I recently returned from quite possibly the best holiday I’ve taken in my life. It was the first time I’d ever travelled alone, without the purpose of studying. Although friends were hosting me, they still had to go to work, so a large chunk of time during the day (about 10 hours) was spent alone.
I chose Paris, France, with one weekend in Belgium. By now I’m completely used to life in a third world country (I'd like to think so at least), but it was absolutely invigorating to get out of Africa for two weeks, particularly during a very dusty and windy winter in Mokhotlong, Lesotho. I was surprised upon arriving to find that, in June, it doesn't get dark in Paris until 10 pm, whereas in my village at this time of year, the sun goes down behind the mountains before 5 pm (very gloomy, lonely, and depressing at times, yes).
Simple things, like people watching while taking the metro, getting lost in small streets surrounded by charming cafes and old buildings, spending hours in parks, and wearing high-heeled shoes again brought me so much happiness. I also indulged in quite a few three-course meals and ate at restaurants almost every night. I managed to do two wine tastings and bought an expensive handbag. Yes, I spent more money than I'd intended. Oops!
Being anonymous in a large city again, grass free of animal poo, impeccably dressed people with fantastic shoes and hair, no stares or harassment from strangers, and dancing with friends until the sun came up were some of the other things that made this trip extremely pleasant. There were just so many things to do and see! Completely overwhelming, but in the best possible way. For the first time in a long time, I was left alone to do and see what I wanted without any interference or questioning. No one knew I was a foreigner and I relished the ability to blend in again in a Western culture.
My friends were so wonderful. During the week they worked, which allowed me to wander around and explore the city by myself (this turned out to be quite a lot of fun). In the evenings we’d meet for dinner. They always had a great restaurant booked so that I could get the complete French food and wine experience. I had foie gras, confit de canard (duck), crepes, filet mignon, salmon, many cheeses, wines, and discovered Ricard, which is now my favorite liqueur. I definitely didn’t get hungry or thirsty. It was such a nice change from the standard boiled maize meal, cabbage, and stewed mystery meat combo that one finds when they go to a “restaurant” in Lesotho. Sorry, I’ll stop being snobby now – it’s just that I adore nice food, and was really impressed by French food culture. Indeed, I was very spoiled, and it made coming back to Lesotho a bit difficult, but it always takes about two days to adjust again after returning from a holiday.
In Belgium, I explored Antwerp with a friend by bike. It was the first time I'd ridden a bicycle in two years. I was nervous to ride alongside traffic, but it was easy to get used to again. I also got to see Brussels and Gent, as well as eat waffles, fries, chocolates and drink varieties of Belgian beer.
I’ve been in Lesotho for a year and a half now, but probably couldn’t stay here permanently unless I lived in the capital and my standards of living were a lot higher. I was in Paris for two weeks and totally felt as if I could live there. However, I’d need to brush up on my rusty French first. In a little over a week I’ll be out of Africa again, but this time I’ll be visiting with family in the U.S and attending the memorial of my great-grandmother, an incredible woman who recently passed away at the age of 104. It’s going to be a strange summer/winter (I’m not sure what exactly to call it) straddled between two opposite hemispheres and seasons. But it’s being spent in very good company, with good friends and a large family.
I’ll remain a Peace Corps volunteer for about five more months - July, August, September, October, November, and a little bit of December of this year. Then I suppose I'll begin the next chapter in my life, which is turning out to be quite the adventure. I just can’t seem to shake off my chronic wanderlust. At least I won’t ever regret not seeing the world.
|At Montmartre, in front of Sacre Coeur|