also planned a surprise birthday dinner at Billy the Bum’s in Durban for his actual birthday.  Boy, was he surprised!

The birthday boy and a few friends who stayed for a final nightcap shot at Billy’s.

Once having acquired my new Mozambican visa in Durban, I took the time to enjoy being back in the city and with my Durban family.  We perused the Shongweni Farmer’s Market on Saturday (one of my absolute favorites places to go) and went to the Durban Boat Show on Sunday.  We even got the chance to ride in a Honda AquaLounge, compliments of Morgan’s cousin who was working the show.  It really was a beautiful day on the water.

The AquaLounge

Port of Duban, South Africa

Even though I had a fantastic week in Durban, I was ready to head back to work and friends in Vilanculos.  Unfortunately (and because things in Africa often don’t go as planned), I was not to return to Mozambique.  Due to issues with the Department of Immigration in Vilanculos, we have had to shut down our volunteer programs until further notice.  To be completely honest, I felt pretty terrible.

But every cloud has a silver lining, right?

For the time being, I am working as an additional African Impact volunteer coordinator in St. Lucia, South Africa –  about three hours north of Durban.  It’s a small town (although much more developed than Vilanculos), but a beautiful area of the country that I had yet to visit.  Instead of Vilanculos beaches, we have St. Lucia bush… and with that, a large estuary (also a UNESCO World Heritage site) home to hippos and crocodiles alike.

A family of hippos! Just another day in St. Lucia…

So it is a big adjustment, but there is a phrase that people from African countries or who have visited often use when things don’t go as expected: “This Is Africa” (or “T.I.A”).  From my perspective, it’s the African equivalent of “When in Rome…”

Sunset on the St. Lucia Estuary

But you know, at the end of the day, I can’t really complain.

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