Rutgers - Science Summer Abroad 2010
Nine Science Undergraduate Students Around the World

Friday, May 21, 2010

Written May 19th, 2010 while bouncin' around in the truckbed

After my seemingly eternal flight finally ended, Dom scooped me up from the airport. Apparently, we had great timing; he arrived just as I trudged through the gate. When I first flew to Joburg back in August, I arrived on the same day as the controversial track athlete, Caster Semenya. In the main lobby, there was a large crowd of South Africans celebrating her arrival. This all occurred, of course, before it was determined that he/she is in fact a hermaphrodite. Between the exhaustion of traveling, the anxiousness of being alone in a foreign country, and the shock of being confronted by a screaming wall of fanatics - it was a very unnerving experience. Thankfully, this time around the situation was much more low-key.

I was very happy to see Dom again. He is one of my favorite people from our OTS course. We do, however, have a peculiar history. On one fateful night during our first stay in the Skukuza camp, Dom and I initiated an impromptu wrestling clinic. Unfortunately, a freak accident occurred and Dom was left with a shattered right ankle. I will always regret the decision to mosey on over to Dom and the group of hyena-luring students instead of quietly brushing my pearly whites and hitting the hay. To their credit, Dom and his family have been incredibly understanding and forgiving of the whole situation and I can only hope that his injury was fate's way of preventing some other disastrous event from taking place later on in the course.

When we drove back to his place, Dom's mother and sister had already prepared dinner for us. It was delicious: exactly what I needed after surviving on airplane food and lightly salted peanuts for an entire day. I spent the night there, but had some trouble sleeping. Once I finally fell asleep, however, I was out like a light, not waking up for another ten hours. At 3 PM the next day, we set out for the airport to pick up Sarah, another REUer who was a student with us on the OTS course.

So here I am now in the truckbed of Dom's landcruiser, snug as a bug in a rug (pictured). By the way, there were two propane tanks under the bags to my left...yeah, it's funny now. With space being a limiting factor in the cab, I volunteered to travel in the back. Arcade Fire articulates my opinion perfectly: "I like the peace in the backseat, I don't have to drive, I don't have to speak, I can watch the countryside, and I can go to sleep". To be honest, I find it to be rather comfortable back here. I have a little nook carved out for myself in the midst of Dom's camping supplies and the bags Sarah and I have packed for the REU. It's strange to think about it, but nine months ago I did not know these two people existed. Now, I trust them with my life. The experiences we shared during the OTS program were able to bring us together as if we had known each other for years. This short road trip has been a blast so far, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's journey to Shingwedzi as well.

As we travel farther from the lights of Joburg, holes are poked in the darkening sky one by one. Looking through the side window of the truck, I have a proper view of a night on fire. This is nothing like New Jersey; stars twinkle different colors and crowd the heavens. As I gaze, I wonder if any of them have orbiting planets like ours. South African nights take me back in time to a vacation in Hawai'i with my family as a four year old. Those nights burned with the same intensity, it's an image I will never forget. I used to be so shy then. I remember, at first, the sheer number of stars frightened me. Tonight, I am mesmerized, and I can't help but lose myself in them. It's not long before a shooting star catches my attention. My first wish: please may I return home safely. The second: please keep my family safe in the meantime. A third: I hope my project is a resounding success. I continue to make requests as the atmosphere greets each meteor, but those, my friends, those are none of your business.

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