where i've been...

My travel map

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Market

This is a picture of the chickens I saw at the market two days ago. Yes, all of those chickens are still alive. Just tied up and waiting to be sold, then of course slaughtered. Actually, we have to go get chickens today in a few minutes. There is no such thing as picking up some chicken breasts or thighs or wings at the supermarket here. You want chicken? Go buy a live one and kill it. Or go buy chicken meat that has just been cooked. Option A or Option B.

The internet here has been really spotty, so I haven't done a very good job at blogging. It is really an incredible place and experience, and I feel like I have so much to write about and reflect upon. But I dont have time to do it now...so you'll have to wait!

Oh, but want to know my favorite thing??? (Well, maybe not my real favorite, but a little hyperbole goes a long way, right?) The other day we asked some the Ugandan's who work in the organization if they knew what McDonalds was. What was there response? "McDonalds? What is that?" So the McDonalds empire hasn't conquered the entire world...yet.

Kruger pics

As I fight with internet connections in Uganda, here are a few of my favorite pictures from Kruger National Park in South Africa. Truly an amazing time. Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

the breakup

Well, that's what it feels like! Tomorrow Rahima will board a plane to Australia while I fly up to Uganda for just under two weeks. It feels so weird, considering we have spent nearly every waking (and sleeping) minute side by side. Incredibly, we have done so without one fight. Lots of laughs though, and a really good balance of personalities. Now that is a good travel buddy and a great friend! Now if only I could find a guy who can put up with me like that...

So back to Uganda. My friend Chris (Young) is working with an organization in Uganda and so I decided to go check out what he is doing while I am so close. Since it wasn't in our original plan, Rahima will stick to our itenerary and I'll meet up with her in a few weeks time.

We had a blast in Kruger Park. We had incredible luck and saw all of the big 5 (lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhino) along with so many other amazing creatures. Hippos are pretty cool. :). I got some amazing pictures and even got chased by a greedy little monkey who snuck into the car and stole two plums. I kept him from stealing the whole food bag, but boy was he mad at me. He hissed at me and then literally ran after me, grabbing at my ankles and scaring the sh*t out of me! Nasty little buggers, but very cute.

We just got back to Jo-burg tonight and everything is closed early being a saturday evening, so no great internet cafes to upload pictures. The hotel where we are staying wants $25 US for 4 hrs of computer usage. Yeah right! I could live for days on that.

Monday, March 16, 2009

out of service

This is just a quick note to let you all know that we head to Johannesburg today (we are currently waiting to board the plane at a nice and early 5:33am) and then we drive up to Kruger National Park where we will be intil the 22nd. Don't know how the coverage is there, so don't worry about me if I go MIA for a few days here!

We had an amazing time in Cape Town and stayed with a friend of a friend, Jess, who is quite possibly one of the most inspiring and humble people ever. She is doing her MA on sustainable environments and communities and her work is so interesting. The institute that she is linked up with is affiliated with a government (public) school, which she took us to visit yesterday. Her mom (also amazing) is the director of finance for a private school which we got to go visit as well. Two very different worlds for sure, and really great to be able to see both, so close together and yet so distinct.

We definitely could have stayed much longer in CT, but had to keep moving since we had booked accomodations in Kruger a few weeks back. Urgh! How I hate schedules these days. Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Stop and think

So yesterday we visited Robben Island, just off the coast of Cape Town. It is famous for being the prison for many political leaders, such as Nelson Mandela. It is very similar to Alcatraz, in the sense that it is a prision-island, off the coast of a city on a peninsula, with beautiful view of the city itself. It is now a national museum and no longer a prison, but our tour guide through the prison part of the tour was actually an inmate himself from 1984 to 1989. The inmates were forced to do hard, manual labor 8 hours a day, 7 days a week in the quarries, (which due to extreme sunlight reflecting off of the limestone rock caused many eye problems for the prisoners) on only a liter of coffee for breakfast each day. They were supposed to do this for six months, but it lasted for 13 and a half years. Nelson Mandela himself had his eyes operated on after he became free and no longer produces tears from the tear ducts in his eyes.
The thing that struck me the most was that these prisoners were not rapists or murderers, but political leaders, who opposed the government. Great lengths were taken to isolate these leaders and their followers so that they could not organize from within the prison. Many of the inmates were iliterate upon arrival, but through the idea of “each one teach one” they secretly educated almost all of the inmates. This was done scribbling in sand in caves of the quarry that were supposed to be used for bathrooms, but that prisoners agreed to only use for these quick lessons during the day, which means they didn’t go to the bathroom all day long, but the guards thought they did. They also would secretly exchange messages buy burying them in certain places, or even hiding messages in tennis balls, which they were allowed to use to exercise sometimes. This way, they could exchange ideas between the 8 different cell blocks of separated prisoners.
One of the saddest stories was of a man, Robert Sobukwe, who was deemed such a leader that they actually built him a single room house on the island and forbade him to interact with anyone, including guards. He died something like 13 years later, still in this type of solitary confinement. Can you imagine?
While Cape Town is beautiful, and we have been enjoying many of its wonders, one only has to drive a few minutes outside of the town to see all of the Townships, where many of the blacks live. The townships are literally made of corrugated tin houses, and at dusk the dividers between the four to five lane major highways are filled with everyone who has come out to play soccer. I mean hundreds of people, from kids to adults, just playing between the freeways. It is a totally different way of life.
It really makes me grateful for the freedoms that we definitely take for granted in our country, and it also leaves me with a sense of confusion about our world. How can this really be an acceptable way of life? How do we change and help these people overcome the circumstances that society has left them with? I don’t really know that there are any clear-cut answers, but it sure does remind me that we all need to think about these things, because they exist. Not just in the past, but in the present and in our future.

Why I like South Africa

1- it is warm. :) I like that a lot.

2- the accent is really cool. I like accents.

3- they drive on the "wrong" side of the road, which I am now getting used to. It is a little bizzare to shift with your left hand, signal with your right, and regardless of how good I am getting at this, as soon as I climb in the driver's seat, I inevitably reach over my LEFT shoulder for the seatbelt!

4- did I mention it is warm?

5- in Cape Town the hiking is literally overlooking the city. Look up, there is a big mountain (or two or three or five) to hike. We hiked Table Mountain yesterday, and I am sore today!

6- wildlife. Okay, so I've only seen great white sharks and huge monkeys crossing the road so far, but soon we will head to Kruger Park to see more big game.

7- they make outstanding wine.

8- they have penguins. :)

9- they call stoplights "robots".

10- they make a really great liqour from a fermented fruit that tastes a lot like baileys irish cream, but better. Apparently there are videos of elephants and baboons alike eating this fallen marula fruit, and getting drunk, and then being hungover the following day. now that is funny.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Sometimes great things take place on Thursdays. For example, I was born on a Thursday, and todays Thursday will be just as important and memorable to me as that was. Why? Because today, I went on a boat off the coast of South Africa, suited up, and waited patiently with 14 other passengers as the crew started chumming...for great whites.

They had warned us that because the sharks are wild animals they can't guarantee any sightings, and the first boat out this morning saw no sharks at all. Well, our luck was much better.

It only took about 45 minutes before the first (and littlest at about 2 meters) made an appearance. We all gawked from the boat, then the cage was lowered in and they asked for the first five suckers who wanted in. Rahima and I probably would have knocked people clear off the boat to get in first, and lucky for them, no one was in our way. So in we went and waited for our little friend to come back.

The water is pretty murky so you kind of balance in the cage without scuba gear or a snorkel (apparently the regulator bubbles annoy the sharks and keep them further away) and keeping all hands and toes in the cage. When the sharks get close (lured by the chum and a bunch of fish heads all tied to a buoy) the crew baits it towards the cage (within inches literally) and they yell "down" and you hold your breath and submerge yourself to see the big fish swim by. It is really cold, but you are so excited, waiting at eye level to the surface for jaws. And when you see these sharks you forget about everything else. You just want them to stay right in front of you so you can study them...but they couldn't care less what you want, and why should they?

You can surprisingly see a lot more of the sharks from the boat than from in the cage, and even with that said, I had semi-jinxed shark luck. They are the only surface feeding sharks (sorry surfers) so they come up, jaws fin and all, and then grab their prey, sometimes even launching themselves clear out of the water because of the speed they use for their surprise attacks (as many of you have probably seen on Discovery. Yup, that's here.)

The first shark to really grab at the bait came up right as I looked down to pass someone a pair of booties. Then I went in the cage and saw it swim by, but no looking down its throat or anything. The next time, on the boat I turned to go get my fleece, and shark number 2 showed his face. The third time I looked left, it was right. So I saw a lot of fins and back and thrashing (and boy do they thrash like you wouldn't believe!) and underwater shark, but not that real picture perfect jaws face I had been hoping for.

So when we got the chance to go back in the water, we jumped in. After about 15 freezing minutes of waiting in the cage I joked that if I got out a shark would definitely come, and kind of believed it. Rahima told me to take one for the team and get out. So, numb fingers and toes, I climbed out, grabbed my camera and focused on the bait. And true to the day, about 7 minutes later the last shark came into sight. Huge sucker. About 3.5 meters and massive. He came right at the cage, mouth open and hit the cage sideways, about 5 feet from me in the boat and probably 5 inces from Rahima in the cage. We couldn't believe our luck. And I got a decent picture. It was perfect.

So like I said, sometimes great things happen on Thursdays. How was yours? ;)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So, what do you miss?

Simple question, right? Deserves a simple answer.

Mexican food.

Seriously. I never actually realized how much the rest of the world is completely deprived of really good Mexican food. For the last five months, even in South America, we have not seen a whole lot of Mexican food and we have observed a complete absence of black beans. Can you imagine?

So yesterday I headed out to Oxford, which is LOVELY, to see a friend from college I hadn't seen since then. He's been livin there for about 5 years and one of the first questions he asked was "when was the last time you had a really good burrito?". Just hearing the words made my mouth water. I think he recognized the look on my face (which probably conveyed a combination of really high hopes for good Mexican food and a psychotic twitch of what bodily harm I might try to inflict if this were just a mean spirited joke) and said that a pretty good Mexican place had recently opened up there. :)

I actually finished the whole burrito (anyone who knows how much I normally eat at one sitting should be shocked) along with a good old Sol beer. Yummy.

The other "food" I miss is hostess cupcakes. (Yes...I know. That's why I put quotes around food!). I swear that if I find them I might have to eat a few packages at once.

Other than that, London has been a really fun time to wander and to catch up with a lot of good people. We sent back our jackets and donated some other warm stuff this morning. (Side note, who knew mailing this was SO expensive?!?) We just went on the London Eye (thanks Joe!) Which gave us nice parting views of the city. In a few hours we'll head the airport and onto South Africa, where we will be for a few weeks. Warm weather, here we come!!!

Friday, March 6, 2009

quick update

Well, it seems that when we are staying with friends or couchsurfing we visit internet cafes much less frequently and therefore the blog falls a bit to the wayside...so here I will attempt to give a quick recap of the last week of our trip.

1-We passed our 5 month anniversary of starting the trip on March 2nd. And learning from our previous mistakes, we made NO attempt to travel on that day. It was great. Well, kind of. We did rent a tandem bike in Amsterdam, and come to think of it, after riding clear across the city and out into more of the suburbs, the back tire broke. We had to walk the bike back clear across town, which took about an hour and a quarter. Hmmm...maybe April 2nd we'll just stay indoors!

2-We officially used up our eurail pass. Lukily we were able to squeeze about an extra week out of the thing, due to brilliant forgery. :)

3-We are now back in London, our final stop in Europe before we leave this continent. We have met so many great people from in and around London on our trip so far, that we are taking a few days just to meet up with them here before we move on. Kind of funny to have a social calendar.

4-I met a guy in Jordan who is British, but convinced that I would like olives if I just ate 13 of them in a row. We made a bet (he clearly had no idea how stubborn I can be) that I would try to eat them. Well, I did it in Berlin...lined up 13 of the little suckers and Rahima videoed it. All I can say is...I STILL dislike olives very, very much. Apparently though, I should have known to get "good olives", but what do I know? So last night, we all met up and went to see Les Miserable. Oh...how I love that musical. Ed and Rahima were a little perturbed by the fact that every word is actually sung in the MUSICAL, and Ed came to the great conclusion that the French Revolution was not caused by poverty or strife, but because they were sick of singing everything. :)

I think that just about catches us up!