Tuesday, April 21, 2009

You've probably already read this...

Don’t have time? Here’s the quick version!
I’ve completed my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer! I got Malaria and
said goodbye to my village! I’m riding my bike with Dan down Malawi, along
the Mozambican coast and into South Africa, where I’ll go to Capetown and
then fly to Dubai! I’ll be home soon!

Long day in the cubie? Here’s the it’s-this-or-youtube-clips version!
I haven’t sent one of these in a very, very long time so I am very much
out of practice. Therefore, if I skip bits you find interesting, or forget
pivotal details or commit a grammatical error or (worst of all) bore you,
please let me know. If you think you like getting emails from me, I
sincerely promise it is even better on this end.

Where to start? I’m no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer! I have
successfully completed my two years. The village goodbye was said, the
parties were had, the ticket home has been bought. (June 9th, in case you
are wondering) I am now in the noble city of Blantyre, the largest city in
Malawi and set deep in the south. It took eight days to bike here from my
house. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

My final weeks at my house were nothing but goodbyes and giving things
away. I had a little goodbye party with my HIV group, and a little goodbye
party with a natural resource committee/women’s group in a village I worked
in a lot. In case you are wondering, a little goodbye party means that
everyone shows up in their nice clothes and we all sit around and talk and
exchange contact information. Someone asks me for my bike. I take a lot of
pictures. At some point I go down the line and shake hands with everyone
Malawi style, bending at my knees and grabbing my right elbow with my left
hand. Finally the night before I set off all of my neighbors come over with
a bounty of food and we all cram onto my front porch and eat our delicious
curried chicken and sima and rice and avocados, I made spaghetti, and
chatted and chatted by the candlelight. My chief gave a short speech, then
my friend Bayani turned on the sound system and we danced. It was pretty

I should note that I got malaria with less than a week to go in Tukombo.
Malaria is a truly awful disease and I was laid out in bed on and off for my
last five days. It’s a very cyclical disease, and so I would have bouts of
insane fever and nausea, and seriously the most extreme exhaustion you could
imagine. And then 12 hours later I would pretty much feel fine. Then my
red blood cells would re-explode with malarial parasites and it would all
start over again. I shuffled around my meetings/goodbyes and by the day I
had to go I was fit as a fit person.

I have been wanting/planning/hoping to take a big bike ride on my way
home almost since I got here. Traveling by bike is pretty much the best
possible way to travel ever. I get to see details I would miss in a bus or a
car, and I get to stop whenever I want for whatever reason. I talk to
people while I’m riding, and I can smell when to stop for good food. I get
the satisfaction of using my own locomotion to actually get somewhere. And
going down an escarpment on a bike just can’t be beat. Mostly though, I’m
convinced that human beings generally find happiness in movement, and I’m
simply indulging myself.

So I bought a bike and saddlebags and the morning I left I rode away from
my wonderful lakeside village with my neighbors waving and my dog barking.
I had just met the child I got to name for the first time (Taylor) (funny
cause Malawians have a hard time with Ls and Rs) that morning too. I rode 35
kilometers to my sitemate’s house and had dinner with three other
volunteers. The next day I rode to another volunteer’s house, riding
through Nkhotakota Game Reserve and feeling very alone in the wilderness, it
was a very cool feeling. So I rode for four days down the lakeshore road to
Lilongwe, where I did all my final paperwork and officially closed my
service. I met up with Dan, another Peace Corps Volunteer who I had talked
into wasting his vacation time to ride his bike with me, and we were off! I
we spent five days biking to get here, staying with Peace Corps Volunteers
(usually even more than one at a time) the whole way down. I swear on my
turquoise, purple and pink saddlebags that staying with Peace Corps
Volunteers pretty much can’t be beat. We would call the morning we were
planning on showing up and invite ourselves over. They don’t have a lot but
they give you a lot- everyone wanted to cook a meal for us and we even got a
chocolate cake for breakfast one morning. It was my birthday so it made more
sense, but still.
So we have begun the Big Bike Trip! 730 kilometers so far, with at least
another 3000 to go. Our plan is basically to bike to the very bottom tip of
this country and cross the border into glorious Mozambique. From there we
follow the Zambezi river to the coast, and then simply bike down along the
coast. We both got scuba certified in Malawi, so we are just going to bike
and dive and bike and dive and stay in a place when we want to and move on
when we want to. We’ll be hitting up a tropical island national park to
dive with whale sharks and manta rays and dugongs! We’ll be biking along the
beautiful coast! We’ll be staying with Peace Corps Mozambique volunteers and
couchsurfers! Then to Maputo, then on and on crossing into South Africa and
stopping somewhere in there- we will go as long and as far as time allows.
Dan and I will part ways and then I’ll be spending time in Capetown before
flying out of there to Dubai. And because I like an adventure, I have a 12
day layover in Dubai to toot around and achieve a life-goal of visiting Abu
Dhabi. Then home to California, my real once and future home, a
peoplemindstate I plan on re-acquainting myself with intimately and wholly.

I’ve seen some different stuff here. Working as a Peace Corps Volunteer
here has been life, and nothing less. If you asked me what it was like I
would say, pick a word, any word. So keep in touch, and I’ll see you on the other side.


Born between roughly 1982 and 1988? Here’s the Oregon Trail version!

Name: Matt “Jebediah Phiri” Wisniewski

Occupation: Farmer

Salary for provisions: Meager

Traveling with: Dan Carr

Lena who punched me in third grade

That annoying kid

Seymour Butts

Rate: Grueling

Rations: Moderate

Start date: March 28. Still heavy snow on the ground.

*Stares at 14 pixel image of us on bikes*

Beep! Matt “Jebediah Phiri” Wisniewski has contracted Malaria! Do you wish
to wait or move on?

[Move on]

Beep! The M-5 lakeshore road has been washed out just below Nkhotakota! Do
you wish to: Ford the river? Caulk the wagon? Pay 20 kwacha for a hastily
constructed footbridge that somehow manages to be useless looking and scary
looking at the same time?

[Pay 20 kwacha for footbridge]

Beep! Matt “Jebediah Phiri” has popped a tube just outside of Dedza!
Luckily, you have a spare.

Dan Carr has gone hunting and has come back with six hard boiled eggs! He
used 748 bullets.

You have reached Blantyre! Do you wish to rest or move on?


[Save game now]
[I am so stoked]
[I miss you all terribly]

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