Friday, February 1, 2008

Eight Days Until Summertime

About the Trip

"At the end of last summer, I teamed up with four of my classmates to take internships in the small towns of South Africa. The trip starts ten days before my plane takes off from the misty li'l Pacific Northwest. It will stop at the tail-end of summer in the Johannesburg International Airport, South Africa. What happens in between, my only real plan is to wing it."

In class yesterday, one of my friends found out I was going to Africa within a week. She was taking an internship here in Olympia around the same time as I'd be gone; she'd be spending Washington's rainiest months, she told me, in the shadow of our Evergreen State College. She asked me, "aren't you going to the Southern Hemisphere?"

"Yeah, it's South Africa," I said.

"Badass," she remarked. "So it'll be summer there and everything." And until the moment she said it, I'd been planning my trip — or just daydreaming it out in my head — like what she said was true. But it isn't. South Africa will be at its tail-end of summer when I get there. It'll get colder as I stay, the leaves might even be starting to turn. So much for that enviable and exotic traveler's tan.

I know there will be at least a few people who know me and what I'm doing, and if you've managed to find your way here, welcome. For the rest, here's the story behind this blog:

At the end of last summer, I teamed up with four of my classmates to take internships in the small towns of South Africa. We were taking the same class at Evergreen State College, in Olympia, WA.  The class is called "America Abroad"; it's a choose-your-own trip abroad deal, where every student can form a group to go to a single country, or they can just go on their own. Our teachers don't control what we do once we leave the States.

Why are they so hands-off? Actually, that attitude is pretty typical around the Evergreen State College. They're big on self-motivation here. And we're big kids now.

Within three months of traveling, my friends and I only need to fulfill the simplest of requirements to pass our class. We need to turn in a twenty-five page paper on the subject of our choice — since it's my senior year, the paper will need to be impressive, but at least it's my last! — and we need to complete our internship work. The internships are full-time, but they don't last the whole trip.

Beyond those two things, I'm free to do anything I want. I can take a train to the big cities for cheap, or hike across the Drakensberg Mountains; I can hitchhike to Namibia and walk through the first real desert I'll have ever seen, or I can travel to national parks and see the kinds of animals who leap through nature documentaries. Only one thing is stopping me.

I don't have a plan. Of any kind. I don't even know what to write for the 25 pages of my last college paper ever.

As I write this, it's eight days almost to the minute until I step on the plane to Africa. For me, who has barely been to a place without a flushing toilet, it's a big step. I'm starting this blog well before I leave so I can show everything that leads up to that plane — anyone who has planned long trips knows that the countdown of days and hours are just as important as shoving your luggage in the compartment and buckling up for takeoff.

If I'd been smart, I would have started this a month ago. As it is, if you're reading this now, you came in at a good time. I'm excited to leave, and I've got way too much left to do in the next week. So keep checking back, because I'll have a lot to show you before the countdown ends.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Paul! I hope you brought sun screen for those shirtless days. Can you get pics of the sunset and any water views for me!!!