Last night I returned home from Zambia, and the most amazing experience of my life *deep breath*. I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to get it into a journal entry without spending hours on the computer - already my friends and family have had to put up with hours of nonstop talking.
So... after we finally arrived we spent 3 weeks in a small community called Mulamba. When are bus pulled up, all the children in the school charged up waving and screaming, then shook all our hands and sang and danced to us - pretty much everyone was already welling up by this point. We set up our base camp next to their school and over the next few days began to get used to it all - even the toilet, a hole in the ground the size of a small postcard. I found it pretty hard over the first few days, and began to question whether I could actually last 5 weeks, especially when I suffered a Traumatic Spider Experience on the third night. But once I stopped thinking of home and focused on the work we were doing, clearing a playing field and building medical accomodation, the days started to fly by. We would wake up at 6am for a quick snack, then work until 9. After breakfast we'd go back to work until 1, when we would then have until 3 for lunch, washing, etc. We then worked for a couple more hours, before it got dark very quickly at about 6:30pm. Since the first day, the children were amazing - as we lived among them, we got to know each other quickly, and they were always there to help us. It was very moving how much pleasure they got out of something so simple, like a boucy ball or bubbles. We taught them duck duck goose, which they wanted to play for hours. In return, they taught me clapping games, and Nyanja (the local language). When the 3 weeks were up and it was time to move on, none of us wanted to leave.
When we did leave, we went on to Livingston for a week. This was the adventure phase of the trip, and the backpackers hostel felt like luxury! We went on a canoe safari and a walking safari (we'd had one in Mulamba too!) which was amazing. We saw elephants, zebras, giraffe, buffolo, crocodiles, and so many hippos we stopped slowing down for them. Seeing Victoria Falls completely blew me away, especially when we went back at night to see the lunar rainbow. We also went white water rafting, and some crazy fools hurled themselves off a bridge with a piece of string tied to their ankles. I went microlighting, which was incredible, something I definitely want to do again. So yeah... it was pretty exciting!
We spend the last week near Lusaka, working in Munda Wanga, a zoo/reserve working to raise and release animals back into the wild. I found this week the hardest due to the large amount of spiders (I know - pathetic) but the work we did was very enjoyable, as I was on the group mural painting in the education centre. After the week was over, we had two nights in the Barn Motel, where we slept in a bed for the first time in weeks! The last day was spent going back to Mulamba for a final time, so we could say our final goodbyes. I was coping oh so well until we got back on the bus and Sabina, a young girl about 8 years old who I was really close to, ran up clutching one of the bowls I'd left behind. At the point I suddenly burst into tears and became rather hysterical. It was a pretty emotional moment.
And then, yesterday, after two days of travelling, we returned home. When I ran off the bus and hugged my family, I started crying again - pretty much everyone was. But I think one of the hardest things was leaving the people I'd spent my summer with, the only people who experienced the same things I did. Saying goodbye to them all was so strange, and I'm already looking forward to the reunion weekend in a month or so. Just waking up this morning and being by myself was weird. Even the people who I hadn't known so much at the start - by the end I was closer to them than some of my friends at school!
So yeah... that was a bit of an essay, but still feels pathetic compared to everything bubbling around in my head. It was without doubt the most amazing, terrifying, incredible, difficult, eye-opening, unforgettable thing I have ever done. I'm so, so glad I got the oppurtunity, and would urge anyone else to go for something like this!