Saturday, January 30, 2016

Home Again, Wherever That Is

My daily view from main camp looking towards Nosy Be.

My last few weeks in Madagascar went by entirely too fast. I don’t even know where to start. New Years weekend we took an evening boat on Friday over to Nosy Be. We went back to our usual spot, Ambatoloaka, and had Zebuger for dinner and then partied at Beach Bar til late at night. We actually went to a hilariously sketchy casino afterwards that had roulette. I’ve never played that game before so it was fun to learn. It’s great because you can play for an hour on like $20USD.

The next morning and half of the next day were rough because barely any restaurants or really anything was open, but we made it work. That night we had a really good dinner at some nice restaurant on the beach and then repeated Beach Bar and the casino.

How I spent my New Year's Day.

And my New Year's Day evening.

On Sunday, a big group of us went to a nearby island, Tanikely, the same place where I did my Deep Dive, and snorkeled and hung out on the beach all day. It was a beautiful little island with perfect white sand and a really good reef just a few meters out. I had forgotten how much I actually like snorkeling. I’ve been spoiled with all the diving lately but it really is nice to snorkel around a good reef. I could’ve stayed out there for hours.

There was also a neat old light house at the top of the island. It was a short hike up some stone steps to get to it. It had a great 360-degree view of the entire island and surrounding islands, including Nosy Be and Nosy Komba.


We had lunch catered for us. Unfortunately, it was grilled fish. Whole fish. With the eyes and everything. And I was of course starving. Luckily there were potatoes (and of course rice that I avoided) but I still ended up eating some surgeon fish. Haha. Can’t believe they killed a surgeon fish to eat but I guess they don’t really care either.

After getting thoroughly sunburned, it was finally time to go. Our boat driver told us he would be there to pick us up at 3pm. So naturally they showed up a little after five. Mora mora as they say, or “slowly, slowly” in Malagasy.

A lot of new people were at camp when we got back. Like twenty people. So that was strange. I honestly didn’t talk to many of the new people between then and the time I left. I was already too good of friends with other people and really just couldn’t be bothered. I mean I talked to them, but I just didn’t make really good friends with any of them.

That week passed without anything major.

The following weekend was sadly Savanah and Kristen’s last weekend in Madagascar. We left Friday evening again to go to Nosy Be. Let’s just say it was an interesting boat ride. I may have started throwing up on the way over. Keep in mind it’s a 45 minute boat ride and the waves happened to be huge that day. It wasn’t the waves though that got me. I don’t know what made me sick considering I hadn’t eaten anything that anyone else hadn’t eaten. But I was definitely sick.

I didn’t stop throwing up for like seven hours. It was sad too because we all went to eat at a really good restaurant, Café Del Mar, which is actually an Asian food restaurant… in Africa. The name doesn’t quite make sense. So anyways, I didn’t get to enjoy any of the good food.

I can honestly say, when I was in the gross, dirty bathroom of this sketchy restaurant in Africa puking my guts out to the point that I could barely throw up, it was definitely one of the lowest points of my life. Half kidding, half serious. It was horrible. I’ve never had a stomach sickness like that that involves throwing up, so I was a little taken off guard by how bad it was.

One good thing though was that the restaurant had a couch and a TV. Two things I hadn’t experienced in awhile, so I was at least suffering in comfort.

I seriously couldn’t even hold down the smallest sip of water. Somehow though I made it through an hour taxi drive down a sketchy dirt road to our hotel. We were mixing it up a little that weekend and didn’t go to Beach Bar. The villas were really nice.

I could barely take two steps towards our room without dry heaving to the point I was falling to the ground. Jeanine saved my life and gave me some rehydration salt that I miraculously managed to hold down.

We were supposed to go on a deep dive and hopefully find some sharks the next morning but the weather wasn’t that great so we didn’t end up going. Which was probably the best for me because although I was feeling better the next day, it was still a long road to a full recovery.

So yeah, that’s the story of me having some African sickness where I literally thought I was on my death bed…

The rest of the weekend was great though. I was surrounded by all of my favorite people there. We had a blast to say the least.

Sweet infinity pool at our villas.

A really really big bottle of rum that cost about $15USD. Ignore my weird friends.

Not the greatest picture. I promise we are more photogenic than this.

Love and miss these two. Savannah and Kristen.

My last week there was great as well, even though I was definitely missing Sav and Kris. One day was particularly awesome. Michael and I were doing a nudibranch survey and James and Carmen were doing a invertebrate survey and we ended up finding THREE baby yellow box fish. It was unreal. We are usually if we find one a week. But we found three!!! On one dive. When Michael found the third we were both screaming and laughing underwater and just overall being ridiculously happy. Literally on my gopro video you can hear us just freaking out. It was great. We also swam around with a couple good turtles on that dive. It was hands down the best dive ever. Baby yellow box fish are basically the cutest things in the entire world and several of us (mainly me and Paloma) are all obsessed with them.

My crappy picture of a yellow boxfish.

What they actually look like.

Michael's drawing on board the night we found all three of them. 

These are a few of the pictures I took that turned out okay. I wish I had taken more pictures and video but I always forgot. I'd be busy surveying and would see cool things but wasn't on top of recording things. I wish I had done better, but you live and you learn. 

This is actually a scribbled filefish in the bottom right hand area. They're really funny looking and I'm pretty sure this was the only one I saw the entire time. 

Giant jellyfish. It's weird because you would expect them to feel squishy, but they actually feel like a basketball. They are hard and have the same texture. This one is actually bigger around than a basketball.

Speckled sandperch.

My last night on camp, Friday, we had a camp party that was a little too much fun. It was a good last night on camp though. The 6am boat came rather early. I said a sad goodbye to my hut, my bunk, and Alice. The rest of us went into Hellville. My flight wasn’t until around 6 that evening so I had a lot of time to kill that day. We ended up getting some souveniers and having lunch.

It was really nice because Carmen and I were on the same flight. We flew from Nosy Be back to Tana and then stayed together at a hotel for a night. I felt really lucky actually that my Air Madagascar flight to Tana actually went out. A lot of my friends had recently had problems with cancelled or super-delayed flights that caused them to miss connections. It’s just such an unreliable airline.

So anyways, the next afternoon I was hanging out at the hotel, which was actually probably the nicest building I had been in my entire time in Madagascar. It was so clean and normal. It was great. What wasn’t great though, was that I started feeling sick a little after Carmen left to continue her trip in South Africa. I started getting fever and chills and just feeling miserable overall. It was horrible timing considering I was about to have four flights.
My flight from Antananarivo to Paris wasn’t until 2am. I got to the airport at about 11pm. All my flights were horrible. I flew from Paris to Amsterdam and then from there to Detroit and Detroit to Dallas. I got to Dallas at around 10pm. So I basically spent about 25 out of 28 hours or so on planes. All while feeling like I was on my deathbed. I was literally in tears at one point. Looking back, I think I had salmonella, but I never went to the doctor to find out for sure. It took me quite a few days once I got back home to feel 100% again. I definitely didn’t make it to my first day of classes.

It’s funny the weird habits I pick up while traveling. For example, I get so used to taking pictures of strange things. My phone is filled with the dumbest pictures of weird shaped water bottles and fancy hand dryers in public bathrooms and strange fences. Really. Just random pictures of things that I find weird that I instantly take a picture of. So here I was at home the first morning I was back. I walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator and my first instinct was to take a picture of it. It was just so clean, and bright, and full of food, all things that seemed so foreign and amazing. It could have also been my fever but at the time that was my first thought. Very strange.

I’m also paranoid that ants are going to get in my food and that I need to turn the lights off everywhere and that I need to constantly have things plugged in with a full charge in case I won’t have electricity for a very long time.

I also wake up wondering what time my dives are. And then I remember I’m not on my little island in the middle of paradise with all of my great, hilarious friends and that it’s all over.

I can’t begin to say how happy I am that I went to Madagascar. It was a struggle to pay for all of it and finish all my classes in time and at times it felt too difficult, but I’m so glad I made it happen. It was such a great experience and opened my eyes to a whole new world and culture. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I hadn’t gone.

Camp cat is comfy. 

Storm over Lakobe. It didn't actually reach us this time but sometimes you could see it and watch it coming in towards us. 

My beer of choice, Three Horse Beer, or THB. It was especially nice when you got a cold one. 

Hammock time. I loved laying around reading books and napping during the day. 

Sam loved the camp cats and the camp cats loved Sam. Michael not so much. 

This is Nandipo's, a cool bar we would hang out at a lot in Hellville while we waited for the boat back to Komba. 

I was so excited when I found this little guy. Caught him while he was running across the door to our hut. He was literally the most adorable thing in the world. 

It’s hard to explain exactly how I’m feeling now that I’m back home. I guess the same as I usually feel when I get back from a trip. Sad. Reluctant. Still trying to hold on to the happiness. Missing my friends and my new home. It seems like I get better each time at accepting when things are over. If I have a deadline of when I’m headed home I try not to fight it or feel too sad. No crying allowed. Still though.

I’m laying here in my comfy bed surrounded by pounds and pounds-or maybe now should I say kilos and kilos- of fluffy blankets and pillows. And I’d give anything to be back in my bunk in my cozy little hut surrounded by my mosquito net and the sound of the waterfall.

I know I fall in love too easily. People, places, events, ideas, moments. I’m at this weird point in my life where I’m wide open to anything and everything. I want it all. It’s like I cherish every single thing so dearly, whether it’s a friend or even a split second in time where things just come together so perfectly. I know I love things too much. I know I’m a little puppydog following Life around too happy to care. I just refuse to waste my time on anything less.

I think about the friends I made in Madagascar and I miss every single one of them. I have so many great memories of these people that I knew for such a short time. It’s so strange how you can meet people and so quickly feel like you’ve known them forever, like they’re you’re adopted little family. I feel so fortunate to have been surrounded by such an awesome group of people while I was there. I had such a blast just lying around camp, watching movies, playing card games, waiting around for meals, traversing across Nosy Be, getting drunk at Beach Bar, and just living life with everyone there. Even just sitting around talking and lying on the deck was the best.

It’s such a strange, almost horrible feeling, looking back at the last year of my life. Exactly one year to the day that I left for Prague, I was beginning my journey from Nosy Be back home. This past year has been the absolute best of my entire life. I made so many great friends from all over the world, saw so many insanely beautiful landscapes, and experienced so many historic, incredible cities. I can’t even begin to fully grasp the importance and the impact this year has had and will have on the rest of my life. I probably won’t be able to fully understand the effects until much later. But for now I just sit here and feel so happy and so depressed all at once.

I’m so happy that I finally went out and accomplished so much. I had always dreamed of traveling the world and I actually went out there and made it happen all on my own. That in itself is the most empowering feeling. On the other hand, I feel lost. Not only do I have no idea how to make this year even half as good as the last, which is depressing, but now it’s impossible to be as happy in my normal life. After spending six months of the last year abroad, my idea of day-to-day life has changed. I don’t know where home is anymore. I constantly miss Prague and dream of waking up back in my apartment and walking down the beautiful streets. The people I now consider my friends and some of my favorite people are all hundreds or even thousands of miles away. It used to feel like my life was on pause whenever I went on vacation and traveled. Now I feel like my life is on pause here. I’m counting down the days till I can leave again and go out in the world and see my friends and make new friends and explore more cities and just live and have things back.

Currently though, I’m here. I look back at the past year and nothing has changed. Except everything. I’m still laying here in my same room, in my same house, going to my same job, walking around my same university, with my same friends who still have the same lives. Most of the time I fall back into the same feelings and then all of the sudden it will hit me and I remember the past year and everything that has happened and it just blows my mind. I feel like a different person. I feel completely confident in my own shoes and feel like I can literally handle anything life throws at me.

So for now, all I can do is figure out what I want next and figure out how to get there. Easier said than done.  My view of the world however has completely changed. It’s a small place actually, just waiting for me to experience it and make it mine.  

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