I'm back! The return flight from Africa took almost 30 hours (and with layovers it basically was two entire days of travel), but I made it. I got back late Monday night and then spent Tuesday decompressing, trying to shake off the jet lag.
After a quick glance around, it looks like the site survived my absence. Thanks to Cranky Media Guy for filling in as the Guest Curator while I was gone. He did a great job. I guess this means I'm pretty much expendable around here!
Africa was incredible, but I had no internet access while I was there (and often no electricity either), so my apologies to anyone who tried to contact me while I was gone.
The trip consisted of a week in Malawi and two weeks in South Africa -- two very different countries. Malawi is a very rural society. In many places the lifestyle doesn't seem to have changed much there in hundreds of years. You still see numerous villages dotting the countryside, consisting of a handful of thatch huts. Women walk around with huge bundles of sticks on their heads. South Africa, by contrast, is much more modern. Many areas of it look almost exactly like America, with malls and office buildings... but down the road from the malls you find vast, sprawling shanty towns where people live in pretty wretched conditions.
One of my favorite sights in Malawi was the guys who stand by the side of the road selling mice-on-a-stick. Apparently many Malawians quite enjoy this dish. The vendors catch the mice by starting a fire in the brush to scare the rodents out. Then they spear about four or five of the critters on a stick and cook them -- fur, bones and all -- until they're charcoal black. Although I didn't sample this delicacy, I'm told that the proper way to eat a mouse on a stick is by beginning with the tail and working your way up to the head. You simply spit out the bones, much like you would do when eating chicken wings. I wanted to get a picture of a mouse-on-a-stick vendor, but I never had a chance. My sister, who lives in Malawi, promises me that she'll take a picture of one and send it to me. (In the meantime, I found some pictures of mice on a stick on a blog called Misadventures in Malawi and Beyond
I also spent a couple of days at Lake Malawi, where I kept an eye out for any sign of a Lake Malawi Monster. Lake Malawi is also known as Lake Nyassa, so it's monster, if it has one, would, I suppose, be called Nyassie. Unfortunately I didn't see a monster, though I did see a couple of otters, which I thought was pretty exciting at the time.
In South Africa, I got to visit Kruger Park where I saw elephants, rhinos, giraffe, and hippos. However, I saw no elephants on acid, nor any hippos eating dwarves.
While in South Africa, I also got to take a trip down a platinum mine, an experience which made me resolve never to quit blogging in order to become a miner.
Here's a few pictures of me from the trip. From left to right: taking a nap in a hammock at Lake Malawi, very cautiously petting a cheetah at the De Wildt Cheetah Park in South Africa, and 500 meters beneath the ground in a platinum mine (you can tell from the expression on my face that I'm feeling a little claustrophobic).