Cape Town's Date & Time

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Farewell Cape Town

I have officially been home from Cape Town for just over two weeks and as the World Cup streams through the television, office computer screens, and radio waves, I find myself home sick for a place that isn't my home. Nonetheless, Cape Town stirred something inside me that will most likely never leave my bones. Until the day I left, I was always overwhelmed by the beauty of Table Mountain, the plentiful beaches, and incredible serenity that South Africa offered me during my time abroad. South Africa, you will not be soon forgotten.

From January until June, I lived life unapologetically, more often saying 'why not' than 'why.' I surfed, jumped off a bridge, cage shark dived, climbed a mountain (more than once), watched the sun set (and rise), and traveled to places with exotic names. Each day I woke up, completely aware of the awesomeness of the day that stood before me. I have never been more happy in my entire life and just looking back at my time brings a surge of excitement and joy.

TOP 5 MEMORIES

5. The immenseness of Victoria Falls
During semester break, I was able to travel to Zambia and see the epic Victoria Falls. While most students enjoy their spring breaks in Mexico or Florida, I got to spend mine staring at some of the largest falls in the world. The 'Smoke that Thunders' can be heard much before it can be seen and it no doubtingly deserves its title as one of the seven wonders of the world.

4. Spending the day in Langa with Professor Dizu
African Instruments was by far my favorite class of the semester. Not only because learning to play the djembe is incredibly fun, but also because of Professor Dizu. This man is incredibly talented and has one of the kindest souls. Therefore, when he offered to take us to his home, Langa, for a Sunday afternoon I jumped at the opportunity. Langa is the largest township in Cape Town and on Sundays it comes to life with braais and neighborhood entertainment filling the streets.

3. Experiencing the Garden Route
The Garden Route takes place on the N2 between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Surfers from all over the world come to cruise the different beaches along the eastern coast of South Africa. We journeyed from elephant sanctuaries to the world's largest bungee jump.

2. Lee and Mom visit Cape Town
Probably one of the best weeks of my life.

We wined, dined, shark caged dived, hiked, and ventured to the tip of Africa!

1. Making some incredible new friends out of strangers
I came to South Africa alone and left with the best of friends.


After searching my photos for my "TOP 5" I quickly realized that I couldn't possibly marginalize the rest of my experience abroad by have a "Top;" therefore, here are other experiences that are unforgettable moments.

Traveling to Mozambique during Finals. Low tide.


Garden Route. Sun rise on the duns.


African Sunsets. Botswana. SAFARI.


SAFARI. SAFARI. SAFARI.

Makuro Rides. Botswana. Mosquito BITES.


Road trips. Mozambique. Road blocks. MOOOOve.

Swaziland. Touched a python! NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC!


Life wasn't always about the exotic adventure while in South Africa. Some of my fondest memories come from just sitting around the table in Mowbray after a day of classes at UCT. We filled our time tasting wines from local wineries, cooking food (I often was just an eater), and listening to music. I will not lie, UCT often left me frustrated in its lack of technology and zest by professors seeking to 'push' their students. Nonetheless, UCT was nostalgic. My daily hikes up to lecture were exhausting and sweaty, but comical and enchanting. African Instruments warmed my soul every Tuesday and Wednesday as I jammed out on my djembe. As I left UCT, I secretly craved my own school and am excited to enter my final year at University with high-speed wireless internet and efficiency!

Probably the most beautiful campus in the world.


I laughed and I played. Two things that are vital to living. I promise myself to never forget the power of those two actions.

And did I mention the hiking.

But let's be serious, South Africa isn't infamously known for its beauty. Its remembered for its harsh past of racial oppression and segregation. Unfortunately, this past has managed in many ways to find home in the present. In many ways, economic prosperity is linked to one's race. And millions of blacks still find themselves in the most desperate of poverty.

Children are living with HIV, as South Africa has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. For young adults my age (20-24), there is 28.1% prevalence of HIV/AIDS as of 2007.

For every beautiful mountain or graceful vineyard, there is equally scenes of disparity.


Nevertheless, South Africans are proud people. It has been a mere 16 years since gaining independence and time will be the ultimate test for South Africa.

South Africa never once failed to amaze me. I truly didn't know what to expect before coming and after returning home I still couldn't possibly describe South Africa in under 1000 words. I learned so many things about myself, South Africa, and the world over these past few months. I even learned how to change a tire (after 4 popped tires, it almost became second nature). I left a different person than I came.


Dear South Africa, you will never be forgotten. I hope to one day return and breathe your air once more. Until then, you will be in my thoughts.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Afrika Burn (4/24-4/26)

Located about 400 kilometers outside of Cape Town in (quite literally) a remote desert, Afrika Burn is the ‘African regional’ festival for the Nevada based Burning Man. Although less than 250 miles away from Cape Town, our voyage lasted over four hours, as over 100 kilometers took place on unpaved roads, consequently leaving us with a popped tire. Thankfully, Matty and I have gotten quite efficient at changing a tire (as our last road trip landed us with three popped/flat tires); however, it made the rest of the driving horribly nerve wrecking as we would have found ourselves stranded without an extra spare if anything else happened to our tires.

Burn, baby burn... This was a giant pirate ship earlier in the day

Afrika Burn is an art festival in every sense. Shaped as a giant clock watch, each time (1 o clock, 2 o clock, etc.) has a theme, often including art, music, and activities taking place through out the day. We parked our dirrrty car behind the themed tent ‘The Succulents,’ an octopus themed group that a few of our friends helped set up for the weekend. In side the giant clock, were several giant sculptures and statues that were to be burned on Sunday after sunset. The entire festival is non-commercial, once again placing me in an environment where money is worthless and bartering skills are essential. Besides the large quantity of students attending the festival, other participants seemed to fit into two categories, peace loving hippies or absolute freaks. People of all ages were seen dressed (or undressed) in the most bizarre outfits floundering from each themed tent. Besides ‘The Succulents,’ I loved ‘The Desert Rose,’ a cowboy bar and an Intimacy themed camp that gave out relationship advice and offered a variety of activities including palm readings and dating services. The dating service acted as an Afrika Burns e-harmony, seeking to match you with your ‘true love.’ After filling out a questionnaire, one received a sticker and if you found your matching sticker by the end of the festival, you had found your one and only true love. God, hippies freak me out.


Giant Lego Figure ... in the desert

I traveled along side my roommate Lina, Matty, Robin (a neighbor), and Chelsea (a neighbor and fellow U of M student). Lina and I packed a weak selection of food for the weekend including, peanut butter, bread, apples, and muffins. Thankfully, the people at the festival were extraordinarily generous (those damn hippies). We basically showed up to the festival not knowing what to think and to be honest, I would never have expected what I saw. Essentially acting as a giant festival during the day and techno rave at night, it was just a weird environment. I had a ton of fun, but I wouldn’t exactly call it my scene. By the end of the first night, my hair had literally begun to dreadlock from all the sand being blown around. After 2 nights of no showering, my hair had become unrecognizable.



The main structure was the Running Man (seen above). It looked incredible during the day and even more great lit up in flames at night. The night was so different than the day. It was incredibly hot during the day, but with the sun down at night and the breeze picking up, the nights were horribly cold. Therefore it was completely necessary to dance to crazy techno music to stay warm.

Lina, Robin, Myself, and Chelsea
Overall, Afrika Burn was defiantly an experience. I learned a lot during this trip, like to NEVER drive in South Africa without a spare tire, peanut butter sandwiches are the bomb, and that I will never be a hippie. Free love sounds great, but so does purchasing a really great pair of shoes or having a real job when I grow up. From the cameras these people were carrying, I am sure the hippies were employed, but I want to be able to be myself all the time and I don't feel like the hippies let their inner freak out all the time.

Well, hurray for one more adventure in Africa.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Surfing Muzenburg! (4/12)


As my time in Cape Town is quickly flying by, I figured it was about time that I got myself on a surf board and see what I could do. Therefore, with the forecast indicating Monday was the last official nice day of summer, reaching 80 degrees, it was declared “Learn to Surf Day.” Rob, my neighbor, agreed to take Lina, Tiffany, and myself out for the afternoon to Muzenburg beach, so following lunch we hoped the train and headed to the beach for the afternoon. We rented wet suits (the water is COLD) and surfboards and after a 60 second demonstration on the board, we were in the water. Rob deemed surfing as more of a do-to-learn experience, than a “be taught” experience. I agree.


Holy arm work out. In order to get out to where the waves were “surfable”, we had to paddle our way, getting tossed by the incoming waves. By the time we got out, I was pretty exhausted. Concentrating on paddling, incoming waves, closing my eyes to avoid salt water, and holding my breath to not drown really took it out of me. However, the adrenalin was enough to kick me into drive… I was able to catch quite a few waves, standing up and riding 4 of them in! What What! After an hour of being out in the water, I was done. I was really starting to get the feel of what a good wave was and my form was improving, but I was just too exhausted to continue to get myself out to the surf. So, we traded in our suits and boards and headed to the ice cream stand!


Great day. And I was able to do another thing that Lake Michigan couldn’t offer… Catch a great wave on an awesome beach.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Beach bum Sunday (4/11)

Danger Beach, Playground fun, Hipster shopping, & the Brass Bell

After quickly coming to terms with the fact that the library was closed Sunday, four of us (Tiffany, Ben, Will, and myself) packed up our bags and headed to the beach to soak up some rays. We took the train to Danger Beach right outside of Kalk Bay and enjoyed the afternoon reading, listening to music, and having photo shoots. Both Tiffany and Will are quite into photography so I have managed to steal some of their pictures. The entire afternoon (and day) was pretty much the epitome of relaxation and enjoyment.
The ocean looked awful good!
Tiffany and Me


Will and Me

After a few hours on the beach, it started to get pretty chilly so we headed to Kalk Bay for the afternoon. We stumbled upon an awesome little park and had a blast swinging and playing on the monkey bars. Will and Tiffany got super artsy and spent quite a bit of time with their cameras.

After the park we meandered through little boutiques wasting away most of the afternoon. By the time we were all shopped out, it was pretty much dinner time so we decided to eat the "freshest fish" at the incredible Brass Bell, which is literally positioned beside the ocean. Dinner was excellent, not to mention the atmosphere of the restaurant was incredible. A live band ended up playing, which just added to the experience. By the time we had to catch the train home, I was ready to stay forever.

The Brass Bell (we sat in the 2nd big window from the left)


Good Sunday! I am off to the beach to learn to surf. Hurray!




Thursday, April 8, 2010

Apology

I am a failure to the blogging world. At first I was so adamant about staying up to date on my adventures in Cape Town, but this Cape Town life style has slowly consumed my life. Time is irrelevant and I am finding concentrating on blogging more difficult than ever before.

So what have I been up to... We received off for Good Friday and the following Monday as it was 'Family Day.' Therefore, I was able to extend my vacationing mode for another 4 days. Whereas my semester break was consumed by activity and exploration, this became my Cape Vacation, filled with relaxation.

Good Friday:
Since this was our official beginning of our "vacation vacation," we headed to the one and only Tank for half price sushi and cocktails. Delicious. Us girls managed to spend 4 hours just hanging and enjoying our afternoon. Who doesn't love a meal that turns into an afternoon?


Saturday
The girls woke up super early to send our support Ben as he was running in the Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon.

I freaking love running events. I love runners and the excitement. The other event of the day was the Ultra Marathon of 35 miles! Those people are incredible. I still haven't run further than a half marathon, but maybe one day I will get a full under my belt. After all this excitement, the Twin Cities Marathon is becoming highly considered.



After the race we headed to the Old Biscuit Mill for brunch. Tiffany and I tried a vegan meal, hurray for being adventurous. Following the Mill, Will and I headed on a hike. We really wanted to check out the Newlands Forest, which isn't that far from UCT, but we ended up on a quite random adventure. WE FOUND AN ABANDONED ZOO. Besides being absolutely freaky, it was awesome. It was apparently once University property, but has been completely abandoned and has become consumed by overgrown plants. Its a scene for a scary movie.

After our grand adventure, Will made dinner for a group of us as we enjoyed a beautiful night in Cape Town. After our feast, everyone retired early, literally. I mean the six of us were passed out on all the couches by 10pm. We are quite the outgoing bunch.


Easter Sunday
On Easter, we headed to the last of the Summer Kirstenbosch Gardens shows for a reggae concert. Geared with some blankets, wine, and a picnic, our evening was fantastic. I really love reggae, its super relaxing and a chill atmosphere. I was digging the vibe, that's for sure.

Monday
For our last day out, I mainly stuck to doing homework. It has been quite a while since I was in school mode (since before my mom and sister came... that was in mid March).

Tuesday
LINDSEY's 21ST!! HUrray for going out on school nights.
Lindsey is one of my favorite new friends in Cape Town and my roommate; therefore, we decided to go all out for her big 2-1. We were out quite late, but that is the only way to celebrate entry into "real" adulthood.


Tiff, Brittany, Birthday girl, and Kara (I'm in there too)

Go Girls... We're looking fly!

Well, thats my recent life. I will be pretty busy the next two weeks academically, but I am sure there will be a few adventures along the way. OOOOo! On Monday, my neighbor Rob is taking me surfing. Finally. I will try not to embarrass myself. But he thinks he can get me up after an hour of two in the water.

Again, I am sorry for being so erratic with the blog. I will work on getting back in the game, because I am having such an adventure and want to be able to share it, you know.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Zambia


March 23-March 28
Following my incredible stay in Botswana, we headed to Zambia. In order to cross into Zambia we needed to take boat carriers over the Zambezi River. This 4 hour process was a ridiculous sight (sorry for no photos, my camera was in our giant bus and I was on foot). We waited in line among random trucks, fruit carriers, and people attempting to cross the border. Although we were able to catch a ferry rather quickly, our bus was not so lucky.

Viva Zambia (and Victoria Falls)
Once in Zambia we headed to Livingstone to set up our campsite before heading to Victoria Falls for the afternoon. First off, Victoria Falls is beautiful. Originally called "The Mist that Thunders," the waterfall is truly amazing (and you really do hear it before you see it). Vic Falls is on the border of Zimbabwe so there are technically two sides to the waterfall. Entering the falls is incredible. You literally get doused with water and there is mist everywhere AND it is WARM. We ran around like little kids in Disney Land taking goofy pictures and splashing each other. Loved Vic Falls.
Above: Roommate shot (love these girls)
Below: Hurray for Vic Falls



The night of the 25th we decided to begin officially celebrating my 21st birthday. We played card games at the campsite bar that overlooked the Zambezi River. At midnight my roommates surprised me with shots of tequila and our cook added in an additional shot of J├Ąger. Yuck. Needless to say, I had a fabulous night. I may be sparing lots of details due to the lagging memory... But I guess all that matters is that I had a great night, one that will probably never be topped.

My birthday itself was incredible. I woke up still drunk, which is pathetic. Anywhooo, we jumped on a bus and headed to a giant gorge (looked like scenes from the movie Up!) before enjoying a day of adrenaline packed festivities. By noon I gorge jumped, which is equivalent to a 54 meter free fall plunge before being swung across the gorge... HUrray.. That surely knocked any hang over right out of me. Thank God Lina went tandem with me, because I would have freaked out on my own. The gorge jump is more of a fall, you have to stand with your heels hanging over the edge and literally fall backwards into the deeps below. Although I was so proud of myself and running on a high, I felt ridiculous when I realized that I had kept my eyes completely closed the entire fall. Damn. My "higher than life" experience was equivalent to me falling Helen Keller style, literally I have no recollection of anything about the fall, my senses were nonexistent. Nonetheless, I DID feel my heart pounding through my chest, so points for that.

Lina and I before the JUMP!

That night the cook made me a birthday cake!! Everyone was so incredibly kind to me on my birthday. It was sad to be so far from home, but at the same time my friends here made sure that I had the time of my life and for that I am so thankful. While us girls were out being adventurous, the boys decided to spend a lazy afternoon on the Zambezi catching fish. And they successfully caught two to bring home and cook for dinner. And they were fabulous.

Daniel with his fresh catch

The last day of our trip we went to Zimbabwe for the day before coming home to "booze cruise." O dear. Too much indulging for Michelle. It was a really good time though. A great way to end the trip: sipping on a cold drink while cruising the upper part of Victoria Falls.

Did I mention my life is good? Well, it is freaking great.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Botswana

Friday, March 19 – Tuesday, March 23
Who doesn’t love a 4AM wake up to start a 10-day adventure? We (I went through a travel student group who arranged our trip) headed to the airport to fly to JoBurg before a full day and a half of driving to Botswana. Although a full day of travel would normally bore and irritate the shit out of me, I was unconscious for most of the traveling. Apparently my week of family time and school hiatus took a bit out of me. So I used the driving time to recharge. I had a lot of time to think during the travel time as well. Although I would consider my experience in Cape Town an international one rather than “African”, my travels to Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe proved to engulf my being with all-that-is Africa. And let me tell you, Africa has yet to cease to amaze me.
Below: Our truck, Harrison, who carried us through our epic adventure

Botswana is an interesting place. Even driving on the highways offered a new and exciting experience as both cows and elephants would just chill on the side of the road… How cool! Random fact: Botswana gained its independence in 1966 as one of the first to be liberated in Southern Africa. And their currency is the pula, which is stronger than the South African rand. Actually, Botswana is considered a wealthier country that South Africa because of their discovery of both gold and diamonds following independence. But to me it seemed like the wealth was not evenly distributed (go figure). But nonetheless, I like Botswana.

We traveled to Maun before arriving at the Okavango Delta (the world's largest inland delta) for a two-night stay on an island pretty much in the middle of a swamp (killer mosquitoes). We were met at the base of the river/swamp/delta by 20 polers who took us by mokoro (hallowed out trees) to our camp base, which ended up being a beautiful 2 hour ride through the delta. These twenty individuals became our daily guides as we woke up to the rising sun and ventured through a bush to search for animals.

Mokoro Ride through the Okavango Delta

The polers were literally able to track the animals and were great guides. At night we would venture out for sunset safaris, watching the animals come out of the shade to the watering holes. During the day, we would swim in the delta, which had both crocodiles and hippos in it… Ekk. The water was so clear and drinkable! Hurray for fresh resources. (Don't worry Mom, I tried to drink boiled water, but sometimes I just couldn't help myself). We were informed to be more afraid of the hippos, because they were more dangerous; however, if you had to choose death by one, it would be hippo because they would just charge you, whereas the crocodile will pull you under the water and wait until you drowned. Both seemed like an unpleasant death to me. To be honest, I was most scared of the mosquitos. I was eaten alive. At one point I counted over 50 bites on just one leg. After the first night of waking up non-stop with blood under my fingers from scratching, I began taking Advil PM before dozing off.

Above: Vincent and I holding a water buffalo skull
Our early morning/late night safari walks were incredible. We would literally just hike around for 4 hour increments in silence taking in the surroundings and trying to spot animals. My favorite time out in the bush was when we realized that behind a bunch of trees was a herd of 100 zebras just feet from us. I was also able to spot water buffalo, hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and lots of incredible birds. Although I loved spotting the animals, I really enjoyed the "reflection time." Eventually I am going to have to wake up from this ridiculous dream and realize that I don't have a job for the summer (shit), I am graduating in a year (ekkk) and may be needing to apply to law school (does the application process in life ever end?) OR (even more scary) I may not being continuing school (which I have become so comfortable doing) and may need to enter the "real world" (don don donnnnn). So basically my walk abouts began turning into some serious soul searching, in which I have (maybe) decided that if I do decided to go to law school (which I still plan to do), I want to defer classes for a year and either work or do a year volunteer program before thrusting back into the academic world. I don't want to get burned out of school, because I love it so much, but I also am too young to be grounded for the next 3 years straight. I need to be active while I still have the freedom to do so, ya know!

Below: Mokoro's in the sunset

The last night in the Delta, our polers took us on a sunset ride through the delta to a giant opening among the reeds. It was beautiful. We sat there for a few hours just sharing stories about our lives (and the differences). A poler, nicknamed Zero, was telling me how it was his dream to have two wives, because any more than that would be overwhelming. It was wild to here about how different their dreams were from mine. This may sound weird, but polygomy doesn't seem that incredibly odd anymore. I guess what ever makes you happy, right. (It's defiantly not for me though...) That night beside the fire, we had a bit of a sing-a-long. The polers sang and danced, as well as told us stories about Botswana. We had been trying to think of songs to sing all week that represented the "American way," which ended up being ironic as we sang "Let it Be" by the Beatles. Hurray for British music. Our finale song was the Hokey Pokey, which was probably the funniest thing to see (20 Botswanians and 25 Americans dancing the Hokey Pokey around a fire in the middle of a Delta).



Being in the Delta was truly exhilarating. Never had I felt so not at home (and so bug bitten).