Monday, May 10, 2010

The rest of the trip was great, albeit a bit muddy. The next day we left early in the morning for Zambia where we stayed at a campsite near Victoria Falls. Not too long after we got there, the bus took us to the falls and we got to go in for free. It was absolutely breathtaking! There was no avoiding getting soaked, though. I brought a poncho but it wasn’t long before I discarded it—it wasn’t helping much. The next day Will and I went back to Victoria Falls and explored a 600-meter downwards hike (it was pretty much vertical on the way up) to what is called the boiling point. It was a fairly secluded spot, but totally awesome to see. We were able to see people bungee jumping off of the bridge overlooking the falls on the Zimbabwe side—I didn’t jump myself this time.
The rest of the day and night we just hung out and saw the Saturday group who arrived that day. On Saturday, I just sat around and swam and then drank with the others once the day was over. We left early on Sunday morning, which was great because the immense amount of rain the night before and that morning completely flooded the campsite. Everything was covered in mud and we were all ready to go home to beds and showers. Ten days in the wilderness was starting to get to us—not to mention that we were all pretty hung over.
The next interesting thing I did after the camping trip was probably AfrikaBurn—a music and arts festival based on the annual Burning Man Festival in the states. Money is not allowed and everyone is expected to participate and contribute by “gifting” and fair trade. Held in the middle of the Klein Karoo Desert in a town called Tankwa, the weather was dry and hot during the day and freezing at night. Will, his friend Andre, and I drove together in Andre’s minivan. Right before we left we were informed that we didn’t have a spare tire. Already running a bit late, we figured there was nothing we could do at that point and left anyway. Everything was going smoothly until we were about 40 km from the campsite. All of a sudden it sounded like a bunch of rocks were stuck in the tire. Just to be safe, Andre got out and looked to make sure everything was okay even though it didn’t feel like we had a flat. It wasn’t long before Will and I heard Andre yell: “F@%k!” We both jumped out of the car and had nearly the same reaction when we saw that one of the back tires was absolutely shredded to pieces. The tire had actually ripped off the wheel! I had never seen a flat so bad.
A couple of people stopped to help—the first being Hans and Mark who couldn’t help us since we didn’t have a spare but offered to stop by our camp to let our friends know we were deserted. Thinking this to be the best option we waited in the car (it was freezing by this point) until a massive camper pulled up to us and asked if we needed help. Explaining our situation, they suggested that we grab the things we absolutely needed and they would give us a lift to the site. Quickly, we put on our warmest clothing, grabbed our tents and some gin (we were in for a long night) and hopped into the camper. It turned out the driver was the guitarist in a band playing at the festival. His campsite was based on M*A*S*H and appropriately called M*A*S*H*E*D. Also in the camper were his wife, Eileen and his son, Sebastian. They were really nice and it was great that we didn’t have to spend the night in the car.
It wasn’t too long of a drive before we got to the site, easily recognizable by the pink jellyfish illuminated and floating in the air. The campsite was named the Succulents and they had nearly finished building a massive “Cactopus” which would serve as a dance floor. The festival was set up like a clock, each site at a different time. Will and I had some gin and then went exploring a bit. It didn’t last too long because we were pretty tired, but we headed over to “Desert Rose” which was set up like a saloon and filled with drunken patrons who were dancing and drinking whiskey. There was a huge wheel beside a sign titled “Whiskey Whores” where you could spin the wheel and receive a free shot of whiskey on the condition that you complete the task the wheel lands on. One of our friends had to lick hot sauce off of her friend’s nipple. Not a big fan of whiskey and a little too shy to be licking nipples, I opted out of this activity and consequently ran into Mark and Hans.
An hour or so later, I ran into Will again by the jellyfish and we set up our tent and headed to bed. In the morning, Andre had gone to fetch the rest of our things and to deal with the tire situation. Will and I took a walk around to see all the different campsites in the daylight. We stopped at one place that was set up in the middle like a coffee shop and they served us miniature lattes and biscuits. After the coffee, we headed back to the Succulents and helped assemble the paper lanterns used to make a trail—each person could take one, fill it with sand, and then write a dream on it, placing it next to the one before it, creating a path. They were filled with LED lights so that at night they lit up and illuminated the trail. While we were doing this, some ladies came by with cherries that they had marinated in brandy for three months. They were delicious, but really strong! Still they insisted we take as many as we like and each one was better than the last.
Once I popped what felt like a million lanterns, I did some more exploring. I walked to the site called “Down the Rabbit Hole” where there was a tunnel which had random things hanging inside, including flowers and a potholder, and led into a small square room with a black and white checkered floor. On the left side was a tiny table with a series of tiny bottles sporting tags that read “Drink Me” (they were filled with brandy). On the right wall there was a door sized for a small child that brought me into an oblong room blasting trippy music where people dressed in crazy outfits were dancing around a long picnic table. The DJ was wearing a caterpillar suit and there was a man running around dressed as the Mad Hatter. On the picnic table we loads of tiny cupcakes and teapots and cups for anyone who wanted some. It actually felt like I fell down the rabbit hole. It was so neat!
At another site, there was a massive heart that spun and in the dark it looked multi-dimensional against black lights. Featured inside this tent were free yoga sessions, consultations with a love guru, and a showing of the Muppets movie for all. Many of the campsites had various canvases to paint on, including a shovel, a massive tarp, and a floor. In the middle of the venue, there was a massive Lego man that had been left from the year before and a cannon that shot anvils on the hour. The anvils only went about two feet because they were so heavy but the randomness of the act was entertaining. There was also a house on wheels that had really good DJs every night and a living room built off the right side of it.
Nighttime was surely the best part of the festival, however. Many of the structures built around the festival were burned come sundown and this was quite entertaining….
And once again, my friends I am going to leave you hanging. Only this time, I promise to finish tomorrow.
<3 B

Thursday, April 1, 2010

As I was finishing up a philosophy paper that I had been avoiding for the past week, I realized it was past 2 AM already. I had to be outside of the pharmacy at 4:40 AM, packed and ready to go. Of course, I had only thrown a couple shirts in a duffel bag and was far from prepared for the impending trip. Still, I decided to sleep for an hour or so—as if that would help at all. I woke up reluctantly around 4 AM and sloppily put together the rest of my bag.

The early morning still dark from the late night, we all piled onto a large bus, our bags in our laps, and our heads in our hands. We drove the short distance to the Cape Town International Airport and checked in for our flight to Johannesburg. While we waited to board, some of us went to get coffee or something to eat. As I normally have trouble functioning in the AM, I didn’t fail to convey this fact. After ordering a Coke Light from the man behind the counter, I proceeded to spill the cup—ice and all—all over the counter and him. He was nice about it, but I still felt bad. He probably didn’t want to be awake either.

Soon enough, we boarded the plane and were on our way to Johannesburg. Once we landed, we all gathered our luggage and climbed onto the huge safari-esque truck. We stopped somewhere between Jo’burg and Botswana for lunch and I managed to find a South African soccer jersey for a cheap price. Better yet, the jersey was a kids’ size so it actually fit me! I’m still in love with it.

After hours of driving, we made it to the border and left South Africa for Botswana. We had to get our passports stamped and it took quite a while—although it may have seemed longer because of the suffocating heat. Once we passed through, we drove for a while more and ended up at Camp Ithumela in Botswana.

I set up my tent quickly and immediately got into a bathing suit. The truck was so hot and then the inside of the tent did me in—I made a beeline for the pool. Typical of Brittany Behavior, my next stop was the bar where I made friends with the owner, her daughter, and her son (the bartender). I ended up behind the bar at the end of the night—making drinks for the owner and her friends! They threatened to kidnap me as their new bartender—it was difficult to resist. I stayed up all night and when the morning came, I drunkenly took down my tent—or tried to—and was force-fed a slice of toast by our group leader.

Once everything was packed away, we set off for Maun, Botswana to a campsite near the Okavango Delta. Once again we drove for quite some time but eventually we made it there. Some people went on a plane ride over the Delta and saw lots of animals from the sky, but I decided to go to town and get some of the things I forgot to pack. It was just my luck that the stores had all closed since Botswana basically shuts down by 5 PM on Saturdays. Oh well.

This paired with the incessant driving began to get to me by the end of the day, as conveyed by this journal entry I wrote that night:

This trip is supposed to be amazing. I’ve still got faith, but so far I feel like I’ve just been travelling and not getting anywhere. I’m tired of being on that bus for several hours at a time, sweating profusely and reluctantly overhearing conversations I would have loathed in middle school, let alone presently. All of this is irritating enough, but I think the worst thing is how badly my stomach hurts. These malaria pills are giving me an unspeakable amount of discomfort! Of course when the statistic says something along the lines of 1 in 140 people will experience nausea from Malarone, I’d fall into the category of the former. Ugh.
Having dodged sleep last night, I thought it might come to me pretty easily tonight. Yet despite how exhausted I should be, I’ve found myself wide-awake, wishing I had a fan or at least the ability to pass out. I just finished And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks collectively wrote by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. It was pretty good but now I have nothing to read so this insomnia is all the more frustrating.

Things looked up as they always do and the trip began to get more interesting. I finally got to sleep at some point in the early morning hours, but it felt as if I’d slept for less than an hour when Mike, our travel coordinator, woke me up a little past 5 AM. It wasn’t long before everything was packed up and we were ready to head into the Okavango Delta. A huge open-aired Mercedes safari truck pulled up to the campsite and after we stocked the tents under the seats and grabbed our daypacks, we all hopped in. It took an hour and a half or so to get to the village bordering the Delta, but when we arrived there were a plethora of little boats called ‘mokoros’ waiting for us. The “pullers”—the people who steer the boat with a long stick—put our things inside and instructed us to get inside in groups of two. The boat ride down the Delta was amazing and lasted about an hour and a half. The water was covered in lily pads and flowers and bordered by long, green reeds on either side. It was so peaceful lying lazily in the boat while we were pushed to our destination: a secluded island somewhere in the middle of the Delta.

We spent the first day mostly relaxing and going for swims in the designated spot. The village people had dug a hole up a small hill to use as a toilet—not something I had done before or looked forward to. At the end of the day, we took a walking safari on another island nearby, but we didn’t see any animals—mostly plant life. However, the next morning’s longer safari yielded close views of elephants and a close encounter with a warthog. Our last day in the Okavango ended with a sunset mokoro ride where we all sat in the boats and watched the breathtaking view of the setting sun from the water. All I could think of was an old John Mayer song that perfectly describes how I felt at that moment: “Didn’t have a camera by my side this time—hoping I could see the world through both my eyes. Maybe I can tell you all about it when I’m in the mood to lose my way with words.”

We left early the next morning to head back to Maun. Once we arrived, we relaxed for a little bit and ate some lunch. Then we packed up our tents and headed for Zambia. Yet again, the drive was long but we stopped before we reached Zambia at a campsite called Planet Baobab in Botswana. This campsite was by far the most beautiful of all, which was why it was a bummer that we only stayed for one night. Still, we enjoyed the time we had there and swam in the enormous pool until the sun went down. We called it a night after gazing at the massive amount of stars that shone more brightly than I’d ever seen.

I’m going to post the above to hold everyone over…but there is more to come about the rest of the trip. Enjoy in the meantime!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wow, it’s been quite some time since I’ve written. The leisurely pace of Cape Town is starting to get to me I suppose. Not too much has happened (especially compared to all of the other events thus far) since my last post but I guess anything is worth writing about. At least my mom will enjoy it. ;)
I had my first Afrikaans test today. There were 45 questions for 45 minutes and they were all written! It was kind of difficult, but the length was really was made it more difficult. But, it’s over! Yay!
I’m really doing a poor job at keeping up with this thing. I wrote that last paragraph nearly a week ago. Anyway, over the weekend interstudy took us to Aquila Private Game Reserve about two and a half hours outside of Cape Town. When we got there we split up into two groups to volunteer in the nearby town of Touwsriver. I was placed at the old age home where we renovated the common room. We had to remove all of the furniture, prime the walls and then repaint them. It was pretty hard work—my hands were blistered afterwards—but it looked a lot nicer. I think it would have been better if we painted the walls a different color than the original, though. Some of the girls painted different types of flowers on the walls to try and brighten up the room. Some of them looked pretty, but if I were an old person I wouldn’t want to look at paintings you’d see in an elementary school classroom. Once the room was finally finished, we all collapsed into the chairs, sweating profusely and exhausted. An older woman in a wheel chair rolled into the room shortly after and gave us a very long speech about how she went into a coma and died and then came alive again. Apparently she saw Jesus and now we all have to follow him because he is going to come back any day now and we will see the holes in his hands and feet. He’s also going to take all of us who have faith in him to heaven while the rest of us will be suffering “hell on earth”. It was a very long and crazed speech and not exactly what we were trying to listen to at the end of the day, but she eventually thanked us for what we did and left. Then the people who organized the volunteer work came in with beers for us, which made up for all of her religious babbling.
The other group got to volunteer at an orphanage, which made me pretty jealous since I would have much rather played with kids, but they also worked pretty hard. Over all, we all were glad to have helped out a little bit by the end of the day, even with the temperature being over 111°F. We even finished with enough time to run to the liquor store before we went back to the reserve.
On the bus everyone was pretty worn out but we had an hour or two to chill out before we went on our first game drive. The place was absolutely beautiful, with two pools—the one having a bar with stools in the water. Will and I had a drink for the effect and then changed for the drive. We all gathered in the front of the lodge and hopped into huge jeeps headed for the dusty trails of the reserve. My group saw elephants, hippos, rhinos, lions, ostriches, springboks, wildebeests, zebras, buffalo, and giraffes. Before we headed back for the massive braai, we stopped and were served champagne among the animals.
The braai was amazing. There was a plethora of different foods set upon a long table by the circular fire pit where we ate. After eating, I engaged in the drum circle led by one of the people who lived at the reserve. Having been more than a few drinks deep, I called it a night fairly early (before midnight) especially since we were scheduled to go on another drive at 6AM the next morning. Apparently I missed out on skinny-dipping and naked chicken fights, affectionately deemed “interstudy gone wild,” but that’s not my story to tell…
The next morning I awoke reluctantly before six to go on the drive. The sun was not up yet, so once we got into the jeeps we were able to watch it rise among the mountains and indigenous plant life of the reserve. This time we saw cheetahs and a leopard in addition to the other animals. They reminded me of bigger versions of Mia. It’s funny how every cat acts the same. No matter what species of cat, it always has an attitude.
When we got back from the drive we were given a breakfast buffet and then we spent the rest of the day by the pool, tanning, reading and swimming. I’m probably the tannest I’ve been since I got here!
Last night we went to Mercury, a club in town, which has good specials on Monday nights. I got a “cane” and cream soda for only 5R! Cane is a type of alcohol, I think derived from sugar cane, which is really common in South Africa. A band played for a little while—they were okay, a little too “emo” for me. Somehow the several of us girls that went managed to spend little to no money, milking the free drinks from fellow bar flies and then fleeing the scene.
I promise in time I’ll write about all of the other noteworthy things that I have scribbled in fragments on miscellaneous pieces of paper, but as I have two papers due next week in addition to a test, I’m going to hold out on you all. Sorry guys!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Okay so there’s a LOT I have to tell you all about since my last post. On Monday twelve of us went on the Garden Route…a long path along the coast that stretches all the way to Port Elizabeth. Since only a handful of us were 21 in the group, I was asked to rent a car in my name. I got an automatic 2009 white Nissan—pretty nice considering they were putting it in my hands. Two other cars were rented, each carrying four people so it was a comfortable drive. Still, it was difficult for me to get used to driving on the other side of the road while sitting on what is usually the passenger’s side of the car. I chose Alex to be my wing woman, giving her shotgun and putting her in control of figuring out the iPod converter/music situation. She probably spent an hour trying to hook it up but to no avail, especially after losing what we think might have been an important connective piece.
On the way to the N2—the main road we used to travel along the route—children holding stop signs (poles and all) were directing traffic. As I had never seen a human stop sign in the past, I found it kind of odd that little kids were randomly lowering and raising them as if they were traffic controllers. Other than this distraction, the rest of the ride went pretty smoothly. We drove for a long time, at least five hours and mostly without music. Every now and then a radio station would arise out of the white noise and play two completely different songs and then go straight to newscasts in several different languages. At one point “the Hustle” began to play, which we were all real excited about (imagine how bad the music situation must be to get excited about this song), but then the man on the radio began to speak over it. The best we ever got was Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” which remained in our heads for at least twenty-four hours.
About a half hour from the first hostel we planned to stay at, we stopped off in Wilderness and walked along the beach for a little. It was absolutely beautiful (I took pictures ☺). Some of the girls were putting their feet in the water and walking along the shoreline when a huge wave came unexpectedly, destroying Tori’s Blackberry and soaking more than half of them. Luckily, I had been standing back so I missed the splash. At that point, we decided we better start heading to the hostel as it was getting dark and we had been told not to drive late at night.
We turned off the exit to the hostel, which took us down a really long gravel road that eventually turned into our destination. I had never been to a hostel before, but this place took my breath away. Inside, there was a little bar with white Christmas lights and various flags behind and around it. A large L-couch and a perfectly sized table sat in front of the bar to the left. On the right, there was an indoor campfire surrounded by comfortable chairs and couches in front of glass doors that led to the porch and the beach. Our room was massive and sized for twelve people with six bunk beds. The beds were really nice and most of us slept really well. We made friends with the locals and some British medical students (Ed, Laol and someone else), exchanging card games and stories throughout the night. When everyone finally went to sleep and I was the last man standing (surprise) I headed off to the room where I found Justin asleep on the bottom bunk that I had claimed earlier in the evening. Despite my height and the lack of a ladder, I made it my prerogative to get on the top bunk. Like a gymnast, I got a running start and swung my body onto the top with surprising ease. Luckily, this was the only struggle I had before going to bed, sleeping for a few hours like a baby.
The next morning, everyone woke up around 7 AM to my chagrin. The plan was to drive to Tsitsikamma where the highest bungee jump in the entire world was located. I was a little weary, as I had never really had the desire to bungee. Skydiving always seemed like something I would like, but jumping off a bridge with only my feet bound to the rope scared me quite a bit. Regardless, 10 of the 12 of us wanted to do it so I had to go either way. I left a note for the British guys inviting them to come before we left. I was supposed to wake them up but they looked dead to the world—they also never showed up to bungee. Anyway, it wasn’t too long of a drive, maybe a couple hours, until we got to the site. FACE Adrenaline sponsored the jumps, which I thought was an appropriate name due to the techno beats blasting from the massive speakers outside. As I looked out over the viewing ledge while the other group prepared to jump (they left a day before us), I felt very unsure of whether or not to jump myself. The place also had a zip line, called “the Flying Fox” which I was willing to do with someone but everyone was dead set on jumping. So as a result I felt that if I didn’t do it I’d be missing out, let alone be a complete wimp. Thus, I went over to the registration desk and signed up without thinking twice. I figured if I had already spent R650 (a little less than $100) there would be no turning back.
As we were strapped into harnesses, the fear began to set in. We realized that we were about to do what our parents had always warned us about: “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you go too?” Apparently, the answer was yes because all but one of us was about to take the terrifying walk to what we thought may be our demise (despite the 100% security guarantee…no one has even been injured jumping there). A minute or so into the walk, we were given the choice to either walk across the suspension bridge to the other side or to take the Flying Fox. Since Sabrina had already jumped two years ago (with her parents!), she said that she would go on the zip line with me. I thought that if I got an initial thrill from the zip line, the jump would be easier. I was wrong.
The Flying Fox was a blast. Sabrina and I were able to ride it tandem and we flew to the other side, screaming in each other’s ears the entire way. However, once we reached the jumping side, I found myself considerably more terrified—having just looked down at the long drop—than I had been before. Even worse, once I was unhooked from the zip line, I was informed that I would be going third, since they organized it by size and I had gotten there a little bit later than everyone else (meaning I would have been first!). I didn’t have much time to freak out, but I tried to meditate as they were wrapping up my ankles and trying to tell me how safe I would be. For some reason, jumping off the highest point in the world didn’t make me feel safe at all. Before I knew it, I was being pulled up to the edge of the bridge, the two men beside me counting down from three. I began to cry a little, more scared than I’ve ever been in my life, as the men kept telling me to believe in myself and stop saying that I couldn’t do it. I was making it difficult for them as I latched onto their shoulders when they told me jump. Then suddenly they had counted down from three and gave me a push off the edge. Whether I liked it or not, I was off.
I didn’t scream or cry or react at all really. I felt like a bird as I fell freely for what felt like at least a minute (in reality it was only a couple of seconds). I began to feel the adrenaline rushing through my body, no longer on the brink of a panic attack. I had jumped feet first—not what you’re supposed to do—so I had been soaring through the air right side up, making the initial experience awesome. As I was basking in the scenery and freedom during the free fall, I was jolted out of my daze when my body was abruptly flipped upside down and I was diving straight for the water. I got closer to the bottom when my rope recoiled and I flew back up again and then once more. Finally, I came to a halt, my body hanging by my feet looking down at the water. My feet felt like they were slipping out of the ropes, so I tried for a moment to climb from my upside down position to one that was right side up and flex my feet. I was starting to freak out until I heard someone yell down to me—the guy who comes to pick you up after the jump. It felt like forever as he descended to where I was dangling. I immediately grabbed onto his jacket, desperately wanting to avoid being headfirst. He told me to let him go so that he could reattach my harness to his, which I did with some difficulty. It wasn’t long before I was nearly sitting on his lap, rising to the top where I would meet up with the others.
When I finally got to the top, all of the employees took pictures with me holding up their thumbs or giving me a high-five. All of the people I jumped with ran to me, nervously wondering how the jump went. In shock, I told them it was amazing but that I was still scared (I think that response made it more difficult for them). The rest of them all jumped though and didn’t regret the experience. From the time I got to the top until now—and probably forever—I’m glad that I did it but I don’t think I’d do it again…unless I’m not bound by my ankles.
When we walked back I took the suspension bridge since the Flying Fox costs money. Surprisingly, I was terrified on the bridge. It was shaky and the fall was hundreds of feet from where I was. I had just jumped off the bridge and still I was on the verge of a panic attack on the walk back. I guess I really don’t like heights. The leader of the group had to get behind me and start a conversation so that I would keep walking without thinking about my fear. After a while I made it to the other side where we got to see pictures of our jumps, as well as videos. I watched my video and decided immediately that I had to buy it. If there were any prime example of the way NOT to bungee jump, my video is the perfect example. Though it was totally embarrassing, I thought if anyone would love to see how ridiculous it was, it would be my family (I can’t wait to show it to you guys).
After sitting around for a few hours trying to book space in a hostel somewhere, we decided to stay in Storms River, not too far from Tsitsikamma. We ended up at a place called the Tube ‘N Axe. Everyone got a bed except for two of us who had to stay in above ground tents. I got the feeling everyone seemed uncomfortable with the tent so I said I would sleep there. Plus, I’m always up for a camping experience.
Before we went to the hostel, we drove to Monkeyland. We all walked in for free for a brief tour and then some of the group decided to go to the Tsitsikamma National Park while some of us opted to stay for the discounted Monkeyland/Birds of Eden tour. I fell in love with the monkeys immediately so my decision was pretty much made when I saw them. I’m so glad I stayed because as we walked around with the monkeys, Katherine and I lagged a bit behind and had some quality time with a group of them. The next day my abdomen hurt so badly from laughing so hard with her—every picture she took the monkey was looking directly at her. At one point, we were taking pictures and looking at the monkeys when one jumped onto my leg! Katherine asked me why I didn’t scream and I told her that the monkey’s contact was all that I wanted the entire day. It was so cool! I think it wanted my ring—apparently they will go for anything shiny and try to steal it.
After Monkeyland, we went to Birds of Eden, where we saw some crazy looking creatures. There was one bird that looked like it has evolved out of a Mardi Gras costume, except without a neck. Sabrina got along really well with all of the birds; some of them even did mating dances and followed her as she walked along. A little green bird that looked kind of like Basil kept attacking Ellie. The bird literally chased us out of the park. We left the park with ease and decided to head for the next hostel.
That night we all hung out at the hostel and had some drinks with the bartender, Wez. We sat around the campfire and bonded for most of the night as we met new people and discussed our plans for the next day. I went to bed fairly early, using my cell phone as a light to guide me to the tent (this would end up being the reason as to why I lost my phone later). The tent was above ground; the platform came up to my nose! I fell asleep easily once I hit the mattress inside. A few hours later, I woke up having to use the bathroom. I unzipped the flap and walked outside, but not realizing the extent of the gap between the first and second step, I missed it and literally somersaulted to the ground with a huge thump. Will woke up and looked outside on the ground where he described there lay a “mess of body parts positioned in the wrong directions.” I shook it off and said I was fine and went to the restroom anyway. In the morning, I woke up and could barely walk. I have two large and dark bruises on my left leg as a result and possibly some broken toes. It’s all part of the adventure though I suppose.
Since my left leg was nearly unresponsive, I chose to go to the beach the next day instead of the Wolf Sanctuary and the Natural Reserves. Wez, having had fun with us the night before, agreed to come along to the beach with Rob, Alex, Ellie and I. It was a beautiful day—sunny and hot with a nice breeze. We spent our time on the beach, talking, drawing and sleeping. For once, it was a very relaxing day—so relaxing that we ended up leaving later than we thought and showed up at the next hostel an hour or so later than expected.
The next hostel was located in Knysna, a place only a few hours from Cape Town. This hostel was nice, but the beds were fairly uncomfortable and the pillows were nothing more than thin slices of cotton. Still, I can’t complain because the place was right in the center of town and very pretty. That night, Katherine, an awesome girl on our program, was turning 21, so we all decided to go out for dinner. We went to Swing Café, where a live band played and we ate some of the best food we (or at least I) have had since we have been here. We planned to eat and then go out to Zanzibar, a club right near the restaurant, but after dinner we all found ourselves to be so exhausted that we came to a mutual decision: bed.
The next day, while some people went to the Cango Caves, Will, Alex, Ellie, and I went to the southern most point of the African continent where the Atlantic and the Indian ocean meet. We climbed steep ladders to the top of the famous lighthouse overlooking the point and took lots of pictures (not me since my camera was dead, but the others did). The view was beautiful and though you would never be able to tell, it was cool to see the meeting point of the two bodies of water. After we got our fill, we had lunch/dinner at a quaint restaurant in the small town before setting off for a three-hour drive back to Mowbray.
After dealing with the process of returning the car and finding a way back home, Will and I made it back around nine. The next day (Monday) would be the first day of classes and not only did we both have our first class at 8AM, but we both didn’t know where they were located. Even still, we managed to sleep despite having BOTH lost our cell phones. In the morning, we woke up at 6 AM so we would have enough time to find our classes. We got to campus shortly after and managed to locate our courses. I was finished by 11:45, concluding the day with my Afrikaans class. The other classes went fairly smoothly—yet lacked any interesting details to report.
Last night was the “Big Bash” an annual party held by one of the clubs at school to end orientation week. Against my will I went along with some people to the event and was unsurprised when I wanted to leave immediately. First of all, there was only ONE bar for thousands of people, which led to a mosh pit in order to get a beer. I quickly gave up. Then, after it was over people were literally climbing on top of one another to get onto the buses. Tori even got punched in the face…but at least it got her a ride. It took us hours to get home and by the time we arrived, I was in such a bad mood that sleep seemed like the only option for the rest of my night.
Thankfully, today I woke up in a much better mood. We went to one of the rugby games for the festival being held this weekend. It was really fun, but short-lived. Rugby is a really big deal in South Africa so it was exciting to be among people who were so enthused about the game. A few hours ago we made our way home, which puts me here in front of my computer. Tomorrow, we plan to perhaps go to the market, but definitely head to the beach. So, until then…cheers!


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good evening friends. I know it’s been a few days but this week was pretty uneventful for the most part. UCT conducted its orientation for both freshman and international students. We had already heard most of the information given to us during the interstudy orientation, so a lot of us (including myself) skipped the majority of the lectures. Friday we registered for classes, which is a huge pain in the ass at UCT. No one is allowed to take any more than four classes per semester and all of them have to be preapproved by both your home institution and UCT. Everybody has to wait in this massive line and then wait even longer in a line of chairs before sitting one-on-one with an academic advisor who basically signs some papers in order to approve your courses. But it doesn’t end there. After this long, tedious process we were directed to “data capture” where someone has to put the courses in a computer to officially enroll you. I’m not exactly sure why they couldn’t just do that in the first place, but then again “this is Africa” (TIA). Everybody here says TIA since everything in Africa is slow and a process. Nothing EVER starts on time, or even happens at all and nothing is EVER easy to accomplish. But getting frustrated never helped anyone around here so we just accept the facts—TIA.
After registration, we had to get our student IDs. The line was massive, curling around the hallway and through the glass doors. Ari and I waited for two hours before we were able to actually get them. Luckily, I brought a crossword puzzle so it helped to pass the time for us. By the time we made it to the front of the line, we realized that the reason it was taking so long was because they were only taking ONE picture at a time when hundreds of students were waiting in line (even though there were four cameras with four people behind them…can you say TIA?). When we finally had the IDs in our possession we ate lunch and waited for Tori, Sabrina and Katherine to get their cards, which took at least another hour. Then we took the Jammie shuttle (the UCT shuttle system) to Claremont, a town next to the one we live in, to shop at the mall. We all bought tickets for the J&B Met, a horse race that happens once a year and is a really big deal around here. This year the theme was “In Full Color” so we all had to get colorful dresses. The J&B is where all of the South African celebrities and socialites come to “see and be seen” so we wanted to at least look decent. We all found dresses—for pretty cheap too. Mine was only around thirteen dollars. So successfully, we left the mall and hit the sack early to prepare for today’s festivities.
Today we all woke up around 9:45 AM to get ready for the races. We did our makeup in an eccentric fashion and prepared mimosas to add a touch of class. It was weird to be drinking so early, but champagne is commonplace among the attendees to the J&B. We took tons of pictures—it felt like prom all over again—so I’ll tag them on FB once they are posted. After a few hours of standing around the front yard and socializing with the thirty or so people who were going to the races, we all hopped into cabs, or in mine and several others’ cases, our landlord’s van. He was kind enough to offer us a ride so we didn’t have to pay the cab fare—it was really nice.
There were so many signs and colorful flags leading into the venue. As we disembarked from the van, we walked past Jaguars and Porsches driven by people dressed like movie stars and walked by women in elaborate dresses adorned with feathers, sequins and the like. Many of the people went all out for this event—a number of them actually competing for “most elegant couple.” The event lasted until around 10 PM but we left around 4:30-5:00.
By the time we got home, everyone was ready for a nap, but as I was falling asleep, drunken singing coming from the back of my apartment interrupted me. When it didn’t stop, I gave up on the nap and headed downstairs to find a bunch of people gathered around Rob, who was playing guitar, singing made up songs to no tune in particular. It was pretty entertaining for a moment, but it wasn’t long before the group broke up, many of them heading to a club called Springbok for the J&B after party. Exhausted and sun burnt, I counted myself out for tonight, especially since we are all going on a Peninsular Tour from 8-5 tomorrow. I didn’t feel too left out since both my roommates decided to stay in tonight as well. I can’t believe people even had the energy to go out again! Anyway, I’m pretty excited for a good night’s rest so I’ll have to depart for now. As always, just keeping you all updated. Hope all is well!
Love, B

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I woke up at 7 AM yesterday morning to go on a sea-kayaking trip with penguins. We went to Simon’s Town, a beautiful place on the coast filled with boats and water sports. The trip was a blast. I was worried that I would be too out of shape to handle it, but I didn’t struggle at all. I still need to work out though. Eliza and I paired up and I steered while she led the way. It was kind of funny because they said to makes pairs in which one person was big and strong and the other was not quite as buff. Needless to say (if you’ve seen Eliza) we’re both pretty small. Still, we were great and didn’t have any problems. Who says little girls can’t be tough? I got a little bit burnt on my face even though I was wearing 70 SPF! What the hell?

Anyway, no complaints except that I thought the trip would have a little more experience with the penguins. Basically, as we were rowing, they were just pointed out to us and we were able to look at them and/or take pictures. It’s not a big deal though. For around 30 bucks, I had a great time. After the excursion, we ate lunch at a little café overlooking the water and the mountains. It was a beautiful view and the food wasn’t bad (they had spinach, feta, and mushroom quiche). When we returned from the trip, we all took naps (siestas seem to be habit-forming lately) and went to Long Street for some drinks later. I wasn’t feeling too well so I only had a couple drinks and refused to dance. I’m glad I did because I feel a million times better today.

Since today is Saturday, we all wanted to go to some market people had been talking about throughout the week that only takes place on this day of the week. It turns out that there are at least two, likely more, markets that this applies to. We decided to go to The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, a hippie-ish market with good food and cute clothes. The clothes were really pretty but kind of pricey, especially for Safrica. Although when I broke it down, a beautiful pair of homemade shoes that I wanted came to around 68 US dollars—not the worst price, it just sounds like a lot when someone tells me they are 500 Rand. I didn’t get them because I figured I could find a better deal somewhere else and I can’t really be spending money on clothes anyway. I bought some samoosas and falafel at the market and they were really good. They had a plethora of foods and wine/champagne/beer and desserts for inexpensive prices—all of them delicious. My friend Lindsey and I bought a class of Champagne for about 2 US dollars each (best thing ever) and they even put a fresh strawberry in it.

Since the market was only open until 2 PM we left a little early so we wouldn’t get caught up in a mass of people. From there we went to Clifton, another beach near Camps Bay. This beach was the most beautiful so far—it’s the only one in Cape Town where there isn’t any wind later in the day, which is nice on a cooler day like today. We laid out in the sun for a few hours and I read up on some South African history in the sun. We met a local named Johnny who we thought was just trying to sell us soda or ice cream (a bunch of people on the beach run around with coolers trying to sell you soda or ice cream…kind of random I think) but when Justin told him he had already bought a water from another guy, Johnny started the conversation by asking where he was from. He was really nice and friendly and came to sit and talk with us again later.

Towards the end of our day, he asked me what my book was telling me about South African history. I think that he was curious because under the National Party’s government, white Afrikaaner children (white South Africans) were taught that the black people of Southern Africa had originally arrived in the country at the same time as the Dutch. While the black people were travelling one way, the whites we travelling the other direction causing them to meet in the middle—making the fights for the land a necessary stipulation. However, in reality, the Bantu-speaking Iron Age settlers were here nearly 2,000 years ago, spawning the tribes that inhabited the land prior to colonization. I don’t know if he thought that perhaps I had been given false information, being a white girl, or if he was just curious but I told Johnny that this is what I had read. He said that I was absolutely right and that I was reading a good book. After our conversation we were getting ready to leave, having called a cab, and Johnny said goodbye and told us to come back to visit. We might go back tomorrow.

As for tonight, nothing is planned but I’m sure it will be yet another great night in this beautiful country.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

19 January 2010

So I took a break for the day because yesterday was entirely too long for my brain to function properly after it was over. We began at 8 AM at the District Six Museum. District Six was—prior to apartheid—a culturally diverse and bustling area in Cape Town. The Nationalist government’s apartheid policies enforced at the time displaced tons of black people in the 1970s, claiming the area to be for whites only. Apartheid oppressed black South Africans from 1948 until 1994. It was crazy to go to a museum dedicated to an act against humanity that ended only sixteen years ago. The museum was kind of a bummer—everything so far has been strictly fun, so seeing how terrible it was for the majority of the population here so recently was disheartening. Still, I’m glad I was able to learn more about it.

After we left the museum, we went over to Langa Township, the first and oldest township where over 60,000 black people were forced to relocate after District Six was taken over by the government. Today this place is basically the projects of Cape Town, except even worse than the ones I’ve ever seen. We started at a community center where people made their own crafts to sell to tourists or anyone who was willing to buy something. Their work was really impressive—ranging from intricate paintings on pottery to various beads and wire creations. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no cash on me so I wasn’t able to buy anything, but I plan to go back at some point. Apparently every contribution, no matter how little, goes toward helping the community.

After we left the community center, we went to see some of the houses that were built for those who were displaced during apartheid. Each house had about 5-6 rooms where at least three people lived inside each one and were made of unpainted concrete. I was impressed at how well kept their bedrooms were. The bedrooms were small, but they managed to line three beds against the wall lacking the door, having built shelves above them where they kept their belongings. Not a stitch of clothing, even shoes, could be found on the floor. Though the houses were run down and poorly insulated, it was obvious that the inhabitants made the best of their situations. There was one main room in the center of the small houses where there was a wooden bench—likely the place where they all met for meals. Their showers looked worse than those in a prison and they only had one large sink in the center area for dishes.

When we left the projects, we walked to the local elementary school where we listened to a bunch of little kids sing in what I think was Xhosa. They were so cute and wouldn’t leave us alone when they were finished with their performance. They kept jumping on us and giving us hugs and high-fives—it made my heart melt. All they wanted was to be picked up or swung around. After struggling to detach the little ones, we left the school and went to the even poorer area in Langa where people live in one-room shacks with their entire families. They don’t have showers and they share a row of outdoor bathrooms that are only cleaned once each week. There were more little kids running around this area, following us from one place to the next—equally as adorable as the last ones.
After touring Langa Township, we went back to our flats to change into warmer clothes for our ferry trip to Robben Island, the infamous prison where freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela were incarcerated under the apartheid regime. The ferry ride was rocky and when I got off I was pretty close to vomiting, but I managed. We walked over to the buses where we took a vehicular tour of the island. The second half of the tour was spent with an ex-prisoner who showed us the inside of the prisoners’ quarters. Nelson Mandela’s cell still had his blanket, defecation bucket and small table. The conditions these prisoners, who were only peacefully fighting for freedom, were atrocious. On more than one occasion, the torture, either mentally or physically resulted in the death of a prisoner.
By the time the tour was over it was around 5 PM. We were all exhausted from the long day. As we were waiting for our ferry ride back, we noticed a “luxury catamaran” at the dock. Tori, Sabrina and I didn’t even have to discuss whether or not we were going to try to board it—we made a beeline. Some people told us that we shouldn’t but we went anyway. Long story short—the captain told us that we could all fit and all but a mere few of us got on the luxurious boat back to Cape Town. The trip back was a lot faster and much less rocky. It was really windy, but it was still so much nicer than the first ride. When we got home, my roommates and I made a pact to stay in and with some difficultly, we managed to do so despite feeling anti-social.

21 January
Today we went to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. It was absolutely beautiful as well as massive! We walked through a good bit of it, but we didn’t manage to cover the entire grounds. As far as this trip goes, I think it would be unjust to be the narrator—though pictures could never describe the beauty of this place, they can do so more articulately than myself (AKA visit my facebook page).