Monday, December 5, 2011

A little promo action...

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also, like our Facebook page so we can help spread the love internationally :)!

Monday, November 28, 2011

My South African Thanksgiving and Kite Lab

Happy late Thanksgiving everyone! I have now officially hosted my own Thanksgiving feast, and can’t wait to do it again. Honestly, it was much less stressful than I expected…and maybe the most relaxed Thanksgiving I’ve ever had! Alan picked up two 7 pound turkeys for our main course, and I got to work figuring out all of the sides. Our entire menu was comprised of: 2 turkeys, my grandma’s rice stuffing, green bean casserole, sour cream mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato biscuits, a cheese and fruit platter, two pumpkin pies (libby’s! Thanks mom J!!) with homemade cream cheese crust and an apple pie with a big KL on it for Kite Lab to celebrate Alan’s success. I spent most of Wednesday in the kitchen as well as all of Thursday, but it was well worth it. Thanksgiving was spent with two of Alan’s instructors from the UK, Paul and Gabby, and friends Jeanne and Jacques. Despite being only 6 people total, we managed to devour almost everything on the table (but luckily still have one pumpkin pie left). It was everyone’s first Thanksgiving, except Jacques, and no one had ever had pumpkin pie before –they all loved it :].
My birds!
The Turkey Day Crew

Alan with the Kite Lab Pie
Besides stuffing myself with Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve spent the last week working at Alan’s shop, Kite Lab, which he’s establishing as his own brand. The shop specializes in kite and surf gear as well as kite surfing lessons. Langebaan is one of the top places for kiting in South Africa because of its strong summer winds from the Southeaster and the lagoon waters. Besides helping out with logistical shop work, I’ve also been the KL photographer. My job basically consists of me photographing people during their lessons, as well as other kiters out in the water, and then telling them to head back to the shop to check out the photos. It’s all a publicity scheme, and it’s working J. I sold my first cd today, so I’m even more motivated to keep going! Although, after seeing Alan kite surf today, I’m not sure how entertained I’m going to be if I keep photographing beginners during their lessons…

Kite Lab

Also just had my second lesson yesterday and, once again, it was SO much fun!! I got on the board for a bit, but didn't get too far...Unfortunately we had to call it a day because of the high tide and the setting sun, but til next time!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Program End and the Beginning of My Next Chapter

I haven't really had an internet connection for the past few the first half of this post was from Thursday!

It’s been two days since my program ended and everyone hopped on their return flights to the states, and I’m still in a bit of denial. I’m staying with a friend from my program at the house of two of our mutual South African friends, so I’m not entirely on my own, which I think helps with the transition. What I’m most in denial about, is that four months have gone by, just like the blink of an eye. The departure of almost 170 Americans, and the gradual emptying of our house made me realize just how much has happened since we arrived in the country on July 12. All of the adventures and new people and traditions that we experienced feel as if they, too, have been packed away and are truly part of the past. I’m already feeling nostalgic about a time and place that I’m still a part of. Now, it is time for me to move on to the next chapter of my stay in South Africa, and I could not be more excited. I’m spending this week at my friends Ceri and Pieter’s home, and then will be moving up to Langebaan for the remainder of my stay. It’s a bit odd for me to be saying goodbyes to my local friends in town, since I’ll still be in the country for three more weeks, but I won’t have time to drive back into town during that period.
On another note, during this last week I have gone to the Mount Nelson Hotel twice for both morning and afternoon tea and can say that I’m quite comfortable with this becoming a regular occurrence at some point in my life J

The "lighter" version of Afternoon Tea
The Mount Nelson is a historical luxury hotel right at the top of Long Street in town, with an entrance marked by massive Greek columns and a row of palm trees. The morning tea was delicious, and I spent it with one of my closest friends on the program as a bit of a send off. Wednesday, however, my friends (Americans who are spending an extra week here) and I dished out for the afternoon tea and all I can say is that it was more than worth it. 
One of Many Plates during the Buffet Style Afternoon Tea
The afternoon tea comprises of bottomless tea as well as bottomless food…This is clearly a very dangerous situation for me, since I can never seem to eat enough food. Maybe I can call it a warm up for my South African Thanksgiving feast. There was a beautiful center table in the salon filled with tea sandwiches and elegant pastries, cakes and every other finger dessert imaginable. True bliss. After spending over two hours stuffing ourselves with all the Mount Nelson had to offer, there was really no room left for dinner that night.
Last Time on the Dreaded Steps to Campus
Another Day at Clifton....

 I’ll be spending the next few days exploring town and doing some things on my own. I really do enjoy having a bit of alone time wandering through cities, as I can absorb everything at my own pace and without another’s influence. I’m doing my best to cherish each and every day that I spend in South Africa, as I know that my days are limited. I can’t wait to return home, but I’m in love with this country, and I’m afraid for my bittersweet departure.

I’ve spent the last couple of days exploring Long Street and Kloof during the day, as well as hiking Lion’s Head on my own to have one last grand view of Cape Town. It’s been nice to wander around at my own pace and try out different restaurants that I’ve had my eye on for the last four months. Now that I’m on my own, I feel much less like a visitor, and I have no problem with that J. The weather has been incredible (averages of 80 degrees), and it seems like it’s here to stay. It was a bit of a trek to walk to Lion’s Head from my friend’s house, but totally worth it. There really are no words to describe the breathtaking views of the city once you’ve made it to the top. With two nights left in town, I’m doing my best to always be out, so that there are no regrets. Catching a bus up to Langebaan Monday morning, can’t wait for beach time! 

On the way up Lion's Head

Last Time I'll have this View....til next time CT!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Slight Change in Plans...

For those of you who don't know, I'm mixing up my previous itinerary a bit...Our program ends November 15, and I originally planned to fly out that day, now however, I've changed my mind. With the beautiful summer weather beginning to show and so many more opportunities presenting themselves, I've decided to stay until December 12. I've made such wonderful friends here that I'm just not ready to leave quite yet.

On another note, I spent the last few days in Langebaan (a little over an hour north of CT) where I had my first kiteboarding lesson. The wind wasn't perfect for it, but it definitely made me try a bit harder! It was so much fun learning how to maneuver the kite, although not the most intuitive, and the next time I go up for a lesson I'll be able to practice more in the water. Langebaan is a beautiful and quaint beach town on the West Coast and I'm still amazed by the drastic changes in scenery here in South Africa. One minute you're surrounded by dry brush, the next you're sitting on the beach with tropical turquoise waters lapping the shore.

Overlooking Shark Bay


Where am I again??

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rocking the Daisies!

Just had one of the best weekends yet in South Africa. As of last Monday, I didn't think that I would be going to the 3 day music festival, Rocking the Daisies, but my luck changed. Although tickets were only about $70, I wanted to save it for something else during my stay; instead of paying for my ticket, I ended up going for free :). How did this happen? I walked 60k to the festival! One hundred of us were selected to join the eco friendly march, Walking the Daisies. The walk began four years ago when two friends decided to promote environmental awareness and it has continued to grow every year.

Our walk began 20 minutes outside of Cape Town in Blouberg, right along the coast. It was a beautiful Thursday morning, perfect weather for walking. We were split into different color groups, given snacks and then it was time to hit the road! Besides the green initiative, Walking the Daisies is also for charity. Instead of paying for a festival ticket, each walker donates 150R to Bob's for Good, an organization that in turn donates a pair of shoes to children who have to walk several km just to get to school each day. To begin our walk, all of us took off our shoes and walked bare foot along the sandy shores. Most of the day was spent walking on the sand, which began as a very relaxing event, but soon turned into a wearisome affair. Around 5 pm, we made it to Silverstraand, a beach campsite 25km away from Blouberg.

The second day we climbed inland and up to the top of the hills surrounding Darling (the location of Rocking the Daisies). The view was incredible from the top, and we could look down upon the festival, the ultimate reward for 60k of walking and too many blisters on my feet. The blisters are another story all keep it simple, my team leader used a military treatment that causes your nerve endings to die...easily one of the most painful experiences I've ever had. After that though, it was time for some good food and music!

Looking down at Rocking the Daisies!
Singing our song, "Walking to the Daisies"
That Friday, Saturday and Sunday were some of the most fun days I've had here. Almost all of the musicians were South African, except for the headliner Band of Skulls, and they were all great. Rocking the Daisies is a bit different than US music festivals because there are several different stages that have everything ranging from the typical bands, to acrobatics and African dance. It was perfectly sunny all weekend, but the heat became unbearable during midday. Luckily, there was a dam on the wine estate where everyone was swimming and lounging about on floats. There was so much going on during the festival that it was difficult to figure out which stages to go to. No matter where I was though, it was always a good time :). Sunday morning South Africa played Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal, so RtD set up the main stage with a live broadcast of the match on the giant screen. Although everyone probably got less than 4 hours of sleep, it was PACKED. It was a disappointing loss for South Africa, but it was still fun to be surrounded by so much energy. I caught a ride home from some friends around 1, and came back coated in dust and exhausted but happy. All of my Cape Town adventures seem to compete with one another for the top place holder and there is still much to do! I'm not sure if I'm going to come back...

Cooling off by the Dam

Sunday morning rugby! Packed for the quarterfinal 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sunny Days

It's been a little while since I've posted anything, but nothing extraordinary is happening...or maybe I'm just becoming complacent with all of the wonderful aspects of the Capetonian lifestyle.

Two weeks ago my friends and I made it over a few suburbs to visit the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. These gardens are a UN world heritage site, i.e. they have a natural/cultural significance. What is special about these gardens in particular, besides the stunning flowers and fields, is that it only has indigenous plant species. The proteas and fynbos, in particular, are endemic to South Africa. The garden is separated into different biomes and is a small trek to walk through. It was a beautiful sunny day when we went, and I wish I had brought a picnic to enjoy on one of the many fields that sloped through the gardens. Instead, we ate at the garden's restaurant (it was so nice to finally go out to a decent meal!) and enjoyed lounging in the sunshine.

This past weekend, I spent Saturday at Camps Bay, a small beach town just around the corner of the mountain. Saturday marked the true beginning of Spring, as the weather has been consistently warm and cheery ever since. Typical of all South African beaches, Camps Bay was beautiful. It's right at the base of Lion's Head, and you can also see the station for the Table Mountain cable car. There is a strip of restaurants along the beach, giving it all a very small town, relaxed vibe. It reminds me of some of the coastal towns in California where time seems to slow down and nothing much matters besides what is going on right in front of you.

This Friday is the Real Beer Fest at Old Biscuit Mill, where small artisanal breweries will be offering tastings and live music and good food will accompany them. I can't wait, as I haven't been back to OBM since my first time, so I'm hoping that some of the same vendors might be there for dinner :).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Trip Through Southern Africa

Hello Everyone! Today is my second day back in Cape Town after spending the previous 10 days traveling through Zambia (a second in Zimbabwe), Botswana and Namibia. While I'm happy to be back in a city and to see the ocean, getting back into work mode is a challenge. I've received some marks back, however, and seem to be doing fine, so I know there is never reason to stress :).

Now, to begin describing my adventure...

A group of 7 of my girl friends and I left for Livingstone, Zambia on September 3. We split the flight into 2 two hour legs (both of which provided meals! I'll have to complain to all American airlines for their cheap services...) and arrived in a hot, dry Zambia in the afternoon. It took us a bit to go through passport control and take care of our visa, so the heat was a bit much, but at the same time very welcomed after chilly Cape Town. Once we got stamped we spent 20 minutes trying to convince a taxi to take all of us to our hotel for less than $30. It was a bit difficult to get all of the girls to agree, but finally we were on our way through a dusty Zambia. Being the dry season, there was very little greenery around, and most trees were completely bare and withered. We spent the next two nights at the Zambezi Waterfont campgrounds and it was total paradise! The grounds overlooked the Zambezi River (which feeds Victoria Falls) so we rested up on the deck to take in the sights. That evening was very low key, but we made sure to sign up for extra activities at Vic Falls...Somehow, I ended up signing myself up for bungee jumping, who knows what I was thinking...It never really hit me though until the next day when I was standing on the edge of the platform about to fall 111 meters. We woke up early the next morning to make it to Vic Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. The falls are divided between both Zambia and Zimbabwe, but we could only view them from the Zambia side because we would need an additional visa (and $50) to cross the border. Although it is the dry season and the water volume is lower, the falls were still stunning. The Zambezi branches out across Zambia to form a magnificent curtain of powerful waterfalls that seem to plummet deep into the earth. I still don't understand how the Zambezi contains that much water. After getting our fair share of photos (and also getting soaked from the spray) it was time to head to the bridge.

One of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World
Vic Falls bungee used to be the tallest in the world, but now is in third place at 111 meters. The bridge is the connection between Zim and Zambia, so you have to get a temporary stamp just to get to the bungee. My number ended up being the first to go, which was both a blessing and a curse. Of course, I started getting anxious as they strapped me in and realizing that I had no way out, but at the same time, I hadn't seen anyone else bungee yet, so I didn't really know what to expect. They shouted out my number and it was time to go. I had to duck out onto a smaller platform where they would do the final harnessing, i.e. wrap giant towels around your legs and then another strap around those, which you would then hang upside down from. Then, it was go time. Because your legs are wrapped in by these towels, you have to waddle out to the edge (the whole time using all of your energy not to trip over). You're told to jump out away from the platform with your arms up and they give you no time to think about the jump, all they do is get your arms up then shout "1, 2, BUNGEE" and they push you off. It's funny because for being such an adrenaline rush, I don't really remember the first part of the fall. It was terrifying the first split second of falling, but then you're just soaring through the air, completely liberated. I wasn't prepared for the second drop, however, and that's when my brain turned on again and realized what I was doing. As you get pulled back up by the force of the drop, you end up floating for a split second (that feels like forever) and then dropping again. This happens several times until you're left spinning upside down waiting for a guy to come down and get you. Those drops were much worse than the initial one because you couldn't really tell how far you were falling or when it would stop. Either way, I survived! After everyone had gone we headed back to the hotel where we would later go on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi and see a bit of wildlife.

The next morning we began our drive to cross the Chobe River border into Botswana. The Chobe River intersects four different countries, and from the ferry crossing you can see Namibia, Botswana, Zim and Zambia. When we arrived, there were at least 60 giant trucks waiting to get on one of two car ferries, both of which could only hold 2 trucks at a time. Our guides had told us that this could take up to 5 hours, so we prepared for the worst. Somehow, our crazy driver Errol passed all of the trucks (most likely with a little bribery...) and we were soon on our way to Botswana. We spent the rest of the day in Kasane and also went on a sunset cruise on the Chobe River. This cruise was much better than the last because of the abundance of wildlife. Chobe is much greener than the area surrounding the Zambezi and the marsh islands in the middle of the river provided protected grounds for wildlife. We saw everything up close, from elephants, buffalo and kudu to even crocodiles. Now, crocodiles are probably my least favorite reptile, so I wasn't too enthused, but at the same time, I had never seen a wild one before. We floated up to a 6-7 foot crocodile basking in the late afternoon sun, as our guide was explaining that crocs are only active at night because they need the heat from the day the croc shut its mouth and started moving. All of a sudden, it's turning towards us and charging down the shore to our boat that was only a few feet away. It plunged into the water and for about 30 seconds it couldn't be seen anywhere (in the mean time I didn't dare lean over the edge of that boat). Soon enough it popped back up, but you could only see its tiny eyes in the dark water. That night we had an amazing dinner called potjie, which is a South African stew. This was probably the best week of food I've had since I arrived in SA and I definitely miss the meals cooked over the fire! The next day we hopped back on our giant overland truck and went into Gweta. The arid dustiness of Botswana continued to surprise me, as I always imagined it to be very green and lush. Our campsite was called "Planet Baobab" because of the gigantic baobab trees that grow in Gweta. These trees are also called "upside down trees" because of their root like branches. We were all so filthy from sitting in the truck and heat for the last couple days so when we heard there was a pool we were ecstatic. There was even a little fountain in it! We spent another night around the campfire and hanging out with our group in the kitschy camp bar. I want to steal their design; the chandeliers were made out of Amstel bottles, the chairs were cow hide and the walls were covered in original spreads from the 1950-60 editions of Drum Magazine. It was a really cool place, and definitely not what I expected from a campsite literally in the middle of nowhere.

Next stop, Maun and the Okavango Delta. To reach Maun on time, we had to get up before sunrise (around 4:30 am). I could've sworn that it was darker when I woke up than when I fell asleep. Once we reached Maun we had time to grab giant water bottles and snacks then it was time to head into complete isolation. There had been news that a bridge had washed away that would allow us to leave Maun and get to Ghanzi (our next stop after the delta) and the only other way to get to Ghanzi was to drive 2000 km around the delta. Luckily, we were spending 2 nights in the delta, and our driver was going to be the one to suffer this long drive. Thus, we had to unload everything (most of which we took to the delta) while we thought he'd be traveling around us -turns out they put up a temporary bridge so we were able to go on our planned route-. To get to our bushcamp site we had to take an hour long speed boat ride through the main channel to get to a small village/makuro station. Makuros are long skinny canoe like boats that are "paddled" by people called polers; they use long bamboo like sticks to push through the delta silt and reeds. We all got packed into our makuros and it was time for our 2 hour journey into the largest inland delta in the world. It was midday, and while the ride was initially pleasant, it quickly turned south. It was so hot and the constant spider check (oh yes...there are spiders in these reeds) made the trip painfully slow about half way through. I have no idea how our poler, Alvin, was able to remember which way to go. While there were narrow paths through reeds, from our perspective, it seemed like there was no structure. We passed small islands, and an elephant, until we at last reached ours. For the next two nights we would have no electricity or running water, so you know what that means...our "bathroom" ended up being a hole in the ground, where the "door" was a trowel and toilet paper (when they were missing, that meant the door was closed...). Our guides stayed with us the whole time and took us on a sunset game walk and also a sunrise walk the next morning on the main island. It was an amazing experience that I know I'll never forget. The only people that we saw for those three days were people from our group. The silence and serenity on the delta is indescribable, as all you can hear are the birds and the soft wading of the makuro. While I know I'll always need the luxuries of civilization, it was nice to take a break from it and not think about just how dirty we were...After our second night it was time to pack up again and get back to Maun. Luckily, we left at 8 am so the makuro ride was much more bearable (and surprisingly there were no spiders!yay!).

Sunset on the Delta
When we arrived back at our departure camp site lunch was waiting for us, and it wasn't an ordinary lunch, it was hamburgers. I'm not sure what it is about hamburgers, but there's something about them when you're exhausted that makes them the best meal in the world. We weren't even starving because of course our guide, Mareika, made incredible meals. All I know, is that the burger and fries on my plate disappeared in under 5 minutes. That night we all hung out on the water after another filling dinner. The next morning apparently a monkey had taken our bag of left over spaghetti and scampered up a tree with it. In the middle of its happiness one of our group members came running out and yelling at it, at which point it quickly dropped the bag and hurried off. Of course, there was little point in getting the bag back since the monkey had already feasted on it. I also noticed that my bananas were missing from my bag which I had forgotten to put inside my tent.

We drove on towards Ghanzi, a campsite in the Kalahari, where Bushmen provided educational walks. I didn't go on one, but everyone said it was great. The whole camp was solar powered, meaning they ran out of electricity at about 11 pm. That night, however, there was a full moon and the whole desert was glowing in pale blue moonlight. This was to be the last night that we camped, and I was a bit sad to think that we would have to return to the real world and actually try to appear decent in public. I'd grown quite comfortable in my 5 shirts, 1 pair of shorts and 1 pair of pants, but I was ready for a nice shower!

Camping in the Kalahari

Driving 8 hours to reach Namibia's capital, Windhoek, I was surprised by the change in scenery. The entire trip we had more or less been driving in a completely flat desert. As soon as we crossed the border, we were still in the desert, but the trees had leaves on them! Green leaves! There were also mountains that interrupted the otherwise flat landscape. Soon enough, we entered Windhoek, which looked like a real city, not the small towns that we were used to. To our surprise, we drove up to a beautiful hotel where we would spend our last night. It was complete luxury. We had beds, a huge shower, a pool and finally we were clean! We ate dinner at Joe's Beerhouse, which was a touristy place (that locals still go to) that serves game meat such as zebra, kudu, crocodile, etc.. Since being in Africa I've already eaten: ostrich, croc (tough and fishy, not my favorite), kudu and springbok. I couldn't get myself to eat the zebra, but I did try the oryx (or gemsbok) which was quite tasty :).

We flew back the following day, while half of our group traveled on through Namibia. I really wish I could've done the additional leg because Namibia's landscape looks like another world. It would have been an even more incredible experience and I'd have fantastic photos to prove it. Overall, this was the best spring break I've ever had and am so happy that I had the opportunity to travel in such unique places where I may never go again.