Sunday morning wakes us and finds us all cozy.
Many of our group got up extra early to watch the sunrise. Call me a Sleeping Scrooge, but I have never found enough incentive to wake up to watch a sunrise. Not even in Africa. Sunrises and sunsets can't be too far off, right? So I'll pleasure myself with the latter.
When Josh goes over the plans for the day, he explains that Swasiland shuts down on Sundays, as the population is heavily Christian, and the day is free for us to explore and enjoy. But first, a group of us want to go to church.
We all drive to the nearest LDS chapel a town away, and a handful of us enter the building. I'm still wearing my 18 layers of clothing.
We sit down in the congregation and join in the praise. The songs begin, and no one is on key. I find it wildly amusing. One woman sings SO LOUDLY from the back of the room. I peer around Kelli to look at her -just because you have to look, ya know? Kelli and I give each other a side glance to acknowledge we're on the same page.
The meeting proceeds with beautiful talks. One about faith that really resonates with me - taking blind steps and just knowing God has our backs. The closing song begins and the woman begins bellowing again. This time I lose it completely. Kelli is the only one who joins me in stifling laughter into our palms. Of course she does. Best friends walk close.
Afterwards we gather our poise and introduce ourselves to many ward members. Then we're guided to the YSA class. It's full of young men and women, and my gosh, those black men.... I've never been so hot and bothered in a Sunday School class before. I sneak pictures on my iPhone of some of the fellows. Because, again, when in Africa, why not, right? The young sir next to me offers his scriptures and manual for me to use. Such a gentleman.
Then we proceed to Relief Society. Except now they decide to speak in their native tongue of Swatzi instead of English. So I entertain myself by inserting dialogue in my head for them. Just like I used to do with my best friend Chelsea and daytime Spanish soap operas.
After church, I walk out of class with my arm around an African lady. We laugh together about the upcoming ward "Sports Day," deciding that if I come, we should definitely be on the same team. I love connecting with people in foreign countries.
The rest of the group picks us up from church, and we head home for lunch. We're all in agreement that a hike is the best afternoon activity. We load up the van, and on the drive, we belt as many sappy songs as we can think of. I think my strongest side of cynicism comes out when Taylor Swift enters the picture. But "Let it Go" from Frozen is still top of my charts. Later I tell the other girl volunteers that my roommates and I once drove to the top of a mountain to the tune of that song, and then we each took an egg, said the name of a person we wanted to "let go", and threw the egg off the cliff. Takeaway being - turns out a splat is a very validating sound.
Anyway, we arrive at the trailhead and begin to walk. A huge ladder leads us over a high fence and onto the mountain ascent. As I climb over, Dan tells me more about his successful use of drugs. Dude, I'm the last person on the planet who will be convinced. Let's trail run for awhile. Oh, blessed trail running. I can't contain my joy.
As we continue up the mountain, we grow more spaced out with all the different paces. Candace and I stick close to each other. The trail turns from a gentle meander to a bouldering vertical ascent. Sometimes climbing hands and feet. Sweat-stained shirts. But the view is too fantastic to quit. We are determined to summit by sunset!
We reach the top. Take more photos. Listen to some Sigur Ros, while overlooking the entire valley of Swasiland with the sun setting in front of us. Life is so very magnificent sometimes.
We must head down the trail before dark, so Josh, Kelli, and I discuss future travels as we single-file back down the mountain. We've already been to four countries together, why not keep it going?
We reach the van and wait for all the others, who arrive just before dark sinks in. We drive home under the stars. Kelli, Dan, and I are squished onto a bench, and Dan keeps his arm around me while we have a deep discussion about the basic motives of people and how to motivate each differently - some motivated by pursuing pleasure, and others by avoiding pain - "You will have the time of your life!" versus "You wouldn't want to miss out." Even with his... side hobbies, he's still my favorite.
We arrive back at the base of camp where the workers have prepared our dinner. We eat impala by the fire. I share that it tastes exactly like Bishop's Storehouse canned beef. And I mostly eat everyone's beets.
We chatter under the stars until it's time for bed.
Hikes, sunsets, stars, and friends. Sometimes I feel like I'm holding all the world's joy right in in my own hands.
Upward and onward,
My sneaky Sunday School photos. I have no shame.
Tapestry at the basecamp house. Really like it.
Singing ourselves to the hiking ground.
Dan and I at the top of the trail. Lucas pretending to be spiderman.
My favorite picture of Lucas. Compliments of my meager phone photography.
Mr. Dan and myself. Apparently the tops of African mountains make you look five years younger.
Impala by the fire.