Friday, May 02, 2008

Peace Corps Harem is Home

It all started while camping in central Namibia. At Spitzkoppe. They are these mountain outcroppings, and I found a big natural pool. It was very hot out and the water was brackish. I stood above the pool about six feet up, and jumped down into the black water. I don't know what possessed me not to check the depth.

I jumped into the water and landed standing upright. It was about one foot deep. I just stood there screaming. The bottom was hard stone rock, did I think it'd be sand? Idiot. The only consolation I have was that I nearly dove in head first--

When I hobbled out of the rock pool, the heel on my right foot was in major pain. Blood oozed out of the side of my heel, not in one particular place, but just like..through the cracks of my skin. I could hardly walk. It was not my finest hour.

Spitzkoppe, Namibia

You do not want to show signs of weakness while traveling Africa. Luckily, on a bus to Zambia, I met several American girls on vacation from their Namibian Peace Corps posts. They had a collective stash of hospital grade aspirin. Huge horse pills and they gave them all to me, enabling me to actually...limp.
I'm sure I broke a bone down in there because even today, my heel is still not the same. If I had insurance I'd get an x-ray.

My Peace Corps Harem. My heroines. I love these girls! (Pam, Courtney, Coppelia, and Erika)

We spent the next week together.

First, a booze cruise on the Zambezi river. These booze cruises are "All you can drink" (what are they thinking?). I nearly fell off into hippo-filled waters.

After clamoring up to the roof of the boat for this photo (below), the captain refused to go on until we got back down.
Coppelia and Jesse:

Bankrupting the Booze Cruise

The booze cruise ended looking something like this.

The Peace Corps girls also consoled me through a hopeless crush I developed on a straight South African.
He came to our room at Jollyboys hostel in Livingston, Zambia. How I wanted him to make me a jollyboy.

They were both great, but I held a certain, particular fondness for Mr. right (for reasons that should be apparent)

Why oh why aren't there any gays backpacking? On any continent? According to the girls, however, there are several gays working in the Peace Corps.

I've often considered the peace corps. But they decide where you go. And two years in one single place? I've got commitment issues and itchy feet. I hope to find another way to help.

The Peace Corps harem went with me on a day safari in Botswana, at Chobe National Park. Did you know that elephants consume and destroy so much vegetation, that Chobe park can't survive without culling their population?

They actually make money off game hunters who come in and killing a certain number of elephants each year. Take on an elephant on in a wrestling match, maybe. But what type of big man pays big money to come in and shoot the largest land mammal with a shotgun. My guess? A big man with a very small penis.

After the hunter kills the elephant, they take the tusks and incinerate the carcass...right there, on the spot.
Many times, our 4x4 drove by a large charred round in the ground...with big hunks of bone inside. Now, I ask myself, why didn't I take a picture of that?

Come here little elephant, I wouldn't hurt you...

We hit up Victoria Falls, too (below).

It was so wet, I slipped on my flip flop just before this photo was taken. Nearly fell right down into the roaring maw of Victoria Falls. For the record, that's the end I have in mind.

At the end of two rainbows!

The girls also watched as I bungee jumped off Victoria Falls Bridge.

Sometimes fear smiles.

After our adventures together, I went on solo to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, later returning to New York where I made a slutty gay film.
The Peace Corps harem went back to their respective Namibian Peace Corps posts, and continued to save the world.

Most of their work was with HIV education and prevention. Namibia has a huge AIDS rate, they say about 1 in 5 are infected. I will follow up with more on AIDS in Africa in another post, but Coppelia is now back in Arizona and has put together a fantastic website based on her time there. To learn about her work there, to see the Namibians she worked with, and to find out what you can personally do to help, please check out Coppelias View.

On her site, Coppelia's got some incredible photos from her two years in Opuwo, Namibia. Here are two:

This is a Himba woman. She is married, and one of three wives to the chief she lives with.

Before the Germans colonized the area in the late 1800's, all the natives were Himba---a semi-nomadic people wearing animal skins, and putting ochre on their skin.

The group that were colonized by the Germans separated from the Himba, and became the Hereros. Herero women wear one outer dress, with up to 15 underneath!

This is smoking Julia.

She's a Herero who sells jewelry to support her grandkids.


Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

It's unhappily true about the elephants. When I was at NgoroNgoro Crater in Tanzania some years ago, I saw the strain the elephants put on the environment there. In their quest for food, they had almost wiped out the remaining forest in the bottom of the crater.
On another, later visit to Tanzania, at Tarangire Park (near Kilimanjaro), I witnessed the tragic after-effects of elephant poaching. An entire herd of elephants was spending the mid-day hours in the scorching sun way out in the middle of a huge dry lakebed. The weakest members of the herd were dying of overexposure to the heat. Normally at that time of day, they would be staying in the cool shade of the forest. But despite the fact that poaching had been pretty much eliminated at the Park, the elephants only knew that when the poachers came, the middle of the lake, where there used to be water, was the only place they could be safe. So there they would return, regardless of the heat and the fact that the lake was now dry.
Thanks for reminding us that despite its horrendous challenges and problems, Africa is still one of the most wondrous places on earth.

Lucky Pierre said...

The Peace Corps is chock full o' poofs. I was stationed in West Africa, and of the 12 guys I trained with, only 2 were straight. I'm sure we were an exception, but boy-O-boy was I happy to be so exceptional.

Michael said...

That rainbow photo is JOY.

Mark in DE said...

Wow, sounds like a fascinating trip. Glad you didn't dive head first into that pool! I can see why you had a crush on that S African boy, too.

Mark :-)