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2008 – A Year in Review, Chapter 1: In with the Lions

1 January 2009
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Happy New Year, everyone! As promised yesterday, as we begin a new year, I look back on the old one and drag you along with me.

– January 2008

2008 started for me in a small, dusty apartment in Lusaka, Zambia with Mike, two flatmates, and awful champagne that could take the rust off a neglected 1962 Pontiac Tempest sitting on cinder blocks on an Alabama lawn. By this point, my organization and I had already determined that I would be leaving Zambia by the beginning of February, though where I would be going next had not been determined. This fact led to a lot of tipsy reminiscing and sad chatter, including Mason informing Mike that we probably wouldn’t keep in touch after I left (we have, though not all that well).

The next day Mike and I boarded a bus bound for Livingstone, a slow-moving vehicle that weaved not-so-expertly around potholes caused by the rainy season and lack of reliable infrastructure (just like Chicago!). While in Livingstone, we saw Victoria Falls, watched sugar-stealing monkeys at a fancy-shmancy hotel, and went on safari in Botswana.

My strongest memory from January involves the safari. Our driver Leonard, a weathered, 60-something (I think – not so good with the ages) Botswanan found a pride of teenage lion cubs to show us. Exciting in and of itself, but then Leonard found a skittish puku just down the road and around a corner. Using the truck, Leonard slowly drove the puku around the corner, toward the pride. Anyone who has ever seen a National Geographic special, watched Animal Planet, or woken up in the middle of the night in front of PBS (c’mon, you’ve done it – Nova is not always that interesting) will know what happens next. As soon as the pride caught a whiff of puku, the feline playfulness transformed abruptly into ferocious wildness, and the lion cubs launched themselves toward the terrified antelope. At this moment, every woman on our truck (sadly, myself included) gasped in fright, while every man pumped his fist and shouted, “GO!” The puku had a slight edge though and leaped across the savannah, fording a stream in a single frenzied bound. The women heaved a collective sigh, as the men growled their disappointment. And, all the while, my camera swung limply and forgotten at my wrist. Dang.

Oh, they look cute and cuddly until they chase you across the savannah and rip your spleen out. Just slightly below squirrels in the feeding chain.

Oh, they look cute and cuddly until they chase you across the savannah and rip your spleen out. Just slightly below squirrels in the food chain.

Both Mike and the zebra are looking at me here like, "No way I'm getting any closer to him - he might have fleas. Or cooties."

Both Mike and the zebra are looking at me here like, "No way I'm getting any closer to him - he might have fleas. Or cooties."

Last night in Livingstone - Based on the fact that we look pretty happy, I think this was taken before either of us tried the antelope Mike ordered for dinner.

Last night in Livingstone - Based on the fact that we look pretty happy, I think this was taken before either of us tried the antelope Mike ordered for dinner.

– February 2008 –

On 5 February 2008, I left Zambia, one week shy of the four-month mark. Two days before, my flatmate Karla had taken Mason and me on a tour in the office vehicle, so I could snap some pictures. My camera was set on some strange setting causing it to pick and choose colors, painting my photos in a weird black and white tone, giving certain scenes a ghostly quality. Looking at these pictures put me in a melancholic mood as to the state of Africa and its people.

Melancholy view of Lusaka

Melancholy view of Lusaka

Leaving Zambia was a tad surreal. I had been there four months, yet I barely scratched the surface of a very complex society. I have previously joked that my going-away presnet in Zambia was the advice to tuck and roll as I was pushed out of the car at the airport, but actually, the advice wasn’t needed because I never really even touched down in Africa, just sort of floated above it, unsure where to set down and slowly running out of fuel. So, with my last fumes, I stepped onto the plane and left. Zambia still seems like a bit of a bizarre dream to me.

I arrived home in the dead of winter, facing twenty days of non-stop snow. Somewhere between Lusaka and Chicago, I received notice by email that I would be heading to Chennai, India next, and they needed me there by the beginning of March. So I had no real time to acclimatize or properly process any reverse culture shock. My time at home was a whirlwind of seeing friends and family.

Halfway through the month, Mike and I threw our annual Mid-Winter Warm-up™ party. About seventy people showed up, and I think I only talked to a quarter of them. (Bad hostess, bad hostess!) It was a frenzied affair, and it took the rest of my time at home to truly recover. Just in time to pack again and leave again at the beginning of March…

Mid-Winter Warm-up brings the former YEX ladies and some of the best employees ever together one last time.

Mid-Winter Warm-up brings the former YEX ladies and some of the best employees ever together one last time.

Tomorrow: Chapter 2: I’m Smelting! I’m Smelting

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One Comment leave one →
  1. An avid reader... permalink
    2 January 2009 9:49 am

    Mrs. Evans,

    I love reading your blog. I was hooked from the moment you said “Happy New Year”. Never before have I read a seasons greeting that evoked so much hope and joy. I can’t wait to read the rest of your series.

    Sincerely,

    Miss Shubox

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