You walk out of customs and are immediately welcomed to a chorus of “taxi? taxi?” You take the first man who wears a badge and asks more politely, then climb into his minivan. You ask if there will be others, and tells you, “No, just you two.” You tell him you have no Guyanese dollars but he says it’s ok, he takes US dollars, $25 to Georgetown. You climb into the back of the minivan and head off into the dark night.
You’ve been speaking in English, but that’s where the similarities with the world you left end. The first thing that strikes you is that you’re driving on the left, and your brain takes several minutes to recalibrate so that you aren’t constantly cringing when you see headlights coming towards you on the right. But after a few minutes, your body remembers what it was like to drive on the left in South America, the UK and New Zealand, and you settle back against the seat.
The air is heavy and thick with smells. Cooking oil, manure, and an earthy smell that is completely different than the earth in Virginia or Massachusetts. That smell, combined with the white washed iron fences and gates out in front of the houses, remind you of Senegal. But the billboards are for GT&T and Digitel instead of Orange.
You pass mosques, churches, temples and pagodas all next to each other and you know, suddenly, that although much is familiar, you’re somewhere you’ve never been before.
So this is it. My last night in the States.
Yesterday I flew from Boston to West Palm Beach where my travel companion Toby picked me up and drove me to her grandparent’s house in Boca Raton. We’ve had a very leisurely day of sleeping in, going on a boardwalk stroll through the Floridian mangrove jungle of Gumbo Limbo, a quick windy walk along the beach, some quality time with grandparents doing the crossword puzzle and playing scrabble, and of course a good long chat about what to do and bring, which of course necessitated taking everything out of our bags, comparing what we’ve packed and repacking it all again.
We also brainstormed a ‘Things That Might Happen While We’re Traveling Together In the Guianas and Brazilian Amazon’ BINGO game. Instead of drawing numbers, we will have to have interesting experiences that allow us to cross off spaces on our BINGO boards. I look forward to crossing off “swimming in the ocean,” “eating a fruit I’ve never heard of” and “having a successful 8 phrase conversation in Portuguese.” And if I “throw up,” “have something stolen” or “get accidentally drenched,” at least I’ll have the consolation prize of crossing off more spaces.
How do I feel about our immanent departure? Excited. Nervous. Prepared. Unprepared. It’s calmed me a little bit to meet up with Toby and remember that I’m doing this with a close friend. Somehow in all my planning, I’d forgotten that I wouldn’t have to be taking on all of this unknown alone, at least in the beginning. And when Toby flies back after 3.5 weeks, I will have settled back into travel mode and will be ready to take on the next adventures.
So farewell, afscheid, adieu and despedida until the next blog post!
I’ve decided that instead of starting one blog for one trip, a new one for the next, doing the next trip via mass email updates, and another via scanned postcards to a flickr account, etc., I should start a non-trip-specific blog that can encompass everything past and future related to my accounts of my travels. It’s broad, I know. But I think that ultimately it will make things simpler.
So at some point I will get around to uploading pictures of all the postcards I sent during my 2005 Northern Harmony Europe trip, pull over the few posts from my Peach Among Kiwis 2009 NZ trip blog, post the mass emails I sent from my 2006 semester in Senegal and 2003 trip to South Africa, and all the travel tweets from my various trips this year. But for now, stay posted here for updates from my upcoming trip around South America January 17-May 22, in whatever form they take! Adventure ho!